Tuesday, September 21, 2010

10th and Greenwich

The city changes, and has often changed in mainly stable ways. Sometimes, a single address tells the story. When we look at the northeast corner of 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue, we can see over a century of simple shifts, ending with an explosion, not just of fire.

NYPL, 1933, the Cushman Bakery

A Cushman Bakery stood here once. It was the original bakery in a local chain started in 1854 by Mr. Horatio Benzil Cushman. He died in 1918, but this shop stayed awhile longer.

So was said, "there is not a customer who can move to any part of New York proper and not see a Cushman bakery wagon pass his door." About those wagons, a commenter at Serious Eats recalls "putting a card in the window on days when we could actually afford to buy dessert from Cushman's Bakery--which went door-to-door."

NYPL, 1941, Antiques Shop

By 1941, the bakery was gone and an antiques shop had taken its place.

In the background, on 6th Avenue, we can see a brick wall had been painted with a sign for real estate broker Emil Talamini. The paint is new. The broker's telephone number is Algonguin 4-1817.

Robert Otter, 1964, Sutter's Bakery

Then the three-story building came down. A tower did not take its place, but rather a little one-story brick box. In 1948, it became the home of another neighborhood bakery--Sutter's--which had moved here from Bleecker. That beloved place shuttered in 1976 when the rent took a major jump. (Read more here.)

The paint on the Emil Talamini's 6th Avenue sign began to fade. The broker himself passed away in 1970.

I don't know what stood here in the 1980s. Sometime around 1990, the Village Paper stationery store moved in to the spot. It also became a beloved small business. Then, in February 2010, the store exploded into a two-alarm fire. The owner, Sun Wong, could not rebuild and the place has sat vacant since.

Google streetview

Immediately, bar and restaurant owners began fighting over the corpse. For awhile, the top contender was Bobo, an upscale restaurant that hosts parties with glittery masks and inspires Yelpers to say: "Prices are a little high, if i made as much money as my friends with financial and consulting salaries I feel like this would be a normal brunch place and a great bar to hang out at later in the night."

But Bobo has dropped out of the race and Keith McNally now holds the lease. He recently presented his plans to turn this spot into a Pulino's Cafe--but a group of locals opposed him with concerns about crowding, noise from open windows, and too many liquor licenses.

The New York Times called the Bowery Pulino's "insanely crowded" and talked a bit about how McNally's many restaurants "have introduced or enhanced neighborhoods all over downtown: Pravda and Balthazar in SoHo, Pastis in the then-quiet meatpacking district, Schiller’s on the Lower East Side, Morandi and Minetta Tavern in the West Village."

For over a century, the corner of 10th and Greenwich has been a quiet spot. Locals bought their bread here. They browsed for antiques. Saved their pennies for a cookie. They shopped for greeting cards and Halloween masks. How might Pulino's Cafe enhance it now? Some neighbors are saying "No McNally" in graffiti on the site.

my flickr

Meanwhile, in the background, that crusty overseer of change for 70 years, Mr. Talamini's advertisement continues to vanish into a ghost sign. I keep waiting for it to be painted over with a billboard for Coach or Juicy Couture. Because that's the way it goes. Today, when the city changes, it makes big, luxurious leaps, not small, restrained ones.


VH McKenzie said...

Thanks for the mini-history lesson. I couldn't quite picture which corner I was looking at until the photo of the paper store -- made me go, oh, ah ha, that's the corner we're talking about.

Love the ghostly image of the painted sign on the far brick wall. The phone number format alone makes me sad to think of its inevitable demise.

I grew up in a small CT town and the first 3 digits of our phone number were usually referred to as CIRCLE-5 which was so mysterious to me as a kid. Having ALGONQUIN would have been stupendous.

EV Grieve said...


Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Funny - I used that same Emil Talamini sign to illustrate an essay on Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems a few months ago. It's a stunning emblem of what's been lost in NY over the years.


JaWz said...

As I posted back when you covered the fire, the Paper House stationery store stood on this spot in the 70s and 80s--selling glittery pens and kitten stickers to the PS 41 crowd.

The Village Paper folk TOOK OVER the "beloved small business" lock, stock and barrel in 1990. Don't get me wrong, they did a great job with the place, but they weren't pioneers or anything.

I know it seems like a small detail to you, but think of it this way:

If the Fedora burnt down, and all the news coverage said it was a beloved neighborhood joint opened in 2010 by Gabriel Stulman--then you would know how I feel when I read "I don't know what stood here in the 1980s."

Eric said...

I'm pretty sure that address was some sort of party/stationary store throughout the 1980s as well. It may have even been the store that you say opened around 1990..I have a hunch it dates back further than that.

Eli Balin said...

Village Paper was certainly there during much of the 1980s, possibly even all of it.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks JaWz, i do remember your comment now. so it was a stationery store, under different management, for close to 30 years?

Anonymous said...

I lived a couple of doors away, at 26 Greenwich, from 1975 to 1980. Sometime during that period the Paper House took over from Sutters.

Diana said...

I grew up LOVING "Paper House Party Store" in the 80's and was one of those little gals buying all the hello kitty items and stickers. They had a GREAT selection of stickers. (Though not as good as Greetings Cards Store on Christopher)

I'm sad to see Village Paper which was essentially the Paper House with a different name gone forever. Lots of memories in that shop...

HeresParkSlope said...

Wow what a thorough and inspired (and inspiring) post. It's amazing how much history can be tucked into a corner.

laura said...

v.h. mckenzie: my phone was cloverdale 8-4685, brooklyn. from age 4-11. reducing everything to numbers takes away the nice visuals we imagine in our minds.

Anonymous said...

I've been waking up to that Emil Talamini sign out my window for about 35 years now. It had occurred to me that it might be painted over one day (and have often said that when it goes, I go) but my God, the thought of a Juicy Couture sign replacing it !!!!!! You've given me nightmares!

I was the one who scribbled the "No McNally" graffiti, just last night. Well spotted!

Jeremiah Moss said...

you're the No McNally scribbler? tell us more!

Anonymous said...

re: the "No McNally" scribbles--just wish I'd had a bigger, juicier marker on me that night. Maybe tonight, in honor of the CB2 full board meeting this evening that may already have approved the liquor license for 18 Greenwich.

I'm just a local person who is sick to death of how this neighborhood has been f'd up.

When I have a dog to walk, I also throw bags of poop into the doorways of Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren stores. Haven't had the opportunity lately.

Grand St. said...

Happened to be leafing through Judy Linn's altogether wonderful book of photos of Patti Smith when I noticed a pair of pics of Patti and (I believe) Sam Shepard eating at Sutter's.

There's also a couple of them out on Greenwich Ave., including one at 11th St. where you can see a place called 1,2 Kangaroo across 7th Ave. in the Two Boots space. In that same photo, you can see part of the triangular block where the Loew's Sheridan once existed, but before the St. Vincent's loading dock was constructed.

Jeremiah Moss said...

is it Sutter's? i'll have to check it out. that's a great collection of photos. thanks.

Akua Lezli Hope said...

Thanks! I remember the adventure of the paper house party store, full of goodies, before the more defined crafting stores arrived. I'm looking
for information on a cafe a few doors down -- the Phoenix? a wonderful Italian cafe that played classical music, made great apple tortes and
delicious soups.

Holly said...

To Akua - are you thinking of the Lafayette Bakery? I believe that it is now a restaurant called Le Baratin. The pastry shop moved from Bleeker near Seventh. It was run by a Greek family that lived in the Bronx. They went back to Zakynthos for the month of August. I remember that the son was a rabid Republican who used to post signs in his window about how awful the Democrats were. :) Not a good thing in this neighborhood. Story was that after St. Vincent's closed down he lost most of his business and had to close up shop.

S said...

The cafe was The Peacock.