Monday, April 30, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place gallery space, booted from Bleecker, gets a fancy boutique. No kidding. [Racked]

Despite all the cutesy denials, fancy man John DeLucie is taking over Bill's Gay 90s--or what was Bill's, before it was carted away in dumptrucks. [GS]

"New York wants New Yorkers healthier. And, frequently, less fun. Which is funny, even ironic, because New York City was the place people have historically flocked to live with fewer rules, not more. Where we could be unhealthy, the way we wanted to be, without our small town telling us otherwise." --Jen Doll [AW]

Paul Mole barbershop on the UES moves--and celebrates its 100th year. [NYO]

On "Things Have Changed in Williamsburg." [NYO]

What is the mystery behind the pear tree on 120th and Broadway? [GL&F]

Stylish Shoe


In the crowd of shoe stores on 8th Street between 5th and 6th, Stylish Shoe stood out. The 50-year-old business specialized in Western wear, the windows cluttered with cowboys and Indians, rattlesnakes, turquoise belt buckles, and feathered headdresses.

But what's half a century in business these days? Stylish Shoe shuttered in March and has just been gutted.

Most recently owned by Murray Newmark, Stylish Shoe had been struggling for a while, along with the other shoe stores on the street. In 2010, Crain's cited the problematic opening of nearby shoe discounters like DSW and Shoe Mania.

But Stylish Shoe had character no chain could imitate. Wrote a designer in Racked a couple of years ago, "Upon entering my first time, I was greeted with 'Welcome to the wild west' by an elderly gentleman behind the register. Behind him, the wall boasted headshots of models, musicians and drag queens from the 70's, 80's, and 90's, all past customers. Apparently the store has been in business since the 1940's or 50's."


The landlord is asking $125 per square foot for the space. The realtor's listing highlights neighbors NYU and the forthcoming Marlton boutique hotel--that promised neighborhood-changer--along with a long list of national chains: Barnes & Noble, Chipotle, Domino, Le Pain Quotidien, as well as the trendy Stumptown Coffee and Growler Station. Looks like the perfect spot for another 7-11.

And the 8th Street hypergentrification committee gets one step closer to their dream come true.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hakim of Grand Luncheonette

Who remembers the Grand Luncheonette? Owned by Fred Hakim, the wonderful little hole in the wall on 42nd Street was sadly closed "as part of the Times Square redevelopment project," wrote the Times at the time, "which has shuttered dozens of the neighborhood's older businesses -- many of them sex-oriented -- to make way for sparkling new restaurants, theaters and retail stores."

That seems like a lifetime ago, another world. We just got a note from Mark Hakim, son of the long-time luncheonette owner, with more sad news--and a request for memories.

early 1990s

Mark writes: "Hello everyone. On a very sad note, my father, Fred Hakim, who was the proprietor of the store for decades, is terminally ill with cancer. He is in hospice and the doctors say it is likely hours or a day or so. He suffers from aggressive cancer and is no longer conscious. He loved the store, 42nd street and, most of all, the people who patronized it. This video is timeless and, to our family, priceless. It captures him, times square and the store perfectly.

If any of you happen to have any additional pictures or videos that you don’t mind sharing, we’d be very appreciative."

If you'd like to get in touch with Mark, he can be reached at

photo by Andrew Moore

The Grand Luncheonette lived on 42nd Street for 58 years. And it was grand. Richard Estes painted it in the 1960s. I went there as often as I could to soak up its greasy ambiance, nestled in chrome beneath the rotted marquee of the Selwyn theater.

Richard Estes, 1969

Writing about the Grand Luncheonette's demise, a journalist for the Daily News summed it up: "This is bigger than 42d St., bigger even than the Disney Corp. This is about New York being colonized by The Gap and Banana Republic and Starbuck's and all the rest. If new and improved Times Square is any indication, the standard for Italian cuisine will be the Olive Garden chain."

Jaap's flickr

By the end of 1997, with mass demolitions shaking its foundations, the Selwyn Theater collapsed, burying the Grand Luncheonette in rubble. With it went my favorite ghost sign: "Cooped up? Feelin' low? Enjoy a movie today!"

What came next for 42nd Street was exactly as the Daily News reporter predicted--the Olive Gardening of the Deuce. It should not have been that way.

In 1996, a year before being shuttered, before the building collapse, Fred Hakim told the Times that he hoped he'd be given a lease by the new owner of the building, saying "This could be a link between the past and the future." But he was not given a lease. His luncheonette was not a part of Giuliani's and the New 42nd Street's plan.

As he said, "I was brought up on this street. I'd like to finish my years on this street."

See Mr. Hakim serving hot dogs in the luncheonette's last days

John Woolf Photography

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

"Chelsea Hotel Rooftop Club Approved by Landmarks in Secret Conclave"--tenants kept out of the loop as Landmarks "rammed through their approval of a massive rooftop addition to the Historic Hotel." [LWL]

I still haven't gotten into the amazing treasure trove of historic NYC photos--the Department of Records website has been swamped by "overwhelming demand." [DOR]

Last call at Lakeside Lounge. [EVG] & [NYT]

A swizzle stick at "21." [TWM]

Paintings of the New York "everyman." [CR]

Enjoy the weird and cranky reviews of NYC by George Leonard Herter. [PRD]

Paris Review Daily

Sensitive Skin #8 comes out this week--with a gala reading at the Bowery Poetry Club Sunday, 4/29 at 7:30pm. [SS]

A new dairy luncheonette for Diamond Row. [LC]

Enjoying the White Horse Tavern's neon sign. [NYN]

Gonzalez Y Gonzalez returns after vanishing--but Chipotle keeps the local old-timer under its thumb, forbidding Gonzalez from selling tacos and burritos because the mega-chain doesn't want the competition. [DNA]

Bloomberg is still hoping the Wal-Mart devil will suck the remaining soul from New York City. [Crain's]

Abacus Pharmacy: Open

Too often we hear of independent businesses vanishing from the city, and local pharmacies were some of the first to go.

From 1990 - 2003, New York City lost 447 neighborhood pharmacies, a 28% decrease. In the same time period, the city gained 434 chain pharmacies—a 263% increase. And the casualties keep mounting. In the East Village, we watched them all fall (almost--except for the lovely Block Drugs and ?) under the pressing weight of Duane Reades and Rite-Aids and Walgreens.

But what is this?

Little indie Abacus Pharmacy opened a few months ago on 2nd Avenue and 11th Street. If you haven't been yet, check it out. The people who own it and work there are friendly and helpful. It feels good to shop there. But the place is often empty--I don't think many people know it exists yet (only 10 Facebook friends). So now you know.

Every time we pass a shuttered pharmacy, the windows are full of signs from Duane Reade or Rite-Aid that say, in essence, "Our massive, impersonal chain is now taking your prescription transfers!" Well, fuck 'em. If you live in the East Village and fill your prescriptions at a chain, why not transfer them to Abacus? Support the little guy--and enjoy the pleasures of a retail relationship where the people behind the counter remember your face and want to take care of you for once.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beatrice Neon Pumped

Checking in with the Beatrice Inn neon sign, after it's been saved and patterned, we hear (and see) from the workshop that the neon tubes have been "repaired, repumped, ready for block out and mounting."

All photos: Jeff Friedman, Let There Be Neon

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bill's Carted Away

New York Neon blogger Thomas Rinaldi sends in these shots from the weekend and writes: "I happened upon this today, the emptying out of Bill's Gay 90s. File cabinets, wood furnishings, AV equipment, mostly just being tossed into these trucks and carted off."

Bill's has added this message to their website:

"Our last night at 57 East 54th St was March 24th. Our landlord refused to renew our lease and after an 88 year run, we were forced to close if we wanted to have the freedom to continue to run the Bill's Gay 90s we all know and cherish. we are working on our new home. Please go to our contact page and give us your email address and name so that we can keep you up to date on our progress and let you know how you can help.

Also visit us on FACEBOOK -- If you do not use the internet -- please call: 212-355-0243 and leave your phone number -- we will contact you via phone. We look forward to welcoming you to our new location!"

Of course, with the recent owners of the building fighting to keep Bill's memorabilia for the new, "top-secret" tenant, as other parts of Bill's have been trashed, who knows what the future holds for this tragically vanished treasure.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Williamsburg is cracking down on hipster brunch crowding. [Eater]

Help Beat poet and feminist Diane DiPrima with her medical bills--donate now. [GF]

Save the Neighborhood School's library--on the budget cut chopping block. [EVG]

Chinatown Fair Arcade returns May 5--but what about a chicken comeback? [BB]

A look behind the scenes at Robert Longo's "Men in Cities" street art. [FP]

See what has become of Park Slope's Timboo's. [OMFS]

A message to MePa? On 8th and Horatio:

Bloomberg now wants to outlaw smoking cigarettes in the privacy of your own home. [Gothamist]

Hollywood stars moving to Avenue B? What planet are we on? [Curbed]

New York is turning into LA--and now LA might turn into New York. [NYT]

The Mob returns to San Gennaro--maybe they can run out the Nolitans. [NYT]

What will the books of the future look like? [NYT]

St. Mark's Bookshop Cash Mob

With news of St. Mark's Bookshop being back in trouble after last fall's near vanishing, Sunday's cash mob at the store was a great success. Co-owner Terry McCoy wrote to me in an email:

"The store was bustling. I wasn't sure what the results were until I got a chance to go over Sunday's receipts. In the hour between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. we did about $1,250 dollars worth of business, which is at least three times what we would normally do at that time. And not only that, but my staff tells me people were asking all day and evening how the cashmob had worked. All in all, we had the best day so far this month. And we needed it. It really helped financially."

photo: Shawn Chittle

St. Mark's says thank you to everyone who participated (check out Marty's coverage of the event). And for those concerned about the bookshop's future, Terry says the management is open to trying new things to keep the shop going. "I read all the replies to your blog entries about us," he said, "and I can assure you that last fall was a wake-up call."

St. Mark's Bookshop is now up on Twitter and Facebook--please join them both to get news and reviews--and they're hosting more readings and other literary events.

"We're trying to look at all options," Terry says. "We want to keep this place going, and that goes for our staff and your readers and the local community at large."

If you have ideas and skills to offer, please contact the bookstore.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Famous Roio's

When Famous Ray's Pizza vanished from the corner of 6th and 11th back in October, we never expected it to return, especially not with news of lawsuits in the air over rights to the name Ray's. Then we heard that competitor Famous Original Ray's would be moving in. But that was not to be.

This week, Ray's reopened--with a new name and the original original owner.

Mario DiRienzo and his brother Lamberto first opened The Famous Ray's Pizza on this corner in August of 1973. They closed the shop in the 1980s and Mario rented it out to numerous other pizza places over the years. Today he is back behind the pizza counter. "I tried not to come back," he told me--it's difficult to be here without Lamberto, who passed away--but "things happen" and here he is.

Since Mario reopened on April 16, long-time customers have flooded in to welcome him back to the neighborhood. "I feel like crying," he said with tears in his eyes. "So much appreciation from people." He had no idea that he'd been missed, and that he'd be remembered so fondly.

Mario today

Newer customers who don't recognize Mario's face from the 1970s will find it all along the walls, where he has hung framed copies of vintage photos and news articles about his pizza place, including one from 1983 that recalls the time he sent an order of 40 pizza pies all the way to London.

Mario in the 1970s

Also on the wall is a photo of the bus that his father once drove back and forth across the Italian village of Roio del Sangro. In the photo, a very young Mario pokes his head from the bus window in a crowd of family and friends.

Mario decided to name the new old pizza place after his hometown, but Famous Roio del Sangro Pizza was "too long for a pizza place," so Famous Roio's was enough.

"I wish I'd changed the name years ago," he told me. "There was too much going on with Ray's--Famous Ray's and Original Ray's. It's been very confusing. So I'm happy I changed it. Now I'm distinguished from the others."

As for the infamous rivalry with Famous Original Ray's, Mario says there is no rivalry. "I have great respect for the Original Ray's and they respect me. We've known each other over 40 years. We're good friends."

the 1976 mosaic of Montecatini still stands

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

*Everyday Chatter

Marty recaps the St. Mark's Bookshop Cash Mob--and it was a success! [TWM]

Romy: "The exterminator told me that the worst cases he's seen of bed bugs have been in new, rich buildings. The people call him SCREAMING, he said, and we laughed and laughed together." [WIC]

"Is artisanal Brooklyn a step forward for food or a sign of the apocalypse?" [NYM]

Anarchists tried smashing the windows at the Astor Place Starbucks this weekend. [NYDN]

They giddily succeeded at the despised St. Mark's 7-11:

By now you've heard: The Lakeside Lounge is shuttering. [NSTAW]

And their fantastic photo booth is for sale. [EVG]

A 60-year-old Judaica store gets pushed out of the Lower East Side. [JDF]

After 73 years, a shoe store shuts down. [CR]

A 28-year-old quilt shop is closing on the UWS. [WSR]

Crown Heights loses the great Maiman's neon sign. [NYN]

Photographer James Maher sends in this haunting shot of the demolition at 3rd Ave and 12th St:

Walls & Windows 1980

A reader sent in a link to the blog Multiglom, showing photos from New York in 1980. The blogger, UK novelist Anne Billson, took a bunch of photos of walls and windows in the Village. She writes, "Once, when I was taking a photograph of a wall, a man came up to me and grumbled, 'Why is everyone always taking photos of walls?'"

That's easy--because the walls of the city tell a story in peeling layers of posters and graffiti.

all photos by Anne Billson

One recalls New Wave singer Lene Lovich (check her out) and Lucia Dlugoszewski, the creator of over a hundred musical instruments (have a listen).

Another wall features posters pleading with New Yorkers to "help stop the nuclear nightmare" and also "learn to meditate." Peter and the Girlfriends had a concert, along with The Idiot Orchestra, while film and video played at the Mudd Club.

Does anyone remember a shop called Defiant Pose?

And here's a classic cobbler shop shot. If the shop is still there, which I doubt, it likely looks exactly the same as it did in 1980. Where do all the shoe-sole neon signs go when they vanish?

See more at Multiglom.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Beatrice Neon Update

The renovation of the Beatrice Inn neon sign by local shop Let There Be Neon is progressing. Jeff Friedman sends in a few shots of neon layout artist Rocky Pinciotti as he lays out the bending patterns for the sign.

all photos: Jeff Friedman

See Also:
New York Neon
Fedora Sign
Jade Mountain Found

Friday, April 13, 2012

Save St. Mark's (Again)

After tens of thousands of petition signatures, after protests, letters to Cooper Union, visits from Michael Moore, banner book-buying weekends, and celebrations of great success, St. Mark's Bookshop is back on the ropes.

Reports Publishers Weekly today:

"'We’re hanging in there, barely,' says co-owner Bob Contant. 'It’s a difficult April. Traffic is down. Without an increase, we can’t rebuild our inventory. We’re 20% short of where we need to be.' The store is on hold with a number of publishers, including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Perseus, for relatively small sums between $500 and $2,5000. "It’s a catch 22," says Contant. 'We can’t buy more books. Up until this month we thought we were out of the woods.'

A few landlords have come forward offering the store lower rent, but moving would be costly and the store’s business credit cards are already maxed out. 'We would like to stay where we are, even at the high rent,' says Contant, 'unless an angel comes along.'

What would help, he says, is if everyone who signed the petition came in or called in and bought a book."

We've had two great "Buy A Book" weekends, and I encourage you all to visit the store again this weekend to buy some books--and keep buying books. But in this anti-book era, in this iZombie culture, what St. Mark's Bookshop needs most is a powerful new business plan--something that will sustain them in the long run, something that will keep attracting book buyers, day after day.

In Brooklyn, bookstores like Word and Greenlight are thriving in this e-book economy. What's their secret? I'm calling on them to step forward and offer their assistance and know-how to St. Mark's Books. I'm calling on the owners of St. Mark's Bookshop to follow their example and make the vital changes necessary to stay afloat. I'm calling on successful authors to show up with donations in hand.

We need St. Mark's Bookshop--now and for years to come. But it's going to take a village.

*UPDATE: #cashmob St. Mark's Bookshop, Sunday April 15, at 1:00 pm. Spend $15 on a book. Spend your tax refund! Then go drink at INTERNATIONAL BAR. Please re-tweet...spread the word.

Also: Join the bookshop's Facebook page and follow their Twitter.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mars Creamed

Goggla got a shot of the Mars Bars "tribute" party last night at Blue & Cream, where photos of the regular bar-flies went for $2,000 apiece.

And let's recall this story from Goggla from 2009:

"A gaggle of girls came in to Mars Bar. One ordered a watermelon-flavored vodka with soda. By some chance, the watermelon was in stock, but had probably been sitting there for years.

She was horrified to find fruit flies in her drink and sent it back. The bartender held the glass to the light and just said, 'Huh.'

Another patron recommended the girl get a beer since that comes in sealed bottles. She insisted on a fresh drink from the same vodka. There were flies in the bottle.

We cheered and said that was lucky, but she walked out, leaving her jaw on the floor behind her."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blue & Cream on Mars

Tonight, the upscale Bowery (via the Hamptons) boutique Blue & Cream will be hosting a "Tribute to Mars Bar" photo exhibit. Says the press release:

"Photographer and native New Yorker, Debby Hymowitz, has captured the essence of this gritty and martyred establishment through her brilliant photos that will help carry on the Mars Bar essence, just as it should be remembered. After all, this is Blue & Cream’s neighborhood."

photo: Debby Hymowitz, Blue & Cream site

Back in 2010, when the bar was still standing, Blue & Cream's back to the Bowery lookbook described how the photographer "envisioned how a girl who has everything one could want in her wardrobe would dress when confined to this local dive bar."

The writing was already on the wall--authentrification at its height.

photo: Debby Hymowitz, Blue & Cream site

Of course, we have a thorough understanding of how the forces that birthed Blue & Cream on the Bowery--the forces that turned CBGB into a John Varvatos boutique and disgorged the Avalons complete with Whole Foods--also led to the recent death of Mars Bar.

From the Marc Jacobsian front on Bleecker to the Great Wall of Highline to the bloody Battle of the Bowery, we're in a culture war and our side is not winning.

photo: Debby Hymowitz, Blue & Cream site

The news of this event, buzzing across the blogosphere this week from Gothamist to Racked, has made more than one observer express the wish that the real Mars Bar regulars would show up at tonight's opening--to do what they do best.

But I have to wonder: Wouldn't the presence of Mars Bar regulars only feed the authenticity hunger of the New Bowery? It reminds me of Derelicte, the too-true satire from the movie Zoolander.

We see this all over the New Bowery, where flophouses become trendy boutique hotels, complete with homeless men included. Where tenement laundry lines become selling points for luxury hotel views. Where "Bowery" has become a luxury brand. Somehow, alcoholism, marginalization, and poverty have become hip to exploit.

As Mugatu says in Zoolander, it's "the future of fashion."

Everettsville: Looking east along 1st St. in 2002

Same view today: Chase and Blue & Cream

Also read:
About "authentrification" and the Bowery
The Loss of Mars
Bowery Tsunami
Varvatos Reimagined

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

J. Yormark Survives

Some months ago, whatever had once occupied the spot next to Left Bank Books on 8th Avenue near Jane Street had a piece of its facade torn off to reveal a lovely piece of glass signage.

J. YORMARK SHOES it read in stained glass. GVSHP did a little digging--they found a bit, but it seems there is not much to be found on this little shoe store of the past.

I worried how the new occupants of the spot would treat the un-vanished sign. In February, a barber shop moved in.

They kept the sign.

The barbershop is called Igor's "Be Good" Barber Shop. It sounds like Igor of the Little Tony & Igor Be Good barber shop has branched out on his own.

Igor's facebook page

Monday, April 9, 2012

Astor Hair Documentary

I first visited Astor Hair in 1989. Later, the Royal barber shop on St. Mark's Place became my regular spot for a haircut. But just recently, I've gone back to Astor Hair--mostly because it's one of the last places in the East Village that still feels like the East Village. More than that, it still feels like New York City.

Which is why I was excited to hear that filmmaker (and JVNY regular) Karen Gehres is making a documentary about the place. She writes:

"With so many NYC Institutions dropping like flies, due to skyrocketing rent, one barber shop remains. Since 1939, Astor Barber has been cutting hair with pizzazz and is still one of NYC's most loved institutions. Get your hair cut from cradle to grave...literally! ...From the countless celebrity customers to the karaoke in the back with other 50 barbers, this barber shop is never dull."

Check out the trailer on Kickstarter and please donate some cash to help her complete the film.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Henry in Harry's

When we see places vanish, we wonder what will take their place. Checking back in with the new tenant is usually disappointing and depressing. Still, it must be done.

In 2006, Harry Chong was forced to close his laundry after 60 years on the corner of Waverly Place and Charles. The landlord spiked the rent. A hair salon moved in, keeping part of the HARRY CHONG window signage, then it moved out. In October 2011 a For Rent sign went in the window. Last month, after the space was rented, workers scraped HARRY CHONG from the windows.

Today, there's a new upscale boutique in the spot. Henry Beguelin has moved here from the Meatpacking District, bringing MePa values with it.

That yellow handbag on the table sells for $2,195. Flip-flops go for $550.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that many of the "pioneering" boutiques that created MePa are being pushed out of the high-end shopping mall they created by skyrocketing rents that are attracting high-end shopping mall chain stores, like Sephora and Intermix.

With its influential boutiques on the move, thanks in part to the High Line raising property values, "MePa Creep" has begun.

If these stores have the power to make MePa wherever they go, what will happen to our quiet little blocks--and their existing businesses--when the exiled Meatpacking boutiques start showing up?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Peep World Remnants

After the death of Peep World, we heard from some grieving readers.

Stacy alerted us to a January 2012 story by Christopher Gray in the Times that described the Horn & Hardart Automat that preceded Peep World at this spot. Gray reports that this Automat was designed in 1930 by Louis Allen Abramson.

Burger King's shingles

He explains that the Automat was "a Deco-Gothic anthem. Above a bronze storefront rose a vertical streamlined facade of buff terra cotta with two man-size sculpture niches in the center, each sheltered by a perforated canopy called a baldachin, as if waiting for statues of the saints of macaroni and cheese. At each side, pairs of muscular, stylized men appeared to tussle mightily over faceted lozenges."

In 1975, the Automat's elaborate facade was shingled over by Burger King. You can see in the photo below what Burger King did to the great Times Square Automat in the 1970s--same shingles, same sign as Peep World.

1978, via Lost City

Says Stacy about the Peep World Burger King, "I used to go in there with my mother when I was a little girl after visits to Santa Claus at Macy's. I have a lot of fond memories of this place. We sat upstairs. A quick glance at the green exterior shingles and the floor tiles in your photos gives away its fast food lineage."

We wonder, when the Murray Hill gastropub hacks away at Peep World, will we see Horn & Hardart's tussling muscle men emerge? (God forbid they should be preserved.)

photo: Casey

We also heard from Casey, who was bold enough to venture into Peep World during its last moments of life and snap a shot of the video booths in disarray.

Casey also took home a souvenir. He writes, "They sold me the Extended Viewing Time sign that hung between booths for $20. I had to buy this sign to preserve something from Peep World. I will take very good care of it. Even as a newcomer to the city, I feel it's so important to preserve what I can of the vanishing New York spots. I wanted to live here because of these places."

Amen to that.

photo: Casey