Tuesday, April 15, 2014

OK Harris & Cigars

Reader Michael writes in to let us know that OK Cigars on West Broadway in Soho is closing the first week of June.

The shop was opened by Ivan Karp, Andy Warhol's art dealer and one of the first gallery owners in Soho. He founded the gallery OK Harris in 1969 and added the cigar shop nearly 30 years later. A frosted glass door reading SMOKE ROOM opens one space onto the other.

"An avid cigar smoker," writes shop employee Gavin Baker in Everything's OK, "Ivan was searching for a smoking room once his gallery forbade the timeless ritual. Brilliantly, he converted the gallery’s supply closet into a cigar shop. In 1997, OK Cigars was born. Shortly after, Ivan partnered with Len Brunson, a blues guitarist and reluctant cigar connoisseur." (It was that or a doughnut shop, Gavin explains on video--Karp was a big fan of the Donut Pub on 14th Street. But cigars made sense, as the building was once home to a tobacco curing plant.)

Karp died in 2012 and the gallery announced that it would be closing on April 19, 2014, after 45 years in business.

Brunson continues to run the cigar shop, a haven for enthusiasts of "peculiar antique tobacciana," and "one of the few mom and pops" left in the increasingly corporatized neighborhood.

And here's a parting 1970 shot of the gallery in what LIFE called the "shabby SoHo area." (With thanks to Justin.)


downhillcrasher said...

Yeah, cigars were really trendy in the late 90s, no real loss here and not surprised or saddened by this one.

Anonymous said...

Soho is in London.
SoHo is in New York.

Ken Mac said...

The owner is opening a new cigar shop in Jim Thorpe, PA which has among other things, a haunted prison, a perfect 50s era Mahoney diner, and excellent rafting.
I figured it was doomed when Cipriani opened across the street.
There goes the hood, going going gong -- gone.

laura r. said...

ivan karp was a nasty man thats all i have to say. but that is a really nice shop.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I used to sell art across the street from this shop in the summer. They had a little jazz band out front that filled the block with some wonderful music. A one-of-a-kind place, what a shame.

Steven Stark said...

I spent a few really enjoyable afternoons hanging out on those steps, smoking a cigar and talking to the guys. I'll miss it.