Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bruno Bakery


On LaGuardia Place since 1973, Bruno Bakery / Pasticceria Bruno will be closing its doors and leaving the Village. The bakery's last day will be this coming Sunday.

A sign on the door from the Settepani family reads, in part: "We would like to thank our landlord for the opportunity to make this work, but since Sept 11, 2001 it has been a continuing struggle to stay in business. Times have changed in our industry and we can no longer financially stay. New York City and some of their agencies make it impossible to survive."

One of the employees explained the problem in two words: "The rent."

A long-time customer read the sign and, while waiting for her box of cookies to be filled, cried, "I'm dying. I'm dying. You can't close. Not this place. Not this place! You've been here 40 years!"

But what's 40 years to a city that is wiping out century-old businesses, one after another after another? This will continue if we don't stop the bleeding. Support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act--tell your local council member to sign on.

Then go say goodbye to Bruno.



You've probably heard by now that, after 110 years in business, DeRobertis in the East Village will be gone as of December 5. It wasn't the rent this time. The family decided, with great pain, to sell the building.

This one hurts like hell.

I'd like to say something more eloquent, but that's all I've got right now.

That and who took the antique coin from the floor?

For a million years--or 193--a half-dollar from 1821 sat in the very center of the cafe, embedded in the tiles, in the middle of a flower, in the middle of a star. Some said that a mobster put it there, maybe Lucky Luciano, but it was likely just the guy who put in the floor.

photo from a few months ago by Kyle Supley

Today there's just an empty space, an imprint of an eagle in the cement where the coin used to be. Soon, that's all we'll have of DeRobertis, a ghostly remnant of something wonderful and real, something connected to history, something with a story to tell.

As John DeRobertis described the place to Bedford & Bowery, "When people came in here, they knew the people working behind the counter. We felt a closeness. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. You go into any of these chain coffee shops, you’re just a person and they’re robots. Everybody has a job to do. You give the order to this person, this person makes it, this person gives it to you, that person cashes you out. Here, I think people felt at home."

What will move in next? God help us if it's a fucking Starbucks. Of course, as Annie DeRobertis told me back in 2007, that's what today's stunad East Villagers want.

She said: “People come in and tell me I don’t know how to make cappuccino. They tell me, 'Starbucks makes it this way.' I tell them, 'I’m here before Starbucks.' They want flavors. I tell them, 'I got flavors. You want a flavor? I’ll put it in.' Put it in? They look at me. Do these people really think the coffee bean grows in flavors? Like it comes in hazelnut and mint? These are people with college educations. But they want Starbucks. So I tell them, very nicely I say, 'So go to Starbucks.'"

Eventually, that will be the only choice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Newspapers - Tobacco

The Village has lost a great old sign.

For many years at 233 Bleecker, above one newsstand or another, there hung a vintage sign that read NEWSPAPERS - TOBACCO.

Today, with the space for rent, there's nothing but the ghost. The letters and Coca-Cola shields have been ripped down.

Here's how it looked until recently. And, before that, back in 2007.

I always liked seeing it as a I walked by, a piece of the past that had somehow, against all odds, persevered. It was a survivor. Maybe I identified with it. Seeing the sign, I would feel a sense of relief--I'm still here--thinking, "It's still there."

And now it isn't.

They call these signs privilege signs (thanks Tom). David Dunlap at the New York Times wrote about them--and their vanishing--last year:

"What is lost along with privilege signs is a sense of modesty and history. They speak of a time when store owners did not emphasize who they were as much as what they sold: fruits, vegetables, stationery, toys, candy and sandwiches. They are a visual link to the years of the Great Depression and World War II."

Several privilege signs appear in James and Karla Murray's Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York. Most have already vanished.

As Karla told the Times: “The loss of these old signs and the stores signifies a loss in the neighborhood."

Monday, November 24, 2014

NEWSical for Cafe Edison

Big thanks to Tom and Michael D'Angora, producers of NEWSical the Musical, for this terrific short film in which "Liza Minelli" and "Larry King," played by Christine Pedi and Michael West, along with the real Jackie Hoffman, plot ways to #SaveCafeEdison. They're sending "twats" to SJP and Matthew:


Hooters has arrived where Peep World once was.

In 2012, good old Peep World shuttered right across from Penn Station. We soon learned it would be replaced by a Hooters.

Now the big neon signs are up on 7th Avenue and 33rd, the green-shingled Peep World facade (formerly a Burger King, and before that an Automat) has been replaced with glass, and the Help Wanted signs are in the window, announcing "Everyone Looks Good in Orange."

There is a large Hootie the Owl inside, its wide eyes a pair of not-so subliminal boobs gawking out at the street.

And the place is enormous. It didn't just take up the entire 33rd Street Peep World space, it looks like it runs straight through the neighboring building, across a whole floor, with windows on the avenue. It is making its presence known.

In 2012, I wrote about the shift from Peep World to Hooters.

Peep World Closing
Peep World to Hooters
Peep World Remnants
Paper Magazine

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dance Manhattan


After 22 years in Chelsea, Dance Manhattan is no more as of this Saturday. Their landlord decided not to renew their lease.

Once again, the closure is not due to a lack of customers. The dance studio was thriving. Their popular salsa night with Jimmy Anton recently attracted 450 dancers. But the landlord doubled the rent and is seeking another kind of business.

Co-owner Elena Iannucci told me, "New York is not kind to dance studios any longer. It's the real estate market. They want a tech company here."

Back in the spring, Elena told DNA, "you have the Googles and the Yelps and the Yahoos…who are looking for space and they become the people that buildings like this one want to rent to and not necessarily to those of us in the arts who are providing dance to the public.”

She tried to find a new space, looking everywhere in town, but there was nothing affordable to be found, so she is forced to close. Many of the instructors will be moving over to the You Should Be Dancing studio. Some are flying solo, hoping their students will follow.

Tomorrow night is Dance Manhattan's final Open House Guest Night, a free social dance party from 9:00 p.m. until midnight. The dance showcase starts at 10pm--and there are free snacks. For $5 you get a dance lesson at 8:00.

On Saturday, it's the drop-in tango workshop. And adios.

727 Hardware

For 80 years, 727 Hardware has been serving the neighborhood around its location on 6th Avenue and 24th Street. They even survived the arrival of Home Depot just a block away. But recently, their landlord told them to go. The Heart Vein medical office upstairs, with the blinding, flashing LED billboard, is expanding.

So the hardware store is going.

Luckily, they found a new spot at 328 8th Avenue, between 26th and 27th. They've already got the shop mostly packed up.

I like an old hardware store. This one's not my local, but I've picked up a few items here in the past.

As an old shop, it has some nice features, like the vintage lettering on the windows--and inside, too.

When I visited, a very accommodating young man gave me a tour of the place. He showed me an ornate staircase leading down to the basement, and a weird bathroom window that, he said, led to a secret passageway between the buildings.

The hardware store's building is neighbor to a building that had once been Koster and Bial's "The Corner," a saloon connected to the famous music halls of the day. Eagle-eyed urbanists are often drawn to that cornice up above.

In the 1939 shot below, from the NYPL's archives, you can see a sliver of the original hardware store on the far right. Next to a Playland arcade, it was then called "Sol's" hardware store. You could get two keys made for 15 cents.


In the following 1936 photo, also from the NYPL archives, the shop is some kind of "bargain bazaar," and not a hardware store. So maybe it didn't quite make it to 80 years.

I share this photo for the great shot of Playland--and the description of the arcade on the back of the image, which reads: "It is provided with a rifle range, many slot-machine games, and cheap recorded music, as a diversion for people with not too fine an appreciation for good entertainment."


Well, I suppose the same could still be said today of that spot, occupied as it is with a XXX shop selling DVDs and rubber goods. And thank goodness for that. Sadly, we lost Billy's Topless from the Koster & Bial spot in 2001.

And now this old hardware store is going, almost 80 years, gutted for vein treatments. I'll miss seeing it there. I liked walking by and thinking, "Now there's a survivor."

Please find them at their new space on 8th Avenue, between 26th and 27th, after December 1.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Johnson for Cafe Edison

First, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter supporting a new lease for Cafe Edison. Then New York State Senator Brad Hoylman stepped up with his own letter. Now Manhattan District 3 Council Member Corey Johnson offers the following:

He writes: "The Cafe Edison is more than just a restaurant; it is part of the fabric of New York of the last remaining bastions where people from all walks of life can meet and enjoy an affordable meal in Times Square."

He cites recent losses to Times Square--including Colony Records and McHale's--and says, "We cannot afford to lose the Cafe Edison now." He asks Edison Hotel owner Gerald Barad to grant the restaurant a lease.

Thank you to Mr. Johnson for this beautiful letter.

Don't forget, if you've missed our last three Lunch Mobs, or just want more, this Thursday (tomorrow) night we're having a Dinner Mob to Save Cafe Edison with a great klezmer band. Don't miss it. (Click here for details.)

Honest Boy Fruit Stand


"The dirty, polluted, overpriced, but iconic fruit stand at the corner of Broadway and Houston is no more," writes in Joe. "For some reason, I already miss it terribly."

Maybe they're on a long vacation, but they've been shuttered for at least 10 days and the stand has become littered with empty coffee cups and other detritus, so it certainly appears to be gone for good.


When the Wall Street Journal announced in 2013 that the fruit stand's parcel had been sold by the MTA to a real-estate developer for $26 million, they called it an "unglamorous pocket on the northern lip of luxurious Soho."

Maybe that's why Joe, and many others, miss it--it was a scrappy holdout from another time, a reminder of the neighborhood that's been wiped out.

April 2014

Its name was the Honest Boy fruit stand, and it was opened by Louis Arenas in 1980--the letters that spelled out "The Honest Boy" had that New Wavy '80s look, but the cast-iron stand dates back to the 1950s.

At least three times the stand came close to shutting down. In 2000, the MTA wanted to kick them out so they could convert the space into a lot for vehicle maintenance. People fought back. The Times reported, "In 1984, when the Metropolitan Transit Authority refused to renew the lease after it purchased the plot, community groups saved the business. When an electrical substation was proposed in 1992, hundreds of protesters derailed the project."

At that time, New York magazine reported that the stand had "become a Community Board 2 cause celebre, replete with petitions, street protest, a mean letter-writing campaign, and, of course, agitprop posters and murals."

New York magazine, 1992

This time around, no one came out to fight for Honest Boy. Or, if they did, they didn't make much noise.

Maybe it was Mr. Arenas that everyone loved so much. Around 2004, he became ill, reported The Sun, and transferred the lease of the stand to Pan Gi Lee.

April 2014

In 2006, the MTA and Mr. Lee proposed to transform the corner with a "two-story glass, steel, and aluminum building," incorporating the fruit stand into something larger and more permanent. But Community Board 2 fought against it.

According to The Sun: "The director of the SoHo Alliance, Sean Sweeney, called the proposed design 'absurd,' and said he is worried the stand would evolve into something more. 'It will be a coffee scene. All the cool people are going to go in there and it will lose its charm,' Mr. Sweeney said."

April 2014

What's coming next will be big and glassy--of course. Charmless and created for all the cool people, it has already pissed off the neighbors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hoylman for Cafe Edison

Last week, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter to the owner and general manager of the Edison Hotel, asking them to give Cafe Edison a lease. This week, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman gets in the fight with an eloquent and pointed letter of his own.

He makes a plea to Gerald Barad, Richard Hotter, and Shimmie Horn: "I therefore appeal to your sense of fairness and justice and appreciation for preserving the character of our city to meet with the operators of Cafe Edison forthwith and begin negotiations to grant the restaurant a lease."

Thank you Senator Hoylman! Hope you enjoyed that matzo ball soup at this weekend's Lunch Mob to Save Cafe Edison.

Don't forget, if you've missed our last three Lunch Mobs, or just want more, this Thursday night we're having a Dinner Mob to Save Cafe Edison with a great klezmer band. Don't miss it. (Click here for details.)

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks


Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is being forced out of its Greenwich Village shop. Once again, it's not due to a lack of customers or changing styles of shopping. It's the landlord.

New York Times

Bonnie writes in: "I can't believe I'm turning into one of your sad stories, but I've just lost my lease. I have to be out by the end of January. I'm absolutely determined to find a place and move the shop (probably in the East Village, since nobody can afford the West Village anymore)."

Bonnie has had the popular and beloved bookshop on West 10th Street for 15 years. She was just profiled this past spring in the New York Times: "Whether you are looking for Sam Choy’s 'The Choy of Cooking' or 'The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking,' by Brother Rick Curry, Ms. Slotnick either has a copy or will find a way to get one for you."

New York Times

Bonnie has prepared this announcement:

Dear customers, friends, neighbors, and supporters,

I'm still here! But my landlord has refused to renew the lease on my shop. After 15 years on West Tenth Street, I'm going to have to find a new home. My lease expires on January 31, 2015. I plan to stay open through Christmas and maybe longer, and then I will be open by appointment only while I pack ALL these books.

I'm looking for a small storefront in the East Village, the West Village being totally out of my price range, but would also be open to other (marginally affordable) neighborhoods.

It's also possible that if I find the right person, I would consider sharing space--with another bookseller, an antiques dealer, a kitchenware shop. Maybe you'd be interested, or know someone who might?

I don't see any point in a petition to keep me here, because my landlord will not relent. But some media coverage of this increasingly common and sad New York story would be welcome. Since I'm not social-media-savvy, feel free to mention my situation on Facebook, Twitter, or What Have You. And when I do reopen (presumably in early February), front-page headlines would help a lot!

Rest assured that I will find a space, you will find your way there, and I will make it as cozy and welcoming as the old shop. And if you've never been here, it will be even more exciting for you to make your first visit to my new, improved place.

Please watch my website, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, for updates. And feel free to contact me by email or phone.

I thank you for your friendship, your patronage, your loyalty, your interest, your love.

Most sincerely,

Monday, November 17, 2014

What to Worry About

This weekend, Tim Donnelly at the New York Post published an interview with me about what's left to worry about in our vanishing New York. You can read that article here.

After we first did the interview, it prompted me to ask readers on my Facebook page: "What are some places in danger of vanishing, or that you just worry about?" Here's that list, somewhat organized. Not all of these places are in danger--most just give off that feeling, that sense of foreboding, of days numbered. They make us worry. I may not agree with everything on the list--some of the places I've never heard of--but it's a collective effort, and a work in progress.

We put the list together just this summer and already the places are being picked off. Both Yaffa Cafe and Smith's Bar & Grill have vanished. Cafe Edison has been given notice.

It happens fast. If we don't get the city to take action soon, all that's left could be wiped out.

*UPDATE: I will try to keep this list updated as things change:

Little Poland
Neptune (vanished)

La Bonbonniere
Cup and Saucer Luncheonette (vanished)
Café Edison (vanished)
Neil’s Coffee Shop
Lexington Candy Shop
Cafe Riviera (vanished)
Cafe Orlin (vanished)

Peter Pan Donuts
Donut Pub

Ray’s Candy
Raul Candy Store (vanished)

Castillo de Jaguar
La Taza de Oro (vanished)
El Parador on 34th

El Quijote (vanished)

Le Veau D’or
Tout Va Bien
Chez Napoleon
Marchi’s (vanished)

Russo's Pasta
DiRobertis’ Pasticceria (vanished)
Di Palo
Ottomanelli’s Butcher Shop
Isle of Capri (vanished)
Ferdinando's Foccacceria

Yonah Schimmel
Moishe’s Bake Shop (vanished)
Barney Greengrass
Streit's Matzo factory (vanished)

Glaser’s Bakery (vanished)
Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn

Wo Hop

Pete McManus
Nancy Whiskey Pub
Old Town Bar
Jimmy’s Corner
Smith's Bar & Grill (saved)
Rudy’s Bar
Holland Bar
Hank’s Saloon
Grassroots Tavern (vanished)
Ear Inn

Julius’ Bar
Ty’s bar

Village Vanguard
Arthur’s Tavern
Showmans Jazz
Paris Blues

First Flight Music (vanished)
Music Inn
Other Music (vanished)
Rebel Rebel (vanished)
Academy Records

Donohue’s restaurant
Sam’s Pizza
Knickerbocker Grill
Yaffa Café (vanished)
Noho Star (vanished)
Café Pick Me Up (vanished)

Gem Spa
Jim’s Shoe Repair (saved)
Trash and Vaudeville (forced to move)
Desco Vacuum Cleaners (vanished)
Moe’s Meat Market art gallery (vanished)

Cherry Lane Theater
Shore Theater

The Strand
East Village Books

Marietta Fashion
Moulded Shoes
Hyman Hendler & Sons
Orchard St. Corset

The Sensuous Bean
Porto Rico coffee

Royal Hair barber shop

East Village Meat Market

Friday, November 14, 2014

Brewer for Cafe Edison

The fight to save Cafe Edison continues. Kathleen Vestuto, member of our Save Cafe Edison facebook group, reached out to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer with great success.

Ms. Brewer has now written an eloquent letter to the Hotel Edison's owner, Gerald Barad, and General Manager, Richard Hotter, asking that they give a lease to the Cafe Edison.

Brewer writes that the closing of Cafe Edison "will cause the unnecessary loss of jobs for workers who are the most vulnerable in our economy. It would be a disgrace to lose this New York institution that inspired Neil Simon to write '45 Seconds from Broadway,' where August Wilson wrote several scripts on Cafe Edison napkins, and where Doug Henning and David Copperfield were regulars and I reiterate my request that you give a lease to the Cafe Edison to remain in its location in the Edison Hotel."

It's not over 'til it's over! This is not a funeral, it's a fight. So come out this weekend for Lunch Mobs, brings your protest signs, and bring the fight to Save Cafe Edison. It's not just about one place--this is a fight to save New York. Stop the vanishing.

Lunch Mobs this weekend
Lunch Mob last weekend

Join the Save Cafe Edison facebook group
Sign the petition

Cafe Edison Lunch Mobs

Last weekend, we held a Lunch Mob to save Cafe Edison from being kicked out of the Edison Hotel, its home since 1980. Hundreds of people showed up. Since then, the restaurant has continued to be packed with customers. Media coverage continues to roll out. Celebrities are starting to show up to help.

This weekend, we've arranged entertainment for two more Lunch Mobs. Choose one, or go to both. There's always room for more Cafe Edison.

This Saturday at 12:00 noon, magicians from the Magic Table will roam the coffee shop performing hocus pocus, small miracles, and sleight of hand over bowls of matzo ball soup. The Magic Table, a tradition that dates back to World War II, has been meeting at Cafe Edison since 1986. For more info, please view the Facebook invite here.

This Sunday at 12:30, the Bergen County Players, just off a run of Neil Simon’s “45 Seconds from Broadway,” will be performing key scenes from the play, including a rousing speech about the Café Edison that proclaims: “And when dis place is gone, the entire Broadway will slide into the East River!” For more info, please view the Facebook invite here.

As before, please bring signs to let the hotel and its tourists know why you're there. And, remember, this is not a funeral, this is a fight. It's a fight for Cafe Edison, and it's a fight for authentic New York, for small businesses, the places we love that are getting wiped out at record speed and with no protection from the city. It's time to stand up and demand a change.

photo: Tim Schreier

If you want to get in on the plans to stop Cafe Edison from getting the boot, please join the Save Cafe Edison facebook group. And be sure to sign the petition.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eating Delancey

Powerhouse Books recently published Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food. Authors Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps offer up a full-color compilation of classic Jewish food--with photos so gorgeous, they make gefilte fish look good.

The book profiles Lower East Side eateries (sorry Cafe Edison!), like Sammy’s Roumanian, Russ & Daughters, Katz’s, and Yonah Shimmel's. I got to contribute a piece on the Second Avenue Ratner’s (which I've written about here).

Eating Delancey is also full of celebrity reminiscences from folks like Bette Midler, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, and Lou Reed.

They're having an book launch celebration on December 4 at Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO. There will be fiddling. "It's worth the schlep..."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cafe Edison Interior

One reason we're fighting to keep Cafe Edison in its long-time home is because there is simply nothing else like that space. The walls, columns, and ceilings are plastered in filigree and angels, painted powder blue and cotton candy pink. Where else can you eat matzo ball soup inside a wedding cake?

For the Bergen County Players' current production of Neil Simon's "45 Seconds from Broadway," set designer Greg Cilmi stayed true to the coffee shop's interior. The comedy takes place inside the Cafe Edison and the set includes the filigreed columns and brass chandeliers.

Barry Hirschberg, who plays Mickey Fox, sent in a shot from the show, which runs until November 15.

Bergen County Players

The interior of Cafe Edison wasn't always pink and blue. Back in its steakhouse days, the walls were blood red and beef brown.

Reader Michael Beatty sent in these shots of a rare postcard from 1968 when the "Cattle Baron North" steakhouse occupied the coffee shop's space.

Described as "plush" and "brassy," the Cattle Baron offered a "Comfortable living room type cocktail lounge" with accommodations for private parties. And, as you can see, lots of white tablecloths--just the thing that the Hotel Edison's new owner wants for this space, according to the coffee shop's Conrad Strohl, who told the New York Times that it will become "a white-tablecloth restaurant with 'a name chef.'"

Long before the Cattle Baron North, this was the Hotel Edison's grand dining room, not its ballroom, as many believe. Scouting NY set the record straight on that.

Those chandeliers have survived a long time. And, again, white tablecloths.

via Scouting NY

But that's not the history we need to preserve in this space. As sociologist Penny Lewis told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s awful. There are few places like this left... There are a ton of pricey, white-tablecloth places around.”

What we need is the Cafe Edison--accessible, unpretentious, powder pink and baby blue, no white tablecloths.

Lunch Mob
Cafe Edison Lunch Mob Announcement
News of the Closure