Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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.


SoHo Nose said...

Actually, Arenas did not open it. It was there years before him.

The full name was "Tom, The Honest Boy". "Tom" was written on the eastern side of the sign. Likely, it fell off over the years.
It was run by a couple of young Italians. I guess one of them was Tom.

Incidentally, in the 1980s on Friday, for a year or two, a truck full of fish would pull up to the curb in front of it, and the driver would sell the fresh fish to mostly the Hispanic seamstresses who worked in the garment factories along Broadway.

the G said...

When I was much younger (30+ years ago), I used to get off the subway there at B'way/Lafayette and see that stand, always closed, and try to figure out what it was & what the "new-wavey" sign said. Looked like "Sle Hones" to me.

Anonymous said...

In the early 1990s, during the time of the electrical substation controversy, there was a sign that argued simply "Cancer No! Fruit Yes!" Perfect.

John K said...

I can also remember vendors selling ties, grosgrain and other kinds of belts, you name it, right in front of there. But then SoHo itself was less of a touristy, hypergentrified madhouse as recently as the late 1990s. Now....

Now it's all to be socially karcherized away so that there can be another something-- a building, etc. for the superrich, with a chain or chains that zombies will stumble into and out of, like they do on almost every other street full of chains in Manhattan and Brooklyn.