Monday, July 20, 2015

M&G to Capsule

Harlem's M&G Diner shuttered back in 2008 when the beloved soul food restaurant went on vacation and never returned. It had been around for maybe 40 years.

Most of the antique signage was removed and the spectacular facade was made miserably dull.

Now reader Christina Wilkinson sends in a shot of the new business in the space. It's called Capsule. They sell men's "streetwear," brands like G-Star, Billionaire Boys Club, Ralph Lauren.

Christina Wilkinson

Photographers James and Karla Murray took before-and-after photos of M&G awhile back.

James and Karla Murray: Click photo to enlarge

In the older shot, the fa├žade is resplendent, its red awning announcing SOUL FOOD in a typeface slightly serifed, while above, neon signs fringed in lights deliriously announce “Southern fried chicken” that promises to be “old fashion’ BUT Good!” (The letter “i” is dotted with a star.) Is the “BUT” meant to mean “nonetheless,” to say that while the chicken is old-fashioned, it yet tastes good? I don’t think so. The “but good” is likely the idiomatic expression, dating back as far as the 1930s, to mean extremely and thoroughly. In which case, “old fashion'” is not something to apologize for, but something to celebrate.

Casting your eyes over the old M&G, there is so much to look at it, to be stimulated by, to feel and to think about. In the after photo, there is nothing. The signs, the typefaces, the awning, the yellow paint, the crooked doors--all gone, replaced by dull sheets of glass. No variation. No unevenness. No life.

Today, you can find an artifact of the old M&G at Marcus Samuelsson's Streetbird restaurant.


Barry Joseph said...

And they had the BEST jukebox anywhere!

Mitch said...

Ever find out why it closed?

Jeremiah Moss said...

I don't know why they closed. Maybe someone else does?

FuntimeBen said...

Unfortunately the new clothing store is terrible. It sells particularly trashy clothing and unrelated sports apparel. Instead of seeming like a welcome addition to the neighborhood, it seems like a "slightly" upscale version of the discount clothing stores on 125th.

Anonymous said...

Its shitty of the comparison photo to take it while the new place is empty - it looks more humanized in the top photo with signage, merchandise and roll-down gate.

And is Capsule a chain store with 100s of other locations? Or is it a locally owned business? If the latter, its even shittier that you're knocking it because of how they've chosen to display their wares (ie to the max possible with large windows) without, apparently, even talking to the proprietors. What do you expect of a clothing store - that they'd have cladding like a chicken joint? C'mon...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the astute rhetorical/etymological explanation of "BUT good."

M&G was so "iconic" that its facade is one of my most vivid memories of Harlem when I'd been up there frequently in the late 1980s.

Anonymous said...

This is an architectural and cultural travesty. People just don't know. No words.