Thursday, January 29, 2015

Typewriters & Things II

When Typewriters & Things closed in 2013, after nearly 30 years in business in the Village, the space changed owners. Bino Gan, typewriter repairman to the stars, had retired.

The place on 8th Avenue near Horatio became World News Stationary [sic] Copy & Fax, part of the World News & Smoke Shop newsstand next door. Now we hear that they're being forced to close.

A reader writes in that the shop is "being forced to close because of a steep rent hike by the co-op (14 Horatio Street) that owns the space. The same guy also owns two small grocery shops on the same block, and he's also being forced out of the one owned by 14 Horatio."

They'll be gone soon. Everything's on sale.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rawhide Goes Blue

When the famous Rawhide bar was pushed out of its Chelsea location, after 34 years of serving the queer and leather communities, we figured another chain was coming. It almost happened. A West Coast "fast casual" pizza chain nearly moved in, but the deal fell through and the Rawhide sat empty for another year.


Now the place has been wrapped in green plywood and renovations are under way. So what's moving in?


I got an anonymous tip and confirmed the intel: The Blue Store is moving in. You know the Blue Store? The gay sex shop a couple doors down? The one that cops and mommies have tried to run out of business? Dildos, butt plugs, porn--and all the crazy Styrofoam heads in the window. That Blue Store.

And it's not just moving. It's expanding.

So, not only are we not getting yet another bank or Starbucks or happy California pizza chain in the old Rawhide space, we're getting a smut shop. Miracles do happen. Though the guy I talked to did say it will be an "upscale" version of the Blue Store. Imagine that.

*UPDATE: This development doesn't sound so great, after all.

Inside the Rawhide
Rawhide Goodbye

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

That Liquiteria

Here's the recently opened Liquiteria that replaced the beloved Gray's Papaya on 8th Street and 6th Avenue:

Gray's closed a year ago, forced out by a nearly doubled rent hike. This is getting tedious.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amato & Planet Ludlow

Last week, I posted a film about the 2B art space by Corey Shaff. But that's not all he's got in his oeuvre.

Corey made another film on the Lower East Side in 1995, this one inside the Amato Opera House, a beloved old favorite of mine. The Amato sadly announced its closure in 2009, after 60 years of making music. The building was sold. It remains empty and abandoned today.

Corey's film is a beautiful look at a lost piece of the old Bowery--and the sort of people who used to make it such a vibrant and unique place.

AMAT\'/; Opera on the Bowery from Corey Shaff on Vimeo.

He also made a short documentary for PBS called "Planet Ludlow," about the Ludlow Street scene in 1995, just as the neighborhood was gentrifying with artists, and before it was hyper-gentrified by drunk students and the super-rich.

Planet Ludlow from Corey Shaff on Vimeo.

Remarkably, in this film, Corey captured extremely rare footage of Litzkowitz the pillow man, located one door south of Max Fish.

Digression: On the other side of the Max Fish was Joseph Yavarkovsky's paper supply, in business since 1898. That storefront does not appear in the film, but here's what it looked like:

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Stefanie Lindahl sends in a rare video made by her husband, Corey Shaff, of art gallery space 2B. It occupied an abandoned gas station on Avenue B and 2nd from 1986 - 1995, when it was evicted to make way for a condo building with a Duane Reade.

Stefanie writes, "2B was a place to hang out and make things. The video was a thing made by Corey as he hung out there at a time that simply happened to coincide with the extinction/extinguishment of the place. Parnassus Lost!

2B was easy to access via a large gate on Avenue B but foreboding enough, evidently, to keep most people who ultimately did not get to experience the casual, relaxed buzz of creativity inside. It was also a place for the 'crusties' of the East Village early nineties to apprentice in smithing, among other things. Although the place seemed to be an abandoned gas station, rent was paid. It nonetheless felt like a place for a squatting guild of artisans. It was homelessly homey. It was one Manhattan holdout for those who had already started forming the artistic diaspora to Williamsburg."

2B from Corey Shaff on Vimeo.

"Besides previously working with the photographer Robert Frank, another East Village denizen, Corey also chronicled a slice of Ludlow Street of that era, as well as the defunct Amato Opera House on the Bowery for PBS. I remember how Corey wanted to juxtapose the Bowery 'bums' with the goings on within the opera house, but PBS nixed the idea as 'too scary,' so he had to cut out the footage.

2B was just such a 'scary' unedited piece of the city that got nixed by the ensuing hyper-gentrification that you so often allude to. Another place of authenticity deemed dangerous and unprofitable in the growing inauthenticity of the city."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Avignone Chemist


Reader Phoebe wrote in earlier this week, "Avignone Chemist on Bleecker closing. The landlord tripled the rent." A letter in this week's Villager confirms the news.

photo via Walter Grutchfield

In the letter to the editor, Sheila Sperber Haas writes:

"I learned from Avignone’s owner, Abe Lerner, that this historic shop will be closing on April 30. Why? The building has been sold, the store’s lease is up for renewal, and Avignone’s new landlord is tripling the rent. Abe had indicated his willingness to negotiate a new lease with a higher rent, but one that’s three times what he is now paying is out of the question.

Avignone — one of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s 2013 Village Award winners because of their integrity, history and supportive involvement in the neighborhood — has been at 226 Bleecker St., just west of Sixth Ave., since 1929. Francis Avignone moved it there from 59 MacDougal, where it had opened as the Stock Pharmacy in 1832. (Francis Avignone had bought and renamed it in 1898.)

...It is shameful that there is still no law protecting such businesses and preventing the further destruction of the character of our neighborhoods, and the fabric that keeps our communities vital."

photo via Walter Grutchfield

Wikipedia says it's "the oldest apothecary in the United States," at 183 years old.

But, as Ms. Haas attests, there is no law protecting our small, historic businesses. They can be evicted at whim by their landlords' spiking of the rent.

*UPDATE: DNA followed up on this story and named the new landlord: Force Capital Management, a hedge fund that manages $1.2 billion, led by Robert Jaffe. According to DNA, they're planning to charge the next tenant in this space about $60,000 per month.

NYPL, Percy Loomis Sperr

When the shop goes, what will happen to the building? We might also lose the great ghost signs along the side of the building in the little park called Winston Churchill Square. Still fading next to Hygrade's All Beef, there's been an Avignone sign here for a very long time.

via NYPL

Click here to hear Calvin Trillin celebrate Avignone, the drugstore where he shops, and see co-owners Abe Lerner and Andrew Fruchtman accept their Village Award in 2013.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Smith's Again

People are curious about what's happening at Smith's Bar off Times Square. In October, I reported that it was closing after 60 years in business. It closed. The owners weren't talking to the media.

Then, surprisingly, the antique neon sign was restored.

Now Davy Mack writes in with a photo of a new awning.

photo by Davy Mack

I took a peek inside at the renovation going on behind the paper-covered windows and caught a glimpse of some striped banquettes. From that quick peek, it's hard to get a sense of what kind of place is coming, but clearly they're keeping the name Smith's.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Antiques Garage

The 1920s-era garage that housed Chelsea's beloved Antiques Garage is gone, reduced to a pile of bricks. Larry Baumhor sends in a photo of the rubble:

photo by Cynthia Batty

The Antiques Garage closed this past summer to make way for a luxury hotel tower.

Yet another one of these:

Antiques Garage Vanished
Antiques Garage: the end

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bonnie Slotnick Redux

Back in November I reported that Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks had been denied a lease renewal by its landlord on West 10th Street. Today I am happy to report that Bonnie has a new space--and the story of how she got it might renew your faith in New York City and the life of its book culture.

Bonnie just wrote to me in an email:

"Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks will soon reopen in an 1830s brick rowhouse at 28 East Second Street.

Margo and Garth Johnston, siblings who own the house, called and invited me to be their tenant in the ground-floor commercial space. Read that again, jaded New Yorkers! These wonderful people read of my plight and reached out to me because, in their eyes, a bookstore is the ideal tenant.

Their late mother, Eden Ross Lipson, was the longtime children's book editor at the New York Times Book Review, and it's a book-loving family. It's also a family that prizes the history and traditions of their neighborhood and appreciates the plight of the small-business owner.

The words 'thank you' are hardly adequate for what I want to say to Margo and Garth, but if every New Yorker joined me in saying them, that would be about right.

I'm sad to leave my friends on West Tenth Street, but I look forward to reopening my shop--in a bigger space with a back garden, no less--on East Second Street. I hope to do that right around February 1, even if the place is not yet picture-perfect. I know my loyal customers will only have eyes for the books!"

Bonnie's shop will be located in the basement space on 2nd Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery, where she'll have plenty of room to stretch out. The East Village will be gaining another bookstore, thanks to the Johnstons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kingsbridge in Chains

Reader Eric sends in the following report from Kingsbridge, around Broadway and 236th St.:

Since the Stella D'oro cookie factory was demolished, all these fancy chain-store shopping centers have been popping up, and slowly the little businesses are leaving.

All photos by Eric Bell: BJ's and T Mobile

The Bronx Ale House moved into the neighborhood a few years ago. With great food, craft/local beers, it's the classic first wave of change in the neighborhood, the one really nice restaurant in an otherwise kind of rundown area.

Riverdale Crossing is the shopping complex with all chain stores going in. There's been scaffolding up there for quite some time. Before that, there were just some bodega-type stores.

Bank of America

Just south of that, Broadway Carpet just recently closed up. Don't know if their lease wasn't renewed, or if this building is going to become part of the Riverdale Crossing complex. They were a warehouse/wholesale carpet dealer. I was able to carpet my apartment with really nice carpet from leftovers from one of their commercial jobs for very cheap.

Just south of this is the Bridge Tavern, a little dive bar, connected to the Police Precinct block. I can see that vanishing soon.

Across the street is Loehmann's which is currently being demolished. There's a sign up that it will soon become a storage place and some other shops.

Loehmann's demolished

Back on the west side of Broadway you have Stack's Tavern, which looked nice at one point on Forgotten NY, but now looks abandoned. The Tavern sits on an unusually large plot of land. I had a real estate attorney friend of mine do some investigating and he found out that it was just sold in September. I was surprised to find out that Mr. Stack actually owned the land and he sold it to a development company (Broadway Development LLC) for over 3 million dollars. Solid retirement money. So I imagine that will soon become a new shopping complex.

Stack's Tavern, closed

Keep traveling south on Broadway and you have Garden Gourmet, a very good local supermarket that just tripled in size. And a new fancy-looking lounge, which claims to be the sexiest. I don't know how sexy you can be at the end of a dead-end street next to 87, Staples, and batting cages.

The rest of Broadway until you get down to 230th Street is what you'd expect from Kingsbridge under an elevated train. A lot of discount stores and restaurants. Until you see the ugliest shopping center that's been built in history. I call it Grey.

This building looks like a prison. It's uninviting, there's only one small entrance, and it's only filled with chain stores. Soon they're adding a Starbucks, because we can never have enough of those and I guess people were getting tired of the Dunkin Donuts across the street.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hank O'Neal's 1980s NYC

Photographer Hank O'Neal has an incredible collection of photos of New York in the 1980s. It includes many vanished and favorite scenes of the East Village and Lower East Side.

All Photos by Hank O'Neal

There's the Open Thursday Only egg store on 7th Street, and a shot of Gem Spa back in the day.

There's the old Gentle Touch ("whale of a wash") car wash that the Adidas Building replaced on E. Houston and Crosby Street.

O'Neal also has a vast collection of street art.

As well as Lower East Side signage.

There's also a section called Social Commentary... "We don't want your 24-story monstrosity" and "We don't want you boring yuppies." Sound familiar?



Finally, a rare 1975 shot of Keller's bar, the vanished gay bar in the abandoned Keller Hotel over on West Street and Christopher--next to the home of "Buck-a-Lunch" and with a Christmas tree decorated in beer cans.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Walter Kuhr & Main Squeeze

Walter Kuhr's Main Squeeze accordion shop opened on the Lower East Side in 1996. Sadly, we have gotten word that Walter died recently, and the shop will be closing after next weekend.

Walter's good friend Marianne DeMarco writes:

"I've got some devastating news: Main Squeeze Accordions on 19 Essex Street for two decades, will be closing after next weekend. It might very well be the last of 'Old Essex.' When it opened it was sandwiched between a yarmulke shop and 'Mama's Kosher Deli.'

The Lower East Side original and all-around amazing person Walter Kuhr passed away on Friday after fighting lymphoma for 7 years. His way-more-packed-than-standing-room-only memorial was Wednesday. But even without Walter's leaving us, Main Squeeze would have to close, as the landlady chose not to renew the lease.

Here's where it's different from most 'lost the lease' stories. The landlady (and her partners) have been absolutely astonishingly wonderful. They've been wonderful to Walter, and he to them, because over the years he had become a friend. It was impossible not to become Walter's friend once you met him.

I've read Vanishing NY for a while now, but I never thought I'd have to write in about Main Squeeze. I know everyone says that their favorite bar 'was a real community.' But ask around and folks will tell you the same thing. Main Squeeze was the real deal.

We're having a 'stoop sale' next Saturday and Sunday [1/17 & 1/18], more to give people a chance to pick up something to remember the shop by, than to just to make some bucks."

Paris Review

The New York Times has a detailed obit today for Mr. Kuhr, who "was for decades an evangelist of the instrument, as a performer, bandleader and owner of the Main Squeeze a shop on the Lower East Side that he founded, in the words of its website, to meet 'all your accordion needs.'"

When the shop first opened, the Times did a story on it, writing:

"It's been a while since a new accordion store has opened. The city's only other one, Accordion-O-Rama, has been in business for decades. But as a new crop of musicians began working the bellows over the last decade, the instrument has shed some of its 'Beer Barrel Polka' image. And the Lower East Side is home to old and new practitioners alike: the older Jews and Italians who play klezmer and Neapolitan love songs, and the younger accordionists who play world beat and avant-garde jazz at bars and nightclubs like the Knitting Factory."

At the time, Essex Street was filled with Judaica shops. There are none left today. In the span of only two or three years, all of the Judaica shops were pushed out, replaced by trendy coffee shops and juice bars. I suppose the same fate awaits Main Squeeze.

If you're looking for accordions, sales or repairs, try Alex Carozza's on what's left of 48th Street's Music Row.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Food Warriors

Talking to filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski about his new web series, The Food Warriors.

What's the series all about?

The Food Warriors is a web series by the Internets Celebrities (Dallas Penn, Rafi Kam, Casimir Nozkowski) where we travel an entire subway line--in this incarnation, the A--get off at key stops and seek the hungry traveler’s holy grail: where the people who live or work near that stop, eat.

The series in general is really an excuse for us to examine neighborhoods and talk to people on the street about their habits and tastes and see just how many things change over the course of one subway line. We've made a lot of movies about New York institutions (the bodega, the check-cashing place, the pizza spot, street vendors, Yankee stadium, the Coney Island polar bear swim, to name just a few of our past subjects) and it felt natural to track the city through the subway.

Why the A-train?

We chose the A train because of its historic importance and because it winds through three boroughs in what felt like dramatic fashion. The longest one-seat NYC train ride, at over 31 miles, the A starts at 207th street, slices down the west side of Manhattan, under the river into Brooklyn and out to Queens, and we're going to ride and eat all the way to JFK and the Rockaways.

We're all native New Yorkers who have ridden the subway all our lives (Dallas grew up on the 7, Rafi the L and I took the 6 to high school) so it's exciting to capture the city from this vantage point. Above and below ground. The 7 was our runner up and it feels like if we finish the A train, that'd be the next one we'd choose.

Is the New vs. Old debate going to be a theme throughout?

In many of the videos we've put out so far, there is a theme that keeps coming up: Old New York vs. New New York. Especially in the Harlem vids (145th Street and 125th Street). In those episodes, we found that some people we talked to were drawn to the classic restaurants (Famous Fish Market at 145th and Manna's at 125th) and some people celebrated the newer establishments that were now staking their claim to the neighborhood (Harlem Public at 145th and Dinosaur BBQ at 125th). Ultimately we leave it up to the people to tell us where to go and no spoilers, but Old New York does okay.

I would say the themes vary by neighborhood though. We really try to take what the people give us and in places like midtown on the A train, the old vs. new new york falls by the wayside because we run into way more tourists and people who just work in the neighborhood.

What's coming up next?

In the spring we are heading out to the Rockaways with stops at Broadway Junction, Ozone Park/Lefferts Blvd, Howard Beach JFK on the way. Like I mention above, the Midtown ones dwell more on just how hard it is to find a great place to eat there--even though it FEELS like you're surrounded by places.

Another recurring theme in the whole series is how much New Yorkers prize convenience over just about anything else sometimes in New York City--even pleasure.

See all the Food Warriors videos here

Check out more videos from Internets Celebrities:

Bodega: a celebration, indictment, and tour of a typical Bronx bodega
A Fare Slice: an examination of the correlation between subway fare and pizza slice prices
Stadium Status: about old stadiums being knocked down and new ones built up at the expense of the taxpayer
The Vend Diagram: about the struggle of the everyday NYC street vendor

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mapping Street Photography

In 1976, over the course of an entire year, Roy Colmer photographed over 3,000 doors in Manhattan, producing a fascinating archive of a moment in New York City history.

The collection is owned by the NYPL, where Photography Specialist David Lowe has recently mapped them out, placing them "at regular intervals along the streets they depict."

Lowe writes, "The points are not intended to specify the location of particular doorways. And, as it is not clear which direction Colmer walked, they may appear in reverse order."

You can click any point on the map for a thumbnail of Colmer's photo, and a link to Google Street View to see what's there now. Unfortunately, Mr. Colmer passed away earlier this year and was not able to see the map in action.

Lowe has also mapped the photographs of Dinanda Nooney, a vast documentation of Brooklyn exteriors and interiors from 1978 - 1979.

Dinanda Nooney, Gargiulo's Restaurant

Of the mapping projects, Lowe told me, "I've had the pleasure of working with and cataloging the hundreds of thousands of photographs in our collections for over a decade now. For many of our collections, and Roy Colmer's 'Doors, NYC' is a perfect example, it seems almost inevitable to search them on a map.

In general, searching for images of specific locations in traditional, text-based catalogs is very problematic: searching for 'Fifth Ave.,' 'Fifth Avenue,' '5th Ave.,' and '5th Avenue' will all give different results. Place names change, become obsolete (Prussia), or may be spelled in a local spellings (Venezia).

While a map presents its own challenges (streets are built over or are renumbered), it circumvents a lot of these more basic limitations. But a map can give a bird's-eye-view of collections in a way no list of titles could do. Given the breadth of our collections, I hope maps will increasingly connect researchers (or the merely curious) to whatever it is they're looking for."

Dinanda Nooney, At home with the Basquiat family (yes, those Basquiats)

Selections of both Dinanda Nooney's and Roy Colmer's work are included in the NYPL's current exhibition Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Marrella Hair Stylists


Reader Christopher tells us about the closing of Marrella Hair Stylists, a barber shop established in 1972 in the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

He writes, "The owner revealed that the costs and constant increases were responsible. I found out by overhearing a conversation while having my monthly cut, after marveling over a lengthy description of lion hunting in Africa by an elderly man receiving his shave beside me. The conversations between the locals and the oddball barbers were my main reason for frequenting for years."

This past Friday was Marrella's last day in business.

photo by Jon Hammond, via Hammondcast

The sign in the window reads:

"After 42 years, I will be retiring and closing up shop at the end of December. Thank you to my loyal has been my pleasure to serve you all these years! Mike the Barber."

This McSweeney's interview may or may not be with a barber at Marrella's--there is (or was) more than one barbershop in (or under) Port Authority.

Don't miss this beautiful interview and slideshow with one of Marrella's barbers in the Times.

On a related topic, if you're interested in subway barbers, check out this site dedicated specifically to their glorious underground existence.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cafe Edison Gone

The Cafe Edison has officially left the building.

Closed on December 21, the owners have returned the keys to the Hotel Edison after 34 years in business. They've put their property in storage, with hopes of putting it to use once again in a new space. But there's no word on that as of yet.

The windows of the beloved coffee shop have been blacked out, the old signage removed. The street-side dining room has been emptied of tables and chairs.

In the main dining room, the booths have been disassembled.

At the counter, the stools have lost their swivel tops. No more glazed doughnuts on shapely chrome stands. No more grooved plastic menu boards announcing:

Matzo Brie, Gefilte Fish, Kasha Varniskas, Pickled Herring, Gyros...

Betty's cashier desk, once covered with notes and pictures, is bare.

Post Script:

On his "Dear Gerald Barad" site, where he published letters asking the owner of Hotel Edison to give Cafe Edison a new lease, Ira Glass writes a final note:

"Gerald Barad, the owner of the Edison Hotel, ordered the Cafe Edison to close, and it closed on Sunday, December 21st.

This website was an attempt to convince him to keep the place open. He ignored protests, a petition with over 10,000 signatures, and – reportedly – pleas from his own relatives. He obviously has his own reasons for wanting to shut the place down, reasons that are more important to him than what thousands of New Yorkers feel. 

Since his attitude towards all of us is basically 'fuck off,' it's hard not to feel that towards him right back, but what's bitterness ever get you?

I'll leave the site up for a little while.

Ira Glass"

News breaks about Cafe Edison's forced closure
Over 600 supporters come to our first of many Lunch Mobs
Local politicians and Mayor Bill de Blasio join the fight to Save Cafe Edison
Big rally and press conference at Cafe Edison
The last day announcement
Cafe Edison Closes