Thursday, April 16, 2015

Second Ave. Small Businesses

This past Saturday, #SaveNYC organized a Small Business Crawl on the block of Second Avenue most impacted by the recent gas explosion.

photo: Beatriz Rodriguez. Sandy Bachom and Jordy Trachtenberg.

While it's impossible to say exactly how many people showed up to support the businesses, there was a lively crowd and the event was an overall success. The East Village mom and pops got a lot of positive attention from the media, getting featured on local TV news channels, including NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX5, NY1, and WPIX:

To kick off the day, the crowd of supporters met outside Gem Spa, where the vintage newsstand kept the egg creams flowing. They lunched at places like Paul's Da Burger Joint, who reported to #SaveNYC's Kirsten Theodos, "It was a big help, as it pushed business up nearly 40%." The little gift shop Himalayan Visions also did well, reporting their sales were up 200% on Saturday.

Small Biz Crawl supporter Jordy Trachtenberg wrote in to say, "I spoke to the Gem Spa folks and they told me that Saturday was their record day for selling egg creams. Over 350 of them! Wow!"

photo: Kim Cummings. #SaveNYC Steering Committee at work

Business owners very much appreciated the support from New Yorkers far and wide. In a note, Himalayan Visions owner Tenzin wrote:

"Thank you so much for organizing Small Bis Crawl. As I told you that on Saturday their was a lots of people came to support us from our community and also from different apart of area. I was so amaze to see these kind of support. It give us a lots hope & encourage to work hard no matter happen. Lastly, I must say that 'if you contribute happiness to others people life, it is a true meaning of life' -HHDL. Once again thank you so much."

Small Biz Crawl Boosts Blast Zone Business from Bedford + Bowery

Unfortunately, beloved legacy businesses like B&H Dairy and the Stage Restaurant were closed on Saturday, and remain closed. A fundraising page to support B&H has collected over $22,000, money that the beloved dairy luncheonette will need to stay alive.

In disturbing news, while more than 1,000 people have signed a petition to reopen the equally beloved Stage, landlord Icon Realty just evicted them. While there are reports of problems with the gas line, we also recall when E.V. Grieve reported in 2013 that the building was sold "to a group of four relatively young guys" who were heard "talking about 'clearing out' the shop in the front" of the building.

The Stage family has released a statement on their Facebook page. In part, it reads: "We at the Stage Restaurant are deeply troubled by the landlord’s false allegations that we engaged in any illegal siphoning of gas. Stage is a long-standing restaurant with deep connections to the community – we have never siphoned gas, and have committed no wrong... the Landlord is seizing on the recent tragic events as an opportunity to wrongfully evict us for reasons unknown to us."

In addition, Mariann Marlowe's rockabilly shop Enz's (since 1972) has been destroyed. Visit her fundraising page to help her rebuild and get back to business.

photo: Janko Puls

#SaveNYC is planning more actions to support these and other nearby businesses. If you would like to participate in our ongoing efforts, visit the #SaveNYC website, send in videos and photos, and join the Facebook group

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ziegfeld Museum

Last week we heard the news that the great Ziegfeld movie theater might be closing. It's been here since 1969, and it's one of the last remaining single-screen palaces in the city.

I like it because it's big, truly big, with those red velvet chairs you don't find anymore in this day of stadium seating.

I also like it because it's unusual.

The entire entryway, from the downstairs lobby up to the theater lobby, contains Reade's Ziegfeld Museum, made up mostly of statuary and a series of vitrines displaying artifacts from the old days of the Ziegfeld Follies.

A costume once belonging to "Ziegfeld diva" Lillian Lorraine is on display, accompanied by a sign that reads, in 1920s font, "These too were part of the Ziegfeld mystique."

In Scandals and Follies, author Lee Davis wrote that Florenz Ziegfeld "was insanely in love with Lillian Lorraine and would remain so, to one degree or another, for the rest of his life, despite her erratic, irresponsible, often senseless behavior."

Another display is dedicated to Marilyn Miller, who began in vaudeville in childhood, debuting as "Mademoiselle Sugarlump." After a stellar career on the Follies stage, she died from complications from nasal surgery and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Fun fact from Wikipedia: "A sculpture of Miller, in the title role of Sunny, can still be seen atop the former I. Miller Shoe Company Building" at 46th and Broadway in Times Square.

The museum also includes a very 1960s-looking bust of "Funny Girl" Fanny Brice, and a statue of an elephant.

Even the wood paneling on the walls comes with a story. "STORY OF THIS WOOD," reads the faded plaque screwed to the wall:

"Carbon 14-isotope dating shows this wood has been buried in a peat bog near Cambridge, England, since 2120 B.C." Thanks to rising sea levels and the pressures of 4,100 years, the wood has a rich, charcoal hue. "None has proven to be as large or well preserved as this one."

The same could be said for the Ziegfeld. It's large and well preserved, and it's old. It's got a story to tell--and it should be allowed to keep telling it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

House of Cards & Curiosities


On 8th Avenue in Greenwich Village since 1994, the House of Cards & Curiosities will be closing for good on May 31.

A small space stuffed with stuff, it's a neighborhood favorite for its selection of greeting cards and, of course, its many curiosities, including Day of the Dead skeletons, odd little toys, and a Wunderkammer filled with taxidermied lizards, bones, and shark teeth. Actress Molly Shannon called the shop "one of those downtown neighborhood places that are so great."

As we know, those great downtown neighborhood places are vanishing fast.

"Was it the rent?" a long-time customer asked.

"It was everything," the cashier replied.

The shop's neighbor, Chocolate Bar, also recently announced its closure, citing rising costs and slow sales, thanks to three years of street construction outside their doors.

The House of Cards is currently having a 30% off everything sale.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chocolate Bar


Chocolate Bar on 8th Avenue in Greenwich Village is closing. Already, a "Store for Lease" sign has appeared in the window.

Owner Alison Nelson has written to her employees:

"It is with sadness that after 13 years of business and much contemplation, I have decided to close our West Village location. Over the past year we have fought the struggle with rising costs and stagnant sales due to street construction and difficult weather. We have seen much of our neighborhood change over the past few years, fought 3 years of street work right outside our door and watched many of our fellow small businesses and neighbors leave due to rising rents and expenses. All of this has taken a steady and sometimes biting toll upon us and our operations. Know that it is with a very heavy heart that I have made this decision. I never envisioned leaving the West Village, a place that had been my home for nearly 20 years, and Chocolate Bar's home for over a decade."

Their last day will be Sunday, April 26.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Small Biz Crawl for 2nd Avenue

This Saturday, starting at 12:00 noon, #SaveNYC is organizing a Small Business Crawl along the stretch of Second Avenue impacted by the recent gas explosion and fire.

photo: Janko Puls

After such a disaster, small businesses struggle to survive. Some don’t make it. Especially the old-timers. Like elderly people, they are often the most vulnerable to upheaval and interruption--and the least resilient.

Already, beloved businesses like The Stage diner and B&H Dairy have lost tens of thousands of dollars--and they still have not been able to reopen. The local businesspeople here need our help. So we're working to bring customers, cash, and attention to those mom-and-pops in most need.

Paul's Da Burger Joint, by Kirsten Theodos

B&H Dairy, by Kirsten Theodos

The Small Biz Crawl starts at Gem Spa (since 1957), on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place. Buy your magazines, cigarettes, and egg creams at this first stop.

From there, head down towards 7th Street. Do some gift shopping at Himalayan Visions (since 1997). Have lunch at the B&H Dairy (since 1937) or Paul’s Da Burger Joint (since 1989). Other small restaurants here include Bar Virage (since 1998), Hot Kitchen, MisoYa, San Loco, and Taqueria Diana. Dine at the spot you most want to save.

(Fingers crossed B&H reopens, at least partially, by Saturday. The Stage will likely still be shuttered, and Moishe's is not open on the Sabbath. #SaveNYC will do our best to return to these businesses with help in the future.)

Bar Virage, by Kirsten Theodos

After lunch, weave your way across the barricades of 7th Street to stock up on groceries at the New Yorkers Foodmarket, and then unwind with an espresso or glass of wine at Café Mocha.

Your dollars go a long way. So does your good will and emotional support. When small businesspeople know they are loved and cared about, they are more likely to fight for survival. Let them know how valuable they are to you, to the East Village, and to the whole city as it drowns under a tsunami of dull chain stores.

We simply cannot afford to lose one more legacy mom-and-pop.

New Yorkers Supermarket, by Kirsten Theodos

Please bring your #SaveNYC sign to let everyone know who you are and why you’re there. Click here to print out signs--and to find out more about #SaveNYC.

Click here to view the Facebook invitation for this event.

Donate to help save the B&H Dairy here.

See more of this story on News Channel 7:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

5 Spot

Quintessential New York is Frank O'Hara's poem "The Day Lady Died," with its bouncy, urban "I do this, I do that" listing of the poet's day and then the last, heart-stopping lines:

"I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing"

Years ago, I tried to find the original site of the 5 Spot. I ended up at a bar inside the now demolished 35 Cooper Square, mistakenly thinking it was the right place. There was no Internet back then and I had little to guide me. Now there's a Wikipedia page for the 5 Spot and this site, 5 Spot Artifacts, put together by the daughter of former owner Joe Termini.

The original 5 Spot was at 5 Cooper Square, between 4th and 5th. It was a favorite place for many painters and poets, including Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg.

It was demolished and a second 5 Spot opened on the corner of St. Mark's Place and Third Avenue in the 1960s.

Billie Holiday died in 1959, so it wasn't at the second Five Spot that O'Hara leaned on the john door and stopped breathing.

The second Five Spot is now a pizza place and some open-street shops that sell hats, sunglasses, and marijuana paraphernalia.

"Tea," as it was known in the jazz scene. "Reefer" and "Mary Jane." Billie Holiday loved it. But she probably never smoked it through a bong attached to a gas mask.

P.S. Happy belated birthday to Billie.

Thelonious Monk and Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter get into her Bentley outside the Five Spot cafe, New York, 1964. Photograph: Ben Martin/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Yormark's Sign


Back in 2012, I posted about an antique sign for J. Yormark Shoes. It had been revealed and partly restored when a barbershop moved into its old spot on 8th Avenue near Jane Street.

Last year, the barber shop moved out and more portions of the sign were revealed. Above the stained glass was a second sign: SHOES YORMARK SHOES.

Then scaffolding went up, and the stained glass sign was not treated with any apparent care.

Now the renovation of the storefront is complete. Sadly, the antique sign has been removed, replaced with plain glass. The sign above it has either been removed or covered up. 

J. Yorkmark Shoes opened sometime in the 1890s. For historic family photos of the shop, click here.