11 March 2009

Charmed Lexington


What's the story with the stretch of Lexington Avenue between the 66th and 59th Street stops on the 6 line? For some reason, right here in the middle of a high-rent district, there is a high concentration of old, unglamorous, shopworn stores. Among them are Empire Artists Materials, Lexington Hardware, Donahue's steak house, Gino's Italian eatery, Embassy Wine & Spirits, Lexington Luggage (which also repairs luggage!) and the second-story Sutton Clock Shop. It's almost a living museum of mid-century mercantile custom. All feature appealing, old signage.


Can't find out much about these places. Lexington Hardware was founded in 1929. Donahue's began life in 1950. They're not the kind of egotistical companies that draw a lot of attention to themselves. Walk in and you'll see some worn linoleum floors and sometimes an old tin ceiling. Maybe an old fixture or two. Not much else.


Are Lexington Avenue-area residents particularly loyal to their local businesses? Are Lexington Avenue landlords extremely kind-hearted? Whatever it is, a walk down the street toward Bloomingdale's makes for an especially New York-ish experience.

8 comments:

Jill said...

It's funny you wrote this, as recently I was on a bus coming down 2nd Ave from 86th St and I noticed the same thing (it didn't used to be so unusual) - they have all the good shops that have disappeared from downtown - bagels, hardware, shoe repair, bakers, butchers, fishmongers. One after the other there are these long time small businesses. The whole city used to be filled with them, and we've seen them disappear in the last 10 years, but yet on the UES (where I rarely venture) they have been able to keep them. I need to rethink my perspective.

breadchick said...

That is one of my favorite sections of Lexington exactly for the reasons you state. It is a small little enclave of old school NYC.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Yes, Jill. In particular, the UES is very good at holding on to its old neighborhood hardware stores. I can't say why.

Carol Gardens said...

Don't forget the New York Doll Hospital. I was in there once and it is really cool and strange! 787 Lexington Ave Ste 2 (61st St) (212) 838-7527.

david said...

I always tell my friends as they look at me increduously that I love the UES. It is loaded with these types of places. Proper businesses that serve the community. It may not be hip or as "diverse" (the truth is that downtown is no longer really diverse either unless diversity means a large span of people from differing Midwestern towns), but to me uptown has always been my idea of old NYC. Maybe I have watched too many Woody Allen films, but it still really feels like New York up there.

dandy nihilism said...

I really do enjoy the worn shops on Lexington.

Ed said...

I agree that the Upper East Side is an underappreciated area, what people used to like about NYC seem to have survived better there in other parts of Manhattan.

However, with old school stores you also get old school hours. The hours of many of the older stores on the UES tend to mirror regular office hours -some are not even open on the weekends- so if you live in the area and have a longish commute you won't get much of a chance to use them. I think the idea is that they are for patronage by housewives, not working people.

Signed D.C. said...

Takes me back to my Hunter College days...thanks!