30 November 2012

Stage Deli Closes After 75 Years

This just in from the New York Times:
At midnight on Thursday, the Stage Deli, a landmark New York institution that got its start 75 years ago, closed its doors.
“It’s a sad day for New York,” said Paul Zolenge, who has owned the deli, on Seventh Avenue near 54th Street, with Steve Auerbach for 26 years. “We’ve been struggling to make it through these hard times.”
Mr. Zolenge cited the cost of doing business in New York. The landlord erected scaffolding in front of the restaurant a year ago, he said, and even though it came down in September, “we lost a whole year.” The rent had gone up several times in recent years, Mr. Zolenge said, and with the lease ending in a few months, he and Mr. Auerbach were expecting another increase. “We just couldn’t afford to keep it going any more,” he said.
The deli, known for its overstuffed sandwiches named for celebrities, usually in show business, was started by Max Asnas in 1937. Mr. Asnas sold it to Jimmy Richter, and Mr. Zolenge became involved through family connections. “My father-in-law, who has been a silent partner, bought it in 1978, and after a few years, I took it over,” he said.
Over the decades, the competition between the Stage Deli and the nearby Carnegie Deli, a similarly famous spot that opened the same year as the Stage, has been fierce. Mr. Zolenge speculated that someone might come along to buy his restaurant’s name.
“This has been very hard for everyone to put an end to an institution,” he said, noting that the same had happened recently to several other Midtown old-timers. “Ben Benson’s closed, and Gallagher’s is closing, too.”
I profiled the deli in "Who Goes There?" back in 2011.

Whither Rockaway's Tap & Grill?

The Tap & Grill was a holdout—maybe the only holdout remaining—from bygone Rockaway days, when the neighborhood was a Coney Island-like beach destination. I visited it for the first time in September 2011 for a "Who Goes There?" column. What with Hurricane Sandy hitting Rockaway pretty hard, I got to thinking about it. Did it survive?

Turns out, the business was sold before Sandy hit. Rockawayist reported that it was "sold to a Manhattan-based private real estate investment firm. Cayuga Capital, known for reviving near-failed residential projects in Williamsburg has acquired the mixed-use property. According to Cayuga's website, the 5,000 square feet of retail space will be converted to a bar and restaurant. A call to the New York State Liquor Authority confirmed that a liquor license for that location is pending in the name of Rockaway Restaurant Co. LLC, which lists Cayuga partner Jamie Wiseman as a principal. But more interestingly, the Cayuga website also indicates that 8 residential apartments in the building, totaling an additional 2,050 square feet, will be converted to Rockaway’s first boutique hotel since….ever?"

So, that's interesting. And depressing. The old clam bar, also known as "Boggie's," was so rangy and ramshackle. Utterly charming. Not bad chowder, either. The joint closed in August.

That makes seven "Who Goes There?" subjects that have closed, as well as one that's about to close, a few that have been temporarily shuttered by Sandy, and one that was just gutted by fire. This is not to mention places that closed—El Faro, Bill's Gay 90s—before I could feature them in the column. For anyone out there who's counting.

UPDATE: Make that eight. Stage Deli is to close next week.

Carving Your Name in the Fallen Tree Trunk

The trunk of the old Carroll Park tree that was felled by Hurricane Sandy on the south side of the park still lays there. A parks worker told me they were going to remove it, and the metal fence it crushed, soon. In the meantime, locals are making the best out of a bad situation. Some have stopped to count the rings (just as I did a while back). 126 rings, they insist. Others are using it as if it were still a standing tree on some lover's lane. No one's been as industrious as to carve their names in the trunk, but they have used magic marker. Kinda sweet. "Yeah," observed the parks worker. "Some people gotta lot of imagination."

Merry Christmas From Red Hook

A couple weeks ago, when I did a post-Sandy tour of Red Hook, I expressed dismay when I saw a familiar old storefront on Van Brunt covered in plywood. The ancient, long-defunct shop had always served as a living museum, its window displays full of antiques. And during the holidays, it was always decked out in its evergreen fineness. I despaired the the store would fulfill its yuletide goal this year. So I was happy to see this sight the other day. Way to bounce back, Red Hook.

29 November 2012

The Jeweler Browns of The Bronx

The slender, old-fashioned-looking Brown's Jewelry & Gifts is indicative of the kind of store you find all over the older parts of Riverdale. I'm not sure if it's because of the challenges posed by the area's hilly terrain, but many shops here take up relatively little real estate. Because of this, Riverdale sometimes resembles an old English town or, at the very least, a New York of sixty years back.

Brown's traces its history back to the days following World War II, when B. Brown's Jewelers was orininally located at Westchester Square. That location still exists. This Riverdale Avenue location seems to have been founded in 1997. I'm guessing the sign (not the awning) dates from the original location. set the focus for today's Riverdale location.

That history notwithstanding, I found a Jan. 1, 1924, article in the New York Times about a holdup at a Bronx jewelry store owned by Bernard B. Brown. This Brown was a tough old bird. Three robbers stormed his shop on Tremont Avenue and demanded he open the safe. He refused, slamming the safe shut, and leaping over the counter to grapple with the main gunman. The other two were so startled that they fled. The robber managed to free his gun hand and deliver three bullets into Brown's gut and run to his getaway car. Several people heard the ruckus, including a taxi driver, and gave chase, but they lost the robber's trail.

Brown, meanwhile, was rushed to Fordham Hospital. A detective asked the jeweler if he know he was going to die. "I'm not going to die," protested Brown. "I'm going to be all right." Then he died. 

Could this Brown somehow be related to the Browns that opened up the Westchester Square shop twenty years later? The article said he lived with his wife and three children. 

28 November 2012

Four Season Cleaner's Past Season

A peek under the plastic awning of the nondescript Four Seasons Cleaners on Church Avenue in Borough Park reveals that it was once the much-more-interesting Steve -N-Allen French Cleaners. Fantastic sign, particularly the way the "French" is incorporated into the "C."

The best part of the signage, however, is this little guy, a tailor with slicked-back black hair ready to serve you. Something's been covered up above and below the tailor, probably advertisements of services that are no longer provided.

The Saddest Looking Post Office in NYC

Who would have guessed its in posh-ish Riverdale in The Bronx? But there it is to see, with only half of its letters: the Verdale S Tion of the Ted Stat S Po Of. I know the US Postal Service has its woes, but c'mon guys.

27 November 2012

Remembering the Victims of Sandy

Reading the Eater coverage of the number of NYC restaurants still closed because of Hurricane Sandy boggles the mind. So many classic, priceless destinations. Hundreds of years of New York history. All hanging in the balance. It's a cultural catastrophe.

The list of closures made me think of the wonderful times I've had at many of these restaurants and bars. An alarming number of the victims are former "Who Goes There?" subjects, including Randazzo's Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay, Gargiulo's in Coney Island, and Capsouto Freres in Tribeca, not to mention favorites like Totonno's pizzeria and Sunny's Bar. If you have the time, take a look at these past columns and remember what's great and irreplaceable about these places. Then, when they manage to reopen, patronize them. Order a lot of food and leave big tips.

The Cornice of a Cornice Maker

I was walking down 13th Avenue in upper Borough Park when I looked up at the cornice of an old building. Because that's what I do—look up at cornices. You often find clues about the history of the structure up there, the date of erection or the name of the builder.

This time I saw something I'd never seen before. The words on the cornice indicated that this had once been the address of...a cornice maker! The Brooklyn Union Cornice and Roofing Company, to be exact. There's something mind-bending about seeing a cornice maker's cornice, I've got to tell you.

Cornice making was enough of a booming concern in the 19th century that the practitioners had their own union. The Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers' International Association for formed in 1888, largely through the efforts of Robert Kellerstrass, who had started a similar local outfit in Peoria. The union joined the ALF in 1889. It's welcome was short, however. The Panic of 1893 weakened the union's finances, and the AFL revoked its charter in 1896. It reformed as the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers' International Association and was rechartered by the AFL in 1899. No more "Cornice" in the title. 

When I first saw this building, I thought it had been a place where the cornices were made. But it's not a very large structure, and not suited to the creation of cornices, which are not tiny things. So I now this this was perhaps once the home of one of the Locals of the bygone cornice workers' union. 

26 November 2012

A Perfect Storefront: Vacuum World

Vacuum stores are as rare as hen's teeth these days. So Vacuum World just tries harder!

You could spend half a day reading all the signage on the facade of this Riverdale shop. I love how they have the logos of every major vacuum maker on the main sign. (I have a Miele myself.) And vacuum-specific neon! Want to know how old the place is? Get ready. 74 years. Founded in 1938, which before the appliances became common sights in every household.

The current owner, for 47 years, is Len Morse, "a long-time, accomplished martial artist with 6 training videos to his credit. This hobby has given him the disipline to manage a successful store that continually exceeds customer expectations through unparalleled service." Wild. 

Sarge's Deli Gutted By Fire

Last night, Sarge's Deli in Murray Hill was gutted by fire. Eater reports: "The fire spread quickly through the ventilation ducts of the building into the apartments above the restaurant. Over 150 firefighters rushed to the scene." NYPD Deputy Chief Thomas McKavanagh told the Daily News, "The restaurant sustained some severe damage and will not be open for a while."

Along with Katz's, Stage and Carnegie, Sarge's is one of the oldest and most authentic Jewish delis in Manhattan. I profiled the place in this 2010 "Who Goes There?" column.

Classic Skyview Deli in Riverdale Closes

Even as the classic kosher delis of New York have closed one by one, Riverdale has remained a deli haven, the home of no less than three Jewish delis: Liebman's, Loeser's, and Skyview. And not kosher-style, but actually kosher! The real thing. Not a one of them less than fifty years of age.

Now it is the home of two. On a recent visit, I discovered that Skyview had closed. I quizzed three merchants on the ancient strip mall that used to home Skyview and none of them knew exactly when the business had closed. One said a year ago; one said six months ago; one said two months ago. None knew why the family eatery had shuttered.

25 November 2012

A Good Sign: PItta Funeral Home

The Pitta Funeral Home is on McDonald Avenue in the Kensington section on Brooklyn. They are to be applauded not only for their jazzy two-font main signage, but the style with which the print their address on the front, glass, double doors. Pitta was founded in 1951. Funny story about the place can be read here.

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving, one of the two days of the year when I hate Bloomberg the most and deplore the many ways he's ruined the City. One day is the Fourth of July, when I fume and grit my teeth over his idiotic decision to move the fireworks display from the East River—where folks from Manhattan, Brookyn and Queens can enjoy it—to the Hudson, where it benefits people on Riverside Drive and New Jersey.

I rant and rave on Thanksgiving when reminded how he destroyed decades of tradition by rerouting the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade down Sixth Avenue, all to make way for his hideous, human-trailer parks in Times Square. Only a mayor born in Boston wouldn't understand that the East River is the New Yorkiest of rivers and Broadway is the New Yorkiest of street, and those are the places where you stage important New York events.

Anyway, to remind yourself how things were, here are some photos of old parades. Ah, for the days when gigantic fish and Uncle Sam balloons were enough to delight the kiddies. No inflatables connected to films, video  games or toys.

20 November 2012

Edith Wharton Was Unhappy Here

I'm always tickled, as I walk down W. 25th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, that St. Sava's Cathedral still stands. Not that I think of it as St. Sava's. I think of it as Trinity Chapel. Because that is the name of the Gramercy-area church where Edith Wharton, one of my favorite novelists, was (unhappily, as it turned out) married to Edward Robbins Wharton. (Wharton's mother lived across the street, where the wedding breakfast was held.) That betrothal happened in 1885, when the church, built by Richard Upjohn (Trinity Church downtown and Christ Church in Cobble Hill), was already 34 years old. Wharton mentioned the church in her great novel "The Age of Innocence."

The Story of the Te-Amo Cigar Sign, a New York Icon

I've always enjoyed spotting one of these Te-Amo Cigar signs over a New York deli, newsstand or bodega. But they are getting rarer, as storeowners take them down and replace them with awnings, or as the businesses shutter and are replaced with boutiques and restaurants.

Te-Amo is a brand of Mexican cigar. Like Knox Hats in the world of habidashery, and Coca-Cola in the worlds of pharmacies and diners, Te-Amo once found an effective way to advertise its products by volunteering to buy signs for small, independent businesses. (Optimo cigar signs were also once a common sight. Optimo is an American-made cigar.)

Te-Amo cigars are made by Mexico's largest cigar maker, Nueva Matacapan Tabacos S.A, which has been run by five generations of the Turrent family. As you might guess, the Te-Amo brand exploded in the U.S. following President Kennedy's embargo on all things Cuban, and grew into a leading U.S. brand. Prior to 1960, the company sold most of its tobacco to Europe; after 1960, they began doing business with the U.S. The Te-Amo brand was created in 1966. That is when most of the Te-Amo store signs went up.

Alberto Turrent said in an interview with Cigar Aficionado: "Te-Amo [was a separate partnership that] had a warehouse in New Jersey. [At] the beginning it was in Miami—it didn't work. They had two partners, and one of the partners moved from Miami to New York. The best sales [for Te-Amo] were in the New York area....[The New York partner] died, and we bought the company in 1972."

Turrent further commented: "At one point we had 170 stores around the New York City area selling the cigars... [It was] mostly a New York cigar. In the '70s, about 60 percent of our sales [of the Te-Amo brand] came from New York."

170 stores! How many are left today? Without knowing what Te-Amo signs might be hiding in parts of The Bronx, Staten Island and Queens, I'd guess about a couple dozen.

I am not a big cigar smoker, but I enjoy a stogie a few times a year. I have not overly liked the Te-Amos I've tried in the U.S. But today the brand is also sold in Mexico. I can attest to the fact that the Te-Amos sold below the border are excellent cigars. 

19 November 2012

Lost City Asks "Who Goes to Dominick's?"

My latest "Who Goes There?" column for Eater takes me back to The Bronx's Belmont neighborhood for the first time since I visited Mario's two years ago. As chance would have it, Dominick's is right across the street from Mario's. Between those two times, I managed to get to Liebman's Deli in Riverdale. Next time, maybe Morris Park or City Island.
Who Goes There? Dominick's Restaurant
An old Italian lady gets out of her car on Arthur Avenue. With her is a woman on crutches. She is younger but somehow less spry. "So, where shall we eat?" asks the younger woman. "Well," says the old lady in a voice of authority, "there's Dominick's—that's one."
There's Dominick's. The Arthur Avenue area of the Bronx boasts many fine, and not so fine, Italian restaurants. But when you think of the street, a few names pop up immediately and always: Mario's, Roberto's, and Dominick's. I've had good food at all three, but at Dominick's you also get an experience. It is one of those New York eating institutions with its own don't-ask-just-eat way of doing things. Basically a Roman tavola calde removed to The Bronx, seating is communal and—if you're not a regular who long ago memorized the bill of fare—you have to rely on the waiter to find out what was cookin'. Prices remain a mystery until the waiter announces how much you owe at the end of the meal. And you pay in cash; no cards accepted.
Things have changed a bit in the past year or so. There actually is a single menu now, with prices, displayed outside the restaurant. "We put it there last year," explained my waiter. "That way, people who don't know can study it and figure out what they want before they come in." Exactly what I did. Others, however, weren't so happy about the change. As a large group of thirtysomething men—obviously natives of the neighborhood returning for a visit—filed in, one spotted the menu. "Prices?!" he snorted in disbelief. "When did that happen?"
If you ignore the menu and sit down not knowing what you want, be prepared for the waiter to unroll his spiel. "You like pasta? We got got pasta with white clam sauce, with red clam sauce. We've got chicken scarpariello, chicken marsala, chicken francese. You want veal? Veal parmigiana, veal picatta, veal sorrentino, veal and potatoes." He'll keep going until to pick something. Often, uninitiated diners just give in and have the waiter decide. He usually chooses well.
I knew what I wanted: Linguini all Gianni (with diced shrimp and clams, one of the best pasta dishes in the city), and sides of sausage and broccoli rabe. All were delicious, and I couldn't finish any of it; portions are huge. The wine ("red"—no other specifications) came in a juice glass, and the espresso came in the same sort of glass. Neither were good, but I loved the way they were served.
Dominick's, which is run by Charlie DiPaolo, was founded on the location it now occupies about 50 years ago. Old photos show a sweet wood-marble-and-tile place that looks more like a cafe, and was called Caputo's. Stools, tea tables, big coffee urn. That place is gone. The relatively charmless interior of today is one of generic artwork and everyday decor. (Specifics on the joint's history are hard to find.)
The place is routinely packed, with both locals, and, more commonly, people who used to be locals and now make a point of eating there whenever they're back in the borough or back in the city. Celebrities often stop by on their way back from attending a Yankees game (Adam Sandler) or playing in one (A-Rod). Based on the faces of the non-famous diners, you'd think that Arthur Avenue was still a purely Italian-American community. That said, there is some diversity among the clientele, and all are made welcome. Even an obvious non-Bronxer like myself. "$39," said my waiter when I asked to settle up. I left the money on the table. "So, I guess we'll see you again, huh?" he said as I reached for the door. Yes, I guess you will. 
—Brooks of Sheffield

18 November 2012

Lost City: Louisville Edition: Dizzy Whizz

Every city in America has a locally treasured monument to greasy cuisine. In Louisville, it is the Dizzy Whizz, a wonderfully named, one-of-a-kind, fast-food joint that has lit up a desolate block on West St. Catherine Street since 1947.

15 November 2012

Bill's Gay 90s Sign Removed

UPDATE: I've learned that the sign is back up. It was taken down for repairs, and then returned to its old position.


The large, gold Bill's Gay 90s sign—the last remnant of the E. 54th Street former speakeasy that closed last March after nearly a century in business—was removed form the facade of the building today. A reader sent me the above photo. All the other old artifacts—the old bar, the pictures on the wall, etc.—that once made up the joint's character, were taken away by the former owner. The restaurant that will replace it, called Bill's Food & Drink, is scheduled to open next week.

Fallen Carroll Park Tree Finally Attended To

My, but I'm posting a lot about the fallen trees in Carroll Park. But maybe that's because they're still there, just where Hurricane Sandy left them nearly three weeks ago.

Finally, trucks and workman arrived today to begin the task of carving up the largest of the felled trees, the one that toppled inside the park, taking a chain-link fence with it. This is the tree that has caused the park to be closed since Sandy. Maybe now that it has been largely attended to, the park can be reopened. One hopes.

Egidio Pastry Is 100 Years Old; Awning Not So Much

Egidio Pastry, the excellent Bronx pasticceria, turns 100 year. You can read all about the Belmont-area store in this earlier post of mine. I recommend that everyone make their was up to 187th Street this holiday season to sample some of the bakery's goods. I also recommend that Egidio show itself some respect by taking down that god-awful plastic awning, which obscures the genuinely beautiful neon sign above it. C'mon, guys. Blue letters on pink? You're not Dylan's Candy Shop.

A Century of Growth

This is one of the mighty trees of Carroll Park that were felled by Hurricane Sandy. Much has been carved up and hauled away, but the base of the trunk remains. As I passed it the other day, I decided to do that thing they always tell you to do to determine a tree's age: count the rings. I spent a good amount of time. It wasn't easy, as some of the rings are very close together. So I didn't get an accurate count. But I can safely say this tree was more than 100 years old. Very moving to think of all the local history is witnessed in those years.

14 November 2012

A Good Sign: Travel

A reader sent in this lovely photo of an old sign that sits above a children's clothing store called Thank Heaven on Austin Street in Forest Hills. It used to be for a travel agency called Plan Travel. I like the font very much. Very tiki. Makes me think of tropical locales. 

12 November 2012

What's Under the Siding

There's nothing positive to say about the state Hurricane Sandy left Red Hook in. But the storm did pull off one slightly interesting trick.

In the mid-20th century, in a misguided effort at beautification, many a Brooklyn and Queens building was sadly blanketed in aluminum siding. I've often wondered, as I walked by these eyesores, what sort of structure lay beneath the sheath of cheap metal blandness. I always pictured a handsome red-brick home or a brownstone.

Sandy ripped off a good chunk of siding from a three-story home on Verona Street. And the surface beneath it was not what I expected. There's basically a kind of plaster, stucco facade, colored a sort of umber. Nothing very attractive. It looks like the building was made of oatmeal. The window lintels are somewhat more interesting, but only slightly.

That said, it's still better looking than the siding. But you kind of understand why the owners, a half century ago, opted to a new, somewhat cleaner look.

09 November 2012

Red Hook After Sandy

"Give it Ur Best, Sandy," taunt the spray-painted words on the side of some scaffolding on Van Brunt Street.

Sandy did. And, nearly two weeks later, Red Hook has not yet recovered, and probably will not fully return to normal for months more. A walk down Van Brunt and up Conover recently revealed that few businesses had repaired their facades and interior enough, and restored their lost inventory sufficiently, to reopen. Fairway, the neighborhood's anchor, isn't expected to reopen for some time, a loss that will effect trade at other nearby businesses. Sitting on the very edge of the harbor, the Civil War-era warehouse suffered some of the worst flooding.

08 November 2012

Smith Street in the 1960s

Here's a shot of Smith Street, in Carroll Gardens, in the 1960s. It's a stretch of the street just opposite Carroll Park. We've got a grocery, a liquor shop. But what I'm really interested in here is Willie's Pizzeria. Maybe just because of the name. (Certainly, pizzerias were not rare in this Italian-American neighborhood back then.)

Carroll Park Suffers a Loss

Carroll Gardens weathered Hurricane Sandy fairly well. Compared the ravages suffered by Red Hook, in fact, if got off pretty much scot free. But it did suffer one major loss which will be felt by the whole community.

Carroll Park is the beating, green heart of the Brooklyn neighborhood. The small park takes up only one square block, but it has deep roots. It's actually the third oldest park in the city. A sign of its age can be seen in the height and width of its mammoth trees. Four very large trees adorn the park's central circle, and two enormous ones interrupt the pavement on the nearby basketball courts and baseball diamonds. Most are London plain trees, and they are beautiful.

There was another tree in a fenced off green area. Kids frequently played around it when they climbed on the nearby "Clinton Rock," a boulder that was dug up on Clinton Street a decade ago and placed in the park. It came down during Sandy and smashed a good section of chain link fence. The park is closed for now, until the mess can be cleared. Another large, wonderfully gnarled tree on President Street, just outside the border of the park, also toppled and was carved up and taken away.

I don't know exactly how old the fallen trees are, but they were big and tall in the 1930s, as these photos attest. So I'm guessing at least a century old.

Carroll Park was created around 1843. Though the name Carroll Gardens is new, dating from the 1960s, the park has always been called Carroll Park, named Charles Carroll, a Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Why him? Because fighting a pivotal battle in the early Revolutionary War skirmish, the Battle of Brooklyn, was done by the valiant Maryland Boys, who kept the British at bay while Washington and his army decamped for Manhattan.

The land where the park sits began as a private property. The idea for a park was put forth in 1851, and paid for by assessment of local property owners. The land was acquired by the city in 1853. When it opened it was called the "nonpareil of parks." In 1859, is was described as "a block of ground planted with ornamental trees and intersected by gavelled walks." But it was "let to take care of itself." Iron fence eight-feet tall were erected, and asphalt walks. Baseball was played here as early as 1870.

Renovations in 1870 were done by Olmstead and Vaux, of Central Park and Prospect Park fame. At this point, gas lamps were installed, and the corners of the park were curved. In the 1890s came electric lights, "handsome serpentine paths," and a big circular basin in the middle, with a fountain stocked with fish, surrounded to two smaller fountains. (The fountains became a problem. Local kids would cast lines and try to catch the fish.)

It was around the time of this renovation that trees were planted. I'm guessing these trees. They grew during three separate centuries.

06 November 2012

Lost City: Louisville Edition: A Good Sign: S.E. Davis Loans

Here's a potent, Southern-style mercantile combination. Loans! Guns! Musical Instruments!

It's hard to enumerate the things that are fantastic about this old Louisville sign. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to light up at night, since I also saw it during the evening.

S. E. Davis was found in 1936. Its Facebook page tells us this with a straight face: "We sell new and previously owned jewelry at a fraction of the cost of retail stores. We also have a music room with all the accessories you may need. We make loans on jewelry, musical instruments, electronics, firearms and most things of value."

Most things of value. Hilarious.

Perhaps you can take out a loan to buy a gun or a musical instrument.

Sunny's Bar to Reopen Soon

When Hurricane Sandy hit, Sunny's Bar in Red Hook was in its direct path. Few, if any New York bars, are closer to the waterfront or sit upon such a high water table.

Sure enough, the old tavern—run today by the great-grandson of the founder—was slammed. But it won't stay bowed for long. A message on the bar's website tells us:
Sunny's is sadly closed due to Hurricane Sandy (or superstorm Sandy, however the news wants to call it.) We took on about 2 feet of water above the basemant. It's been great to have the love and hard labor of those who have come to Red Hook to help out and it is greatly appreciated from all of us who live here. We are hoping to be back in business by next Friday or Saturday. Keep checking in to see any updates. And if you want to help Red Hook please check in with the Red Hook Initiative 402 Van Brunt St. They are organizing relief. We'll be back. All of us. And more importantly The Rockaways, Breezy Point and Staten Island can still use much help. We are hurt but OK in the grand scheme of things, so please try to devote your attention to those who need it most.

05 November 2012

Lost City: Louisville Edition: A Good Sign: The Murphy Elevator Co.

The wonderful, and very large, neon sign is on E. Main Street in downtown Louisville. The company has been operating and family-owned since 1932. They make passenger as well as freight elevators, as the sign attests. They also do repairs and maintenance. Murphy also has locations in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia, but this is the original.

02 November 2012

Downtown Brooklyn Cafeteria Glimpsed Once Again

The removal of some signage from a Jay Street Sprint store in downtown Brooklyn has uncovered a former resident of the block, indicated by a half of lovely old sign, saying "Cafeteria." Fantastic font on that sign. There is a red circle with a "W" in the middle of it, and there appears to be another "W" under the red section of the old/new sign that still remains.

Why I Love the Clinton Apothecary

In my neighborhood, pharmacy-wise, there a CVS on Court Street, a Rite Aid down by Atlantic, and a couple more Rite Aids on Smith Street. And then there's the Clinton Apothecary, a lonely mercantile outpost at the corner of Clinton Street and President Street. It's one of the last independent pharmacies in the neighborhood. Renaissance and Court Pharmacy, both on Court Street, were driven out of business in the last few years.

I love the Clinton Apothecary. And not just because its an indy, family-owned business. I love it because it's run by neighborhood people who obviously know all the other people in the neighborhood. I love it because the staff are as friendly as they need to be, and no more. They're not rude; they're just doing their job. And they treat little old ladies waiting for prescriptions very well.

I love it because they go to the bother of putting together holiday-themed window displays for every single major holiday. They are not flashy. They look like something a third-grade class would do under the instruction of their teacher. But they're all the more endearing for that. And they're always the first out of the gate. The Halloween display is up by late September; the Thanksgiving display on Nov. 1; the Christmas display the day after Thanksgiving.

I love them because they are tiny, but have a little bit of everything. Not just medicines and toiletries, but school supplies, toys, gift items, party favors, and a small but helpful food section. Even, lately, Halloween costumes.

I also love the Clinton Apothecary because it in mind-bogglingly cheap. I don't know how have stayed in business with the prices they charge. In Carroll Gardens, now a very affluent community, they could charge as much as they want. But they don't. Large bags of chips are $1. Two-liter sodas are not much more. Toilet paper for under a dollar. Often glassware and other kitchen items are on displays for a buck or two a piece. I've restored my home's supply of water glasses courtesy of the Clinton Apothecary many times, usually for under $10. And, as I understand it, they charge less for a co-pay than the big boys do.

Oftentimes, when I'm walking home with a thirst and a hungry boy in tow, and only five bucks in my pocket to work with, I've stopped in this drug store and have managed to get drinks and snacks to satisfy us both, with change to spare.

01 November 2012

The Ghost of Sunview Luncheonette

As one of my regular objects of obsession, I have checked in on the Sunview Luncheonette at least once every year since the classic Greenpoint diner shut its doors in 2008, after an inspection from the Department of Health made things too cost prohibitive for the old Greek woman who ran it to reopen. The owner has left the interior untouched. I like to peer in and see how time is treating the old booth, telephone booths, stools, counter and menu board. But never once have I seen a flicker of life inside.

Last week, however, I was sitting on a bench opposite the diner, resting my feet, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a darkened figure slip in the front door of the diner and the screen door bang shut. I jumped to my feet and crossed the street. Maybe, if I asked nicely, I could gain access to the restaurant and ask a few questions about its future. I came to the window and peered in. No one was inside. I went to the door. It was locked. Strange.

I stood outside the diner for a good ten minutes. Whoever had gone in there was not making a sound or moving a muscle. I know I had seen someone. Had they slipped out the back? Or is the Sunview Luncheonette haunted?