A few hundred feet along the southeastern corner of 39th Street and Eighth Avenue may be among the most New York-y stretches of sidewalk left in Manhattan. I'm talking old New York, of course, the one filled with scrappy, independent, local businesses, the one free of chains, the one populated with working folk who provided humble but necessary services, the one with a little grit in the seams.
The street features a barber shop, a shoe repair shop and a liquor store, all of considerable age. (Try to ignore the fried chicken joint.) I've written about the liquor store—officially, Cambridge Wine & Liquors—before. It's one of the oldest spirit sellers in the city. Not only does it date from the fall of Prohibition, but the space was occupied by a liquor store before Prohibition as well. The beautiful neon sign dates from the '40s at least.
The Mayfair Barber Shop is old school. It looks as you might imagine a New York barber shop looked in the 1940s. Bright lights, vintage barber chair, row of seats along the opposite wall, barbers in blue, cotton jackets. I don't know its exact age, but there are men there who have worked at Mayfair for 30 years.
This shoe repair store is actually called Reliable Monogramming-Alterations. (In the right-hand window, you can see them advertise those services, which are in demand in the Garment District.) As is the case with most shoe repair joints, it's virtually impossible to find out how old the store is. But, based on the sign, you be the judge. I'm guessing Cambridge, Mayfair and Reliable have been neighborhoods for many a moon.