06 October 2007

Rue de Lexington

Sometimes a single landowner can improve life in NYC through a eccentric act of pique.

Take the worthy who owns the three-story, strangely shaped, white-brick building at the northeast corner of 71st Street and Lexington. The property is home to a string of small businesses—classic New York small businesses, in fact: a news agent, a locksmith, a shoe repair shop, etc. Aside from their narrow acreage, they have only one thing in common: the same, unusual, red-and-white striped awning.

There can be no other reason for all these candy-striped awnings than that they are imposed upon the merchants through the leases written up by the landlord. It's a pretty little stipulation. The effect of so many attractive awnings on so many tiny storefronts is of walking down a Parisian side street.

I stopped in one of these inviting stores, Empire Shoe Repair, which, for some reason, is advertised in the from window as The Empire Shoe Repair. (Which empire?, one might ask.) It's been there for 45 years, and is run by one Chaim Yigal Dzhurayev, which may be one of the best names I've ever heard.

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