26 February 2008

Beauty in a Strip Mall

Ur-New Yorkiness can be found in the most unlikely of places, so you have to keep you eyes and mind open. Strip malls would seem to be a product of suburbia and the enemy or urban authenticity. But the Skyview Shopping Mall in Riverdale rebukes that notion.

Why? Well, perhaps because, judging from its appearance, it was built back in the early '60s and was thus an early example of strip-mall architecture, when builders still strove to create something with a modicum of character. But mainly because it is filled with with mom-and-pop businesses that seem to have rented out their spaces the day the mall opened. (The black-and-white photo below testifies that at least two of the shops—the pharmacy and the deli—were indeed part of the mall when it began.)

There is a (kosher) Dunkin' Donuts here, and a Food Emporium. Beyond that, however, there's a pharmacy and a card store that your grandmother could have recognized as what a pharmacy and a card store should look like, exhibiting no advertising or sales techniques that were invented after World War II. Anchoring the mall are three well-established kosher businesses. (Skyview is a kosher wonderland, in fact; fully three-quarters of the stores have rabbinical supervision.) These are Skyview Wine & Spirits, which is renowned for having the best selection of kosher wine in New York City; Gruenenbaum's, a bakery with a small lunch place in the back (it has other locations elsewhere); and Skyview Glatt Kosher Deli, one of the last good real New York Delis left in the city. The last two also boast nifty signs.

The whole mall bristles with character and brassy Gotham integrity. You wouldn't find it anywhere else.


angvou said...

That delicatessen sign is quite a classic. The "Riverdale" of Riverdale Pharmacy is pretty snazzy, too.

I just posted this beauty:

Sebastian said...

I live across the street from this strip mall and I couldn't agree more. There is something soothing about the retro suburban feel of Skyview. It is almost as if this Plaza has been frozen in time since the Nixon era.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I miss that place. The Dunkin Donuts apparently opened after I moved away. Where in the strip mall is it? I could picture it in the spot that used to be a discount store-- an unattached space to the right.

Anonymous said...

Was there a German owned coffee shop at the side of this strip next to a bar, which has since closed down?

little sara said...

I lived in Skyview from 1964-1974. I remember the Skyview Shopping Center very well.

The supermarket was Daitch Shopwell. The bakery next door had Charlotte Russes and black and white cookies and great rye bread. Gardner's where we bought school supplies on the first day of PS 81. It was a mob scene! They also sold spaldeens and paper dolls, newspapers and magazines. And gifts, in the front.

The Skyview Deli, with knishes at the register. Riverdale Pharmacy, a bank, a women's dress store, a liquor store. Where the Dunkin Donuts is today are a pancake house with tasty boysenberry syrup! Later, to my delight it became a McDonald's. They flew in Ronald McDonald for opening day!

Finally, at the end was the Riverdale Cinema. I liked the balcony. And saw all the movies of the day. Ah, those were the days! Honestly, the Skyview Shopping Center hasn't changed all that much.