Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three more storefronts New York City lost in 2013...

Thanks to Jeremiah for reminding us of three more storefronts that NYC lost in 2013:

Our previous post about New York City storefronts lost in 2013:


Joe's Dairy was located on Sullivan Street by W. Houston Street in a neighborhood that was once considered the western half of Little Italy.  It was initially called Frank and Al’s Dairy and has an original storefront dating back over 90 years. Its Joe's Dairy signage was installed in 1972. Anthony Campanelli, bought the store in 1977 and closed the business in May 2013.

The recipe we use to make the homemade mozzarella is the original recipe from when the store was opened over 83 years ago, but what happens is that the recipe slowly changes a tiny bit as the person who has taken over the store follows it.  We have all added our personal touches over the years.   There’s more to making mozzarella than you would think.   I could show you how to make it step by step but you still wouldn’t be able to do it, because it’s all really in the technique.  The main ingredient for mozzarella is the milk curd.  I use like 25-30 bundles of curd delivered every day from New Jersey.  And there’s 45 pounds in each bundle.  So it’s the curd and the water and the knowledge.  That’s the only ingredients you got.  The water is also very important to the recipe.  There’s a lot of hardness in different waters and here in New York the water is great for making mozzarella.  If you go to Florida or California, it’s a completely different thing.  I know people who went out there and tried to make mozzarella and what they are doing now is having water tanked out to them from New York because they can’t make the mozzarella the same way without it.  It breaks down.  It’s like the chemicals…it sounds strange but there is a chemical imbalance with the water everywhere else that turns the cheese different.   Everything that we make here has to do with mozzarella.  That’s what we are known for.   We even have a smokehouse outside at the back of the store where we do all our smoking.  I don’t own this building.  I only rent the store.  When I’m ready to retire, it will probably be a lost art in my family because I have a daughter but I won’t allow her to do this.  It’s a lot of hard work.  It’s not that a woman couldn’t do it, but you have to get up really early and work long hours.  I feel like I do this because I chose to.  Nobody asked me to do it.  This is what I wanted to do but I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone.  I broke the tradition in my family because I went into the cheese business instead of the ice business that my grandparents and parents were into.  I lived upstairs from this store when I was a kid and I started working here in 1970.  I helped the owner out by working behind the counter and took an interest in the business.  I really didn’t like school and decided this was what I wanted to learn…the cheese business.  I am very fortunate because I have a really good customer base.  Many people who have moved out of the neighborhood, come back here just to buy fresh mozzarella from me.  Their roots are here but the neighborhood has really changed.  There are not too many Italians living here anymore.  The old timers are dying and their children are moving out so the traditions of years ago are being lost.  We’ve lost most of the Italian families in the neighborhood but we’ve gained new people, like New York University students.  The University has been buying many of the buildings in the neighborhood to use as dormitories and classrooms and big developers are buying old buildings and turning them into co-ops.  So basically, it’s a lost neighborhood as far as family goes.  Its not family-orientated anymore.  Anthony Campanelli, owner of Joe’s Dairy 

Blarney Cove Bar closed in June 2013.

Vercesi Hardware located on E. 23rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues was a family-owned business that was established in 1912. It closed in November 2013.

My father opened this store in 1912 and now I am running the business along with my daughter.  We own this building and that’s one of the reasons why we are still here.  The neighborhood has really changed and gotten very expensive. Many new people have moved to the area including lots of college kids because of the nearby schools and universities.  Most of the smaller stores, like the shoemaker and the tailor nearby, have closed.  We’ve definitely had to change our merchandise selection over the years to fit with the neighborhood.  We’ve always carried hardware but now we sell more small appliances and houseware items.  Many of our customers our very loyal to us, and even if they’ve moved out of the neighborhood, they travel back to shop here because they like the helpful staff and friendly atmosphere.   Our name, Vercesi, spells service, it’s an anagram. Paul Vercesi, Jr., second-generation owner 

Monday, December 30, 2013

In late December, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the South Village Historic District including the locations of some of our favorite places.

As of December 17, 2013...

Many thanks to our friends at The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's (GVSHP) for their instrumental work in this historic landmark designation. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to landmark the South Village Historic District, a two hundred forty-building, thirteen-block section of Greenwich Village south of Washington Square Park, and the second phase of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's (GVSHP) proposed South Village Historic District landmarked in June of 2010. GVSHP first proposed landmark designation of the South Village ten years ago and submitted a formal landmarking proposal with boundaries to the City in 2006. Landmark designation prohibits demolitions and alterations of existing buildings without the permission of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and tightly controls new development to ensure it is in character with the neighborhood. In recent years, NYU and private developers have made several large incursions into the neighborhood, including a series of oversized, out-of-character buildings on Washington Square South.


The landmarked places include:

CAFFE REGGIO. The cafe is located on Mac Dougal Street between W. 3rd Street and Minetta Lane.  The café has been open since 1927 and is famous for its espresso machine, which was imported from Italy by the original owner, Domenico Parisi.  Mr Parisi spent his life savings of $1,000 to import the chrome and bronze espresso machine to his café.  The machine was made in 1902 and was the first of its kind and has a base formed by dragons and an angel sitting on its top.  When filled with hot water, the machine makes a cup of espresso in just about three seconds.  Mr. Parisi is credited as being the first person to introduce the coffee drink, cappuccino to the Unites States.  Caffé Reggio originally only served coffee, all made by Mr. Parisi himself using the espresso machine.  In the 1960’s, Mr. Parisi sold the business to Hilda and Niso Cavallaci, and their son Fabrizio now runs the café.

MINETTA TAVERN.  The tavern was established in 1937. It was named after the Minetta Brook, a small stream that ran southwest from 23rd Street to the Hudson River. The original owner, Eddie Sieveri became known as Eddie Minetta because he owned the restaurant for so many years. Minetta Tavern became a famous dining spot for beatniks, celebrities and literary luminaries including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’ Neill, E.E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas and Joe Gould. Eddie Sieveri sold the restaurant in 1972 and in 1995, Taka Becovic from Montenegro, Albania who had worked as a busboy at the restaurant purchased the business. Taka Becovic kept the original Northern Italian menu and also left the original interior unchanged. In 2008, Becovic reluctantly sold the restaurant and its entire contents after his landlord considerably increased the rent. Keith McNally, Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr who have worked together on various restaurants since 1997, took over Minetta Tavern in March 2008. They kept the restaurant’s name and historic neon sign and during renovation tried to preserve much of its distinctive interior including the original wood paneling and wooden bar with its stained-glass shelving, murals of Greenwich Village sights and scenes along the walls, as well as pictures of faded celebrities. The menu however was changed to a largely French menu.

CAFE WHA? Bob Dylan's first performance after arriving in New York was at Cafe Wha? Peter, Paul, and Mary also performed there and Jimi Hendrix was "discovered" there in 1966.

MONTE’S TRATTORIA.  Monte's has been in business since 1918. It has been owned by chef Pietro Mosconi and his family since 1983.
What is original is the neon sign outside, which was installed in the 1950’s. I kept the signage because I liked it and also felt strongly about keeping the name Monte’s, which was shortened from Monteverde, a city in Italy known as the “green mountain.” I feel fortunate that my father was so shrewd and brought me here to New York so that I could have this wonderful opportunity. Now my son is working at the restaurant with me and I am teaching him everything I know. It’s a hard task to fill.
Pietro Mosconi, chef and owner (Full interview appears in NEW YORK NIGHTS)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Congratulations to our winner Samantha for our first annual Holiday book give-away!

Our winner Samantha's signed copy of STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York (Mini Edition) is on its way! She correctly identified 13 of the 14 letters.

Here is the Holiday puzzle we posted on our Facebook Photography Page in which we asked readers to correctly identify the stores from where all the letters we used to spell "Merry Christmas" came from!

M =

E =

R =

R =

Y =

C =

H =

R =

I =

S =

T =

M =

A =

S =

Coming soon - 5 Points: A Look Back

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas contest on our facebook page!

In celebration we are offering a free signed copy of Store Front (mini edition) to the first person who correctly identifies the stores from where all the letters we used to spell "Merry Christmas" came from!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Collecting Fine Art - features work by James and Karla Murray

"...an exceptional cornucopia of varied and high-quality pieces that are sure to leave an impression on the readers-- and perhaps inspire them to expand, or launch their own stunning assortment of treasured works."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

In Memorandum: New York City Storefronts Lost This Year 2013

Some of the old shops that left the city a little emptier when they disappeared this year.

Lenox Lounge was in business from 1939 - December 31, 2012. It closed after a lease dispute. 
The lounge was founded by the Greco family and named for its location on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Although the nightclub’s opening was initially delayed by a nasty dispute over its zebra print décor, featuring real zebra skin covering the walls, it soon became a hot spot for after-hours jam sessions, boasting performances by jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. The bar was also a gathering space for luminaries such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. When Alvin Reed purchased the Lenox Lounge in 1988 from Dominic Greco, the bar no longer had live musical performances, but was functioning just as a nightclub with a live DJ. Alvin Reed decided to reopen the Lounge as a live jazz venue and worked closely with a design firm to restore much of the clubs original Art Deco interior. The famous “Zebra Room” where live music is played nightly, has 1940’s swinging glass-and-wood double doors, black leather banquettes, cozy tables, zebra-print walls and a space for the band to the right. The live performances are intimate because the band plays directly in front of the tables, with every seat having a good view and sound. The first banquette to the left, next to the band, was Billie Holiday’s booth, a space that was once reserved weekly for the singer herself.  Mr. Reid brought back the Sunday and Monday night jam sessions at the Lenox Lounge to continue the legacy of jazz as an exciting and entertaining creative art form and collective learning process.

Empire Diner was located inside a 1946 Fodero Dining Car in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. It was refurbished in 1976 when new owners, Jack Doenias, Carl Laanes and Richard Ruskey, took over the space and added the miniature stainless steel stylized Empire State Building replica on its roof. They also painted a large “EAT” on the wall behind the diner and replaced its old Formica tabletops and counters with black glass. The renovations helped the diner attract a celebrity clientele and establish Chelsea as a late night destination. After Ruskey and Doenias passed away in 1992, the remaining partner sold the business to executive chef Mitchell Woo, who had been working at the diner since 1980 and Renate Gonzalez, who began working nights at the diner in 1986.
In late 2009 the diner closed after lease renewal negotiations with the landlord, Chuck Levinson failed. Mr. Levinson’s family has owned the property in which the diner is located since the 1930’s and wanted to raise the rent considerably. In 2010, the diner reopened as the Highliner without its iconic rooftop miniature Empire State Building replica but closed in 2013.

Empire Diner is a historical designated landmark so when we took over the space, we didn’t change anything because we couldn’t. Basically, we scooped out everything that was in the interior, sealed the structure against water and rodents to meet current health code standards as a self-contained box, and then put everything back inside. It was very important for us to conserve the integrity of the interior including all the stainless steel stools and chairs and even the clocks. The only thing we could change was the menu. Carolyn Benitez, co-owner

Pink Pony on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side closed in February 2013 due to a rent hike of $6,000 per month after 20 years in business.

Tad's Steaks in Times Square closed in early 2013. The business was founded by Donald Townsend in 1957 on the theory that a T-bone steak, baked potato, garlic bread and a tossed salad could be profitably sold for $1.09. Coined by Townsend as a “steak show,” for a tenth of the price of a fancy steak dinner at a sit-down restaurant, customers could watch their steaks being cooked with flames leaping up right near the front window. One of the keys to the success of the “steak show” was inventing tiles that looked like charcoal over which to cook the meat. This process was much cleaner than charcoal and allowed more even levels of heat. Townsend also marinated the T-bones in papaya juice to tenderize inferior cuts of meat. At Tad’s Steaks peak, the chain had 28 restaurants, eight in New York.  The Reise Organization purchased Tad’s in 1988.

Hinsch’s Confectionery located on Fifth Avenue by 86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn was founded by Herman Hinsch. Before Mr. Hinsch bought the business in 1948, it was called Reichert’s Confectionery. The Logue family operated Hinsch’s from 1962 to 2011. John Logue was forced to close the business and retire early due to a significant rent increase from $7,500 a month to $10,000 a month after their lease expired on September 30, 2011. Hinsch’s reopened later that year under new ownership but closed in March 2013 and was renamed Mike’s Hinsch’s by its current owner, Mike Moudatsos.

My father, John Logue Sr. started working for Herman Hinsch as a counter boy. He actually worked at Hinsch’s original location on 18th Avenue but when this store was purchased in 1948, he came over here and eventually became manager. On January 2, 1962 my father bought the business from Mr. Hinsch but decided not to rename it. This restaurant/ice cream parlor has been in my family ever since. The marquee sign outside predates the Hinsch’s neon sign on the storefront, which was installed in 1948. I have an old tax photo from the 1930’s that shows that marquee sign with the words Candy and Luncheonette but I am not sure exactly when the Reichert’s had it installed. The neon signs are difficult to maintain because they are open to the elements. When it rains, they often short out but we always have them fixed because we like to keep them lit. The neon is also very unique because it is a double-tube neon design. As far as I know, there are only two places left in New York, which have this type of neon, Nathan’s and us.
 I started working here as a little kid and took over when my father retired sixteen years ago. We still use the same family recipes for making our homemade ice cream, egg creams and chocolates that were passed down to us from the Hinsch family. All that has really changed here over the years is the calendar on the wall. The tile floor is original and in fact you can even see where it has been worn down from the years of customers walking up and down on it. This Bay Ridge neighborhood has changed so much over the years but we have managed to stay in business because people respect our food and still come back here to eat even when they have moved out of the neighborhood. The other day a customer commented to me that she remembers when I didn’t have any gray hair. And I laughed because now she is bringing her grandchildren in here to eat and I was serving her when I worked behind the counter as a teenager.The busiest times of the year for us are Easter, Christmas and Valentines Day because we sell lots of chocolates in addition to people sitting down and eating here.
One of our big concerns is that we don’t own the building, we just rent. The same family has owned the building since it was constructed in 1914. They have been pretty reasonable with us regarding rent increases, but we still don’t have the security we would if we owned the entire building. The City also makes it difficult for us to manage this small business because they require us to maintain seventeen different licenses regulating everything from my illuminated sign to my rooftop air conditioner to my ice cream operation. It’s a lot of fees to pay every year. Not to mention the real estate tax on my building is $8,000 a month. Con Edison has also raised the rates on electricity which runs over $4,000 a month and my water bill is over $1,000 a month, which is three times what it was a few years ago. Even though all of our expenses have increased, we try to keep our prices low so our customers are happy. John Logue, second-generation owner

Roxy Delicatessen was in business in the heart of Times Square from 1946 - 2013. It is owned by Jacob and Sammy Ben Moha and known for its huge sandwiches and famous cheesecake, its walls are filled with Ben Burgraff’s unique celebrity caricatures. It has since been relocated to a location off of Times Square.

Bleecker Bob's Records was founded by Bob Plotnick in 1967 on Bleecker Street. It initially opened under the name Village Oldies Records but was soon changed to Bleecker Bob’s Records. The store is considered by many to be a New York City landmark as it is one of the city’s oldest independent record stores, packed with wooden bins and milk crates of records with handmade cardboard and masking tape dividers. It stocks everything from big band to obscure independent label releases on vinyl as well as CD. The store was one of the first places in the late 1970’s to sell albums by punk bands. Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist and Frank Zappa both occasionally tended the register back in the day. Many local bands rely on Bleecker Bob’s to drop off and post flyers for gigs or bands in need of members. In early 2012, Bleecker Bob’s Records was threatened with closure due to a steep rent increase. It closed in April 2013.

We may be forced to leave by the end of April 2012 because our landlord raised the rent from $10,000 to $20,000 a month. We couldn’t even really afford it when it was $10,000 a month but were making ends meet in the past by renting out the back of our place to a comic book store. Since we lost our subtenant, it’s been very difficult for us. We are looking into relocating in the Village but it looks pretty grim for us around here because the area has become so gentrified and prices have gone sky-high. Hopefully we will somehow be able to stay but we are also looking into small spaces in the East Village where the rents are more reasonable. Gary Rookard, salesman

Olympia Florist was found by Peter Pappas in 1905. His son, Gus ran the business until it closed in May 2013.

Max Fish on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side was in business from 1989 to July 2013. It was forced to close after a steep rent increase. There are plans to relocate to Williamsburg.

D'Auito Bakery was in business from 1924 until August 2013.  Mario D'Aiuto had taken over the family business from his father in 1977.

I grew up 2 blocks from the store and I remember my father baking in the back while my mother served customers in front.  When I took over the bakery and decided to specialize in cheesecake manufacturing, my buyers persuaded me not to use the D'Auito name on the product because they said it was too hard to pronounce.  So I chose "Watson" as an American name and added the "Baby" because "everyone loves babies".  Nowadays, the Baby Watson Cheesecake is in such demand that we start baking at 4AM and bake around 40,000 cheesecakes a day and then flash-freeze them and ship them out worldwide.  We use over 40,000 pounds of cream cheese and 3,000 gallons of heavy cream delivered every other day to make our cheesecakes.  Mario D’Auito, second-generation owner of D’Auito Bakery

Back Fence, an historic live music venue located in Greenwich Village, opened in 1945. It closed due to a steep rent increase on September 29, 2013 after 68 years in business.

All images from our books NEW YORK NIGHTS (2012) and STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York (2009). Prints from both works available from CLIC Gallery in New York City and FOTOGALERIE IM BLAUEN HAUS in Munich, Germany. Panoramics from our STORE FRONT book also available through LUMAS Gallery, worldwide.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Schellingstrabe 143 On the corner of Schleibheimer Strabe 80798
Munich, Germany

Books available! http://www.fotogalerie-im-blauen-haus.de/flash/index_swf.htm 
The critics on NEW YORK NIGHTS Winner New York Society Library 2012 New York City Book Award:

NEW YORK NIGHTS is a neon-soaked celebration of the nocturnal institutions that keep the city that never sleeps awake, satiated and comfortably numb.
Mark Lamster The New York Times  

The Murray’s, who gave us the enchanting Store Front, a daylight look at dozens of mom & pop stores across the five boroughs, have returned with New York Nights. But please don’t think of this as the noir version of their first book. It’s more like the Through the Looking Glass companion to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Gotham at night for the Murrays is pure enchantment.
Malcolm Jones Newsweek/The Daily  

Signed Copies US: http://shop.clicgallery.com/products/new-york-nights-james-karla-murray 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rolf's German Restaurant from our book NEW YORK NIGHTS

Schellingstrabe 143 On the corner of Schleibheimer Strabe 80798
Munich, Germany
Books available!

The critics on NEW YORK NIGHTS Winner New York Society Library 2012 New York City Book Award:

NEW YORK NIGHTS is a neon-soaked celebration of the nocturnal institutions that keep the city that never sleeps awake, satiated and comfortably numb.
Mark Lamster The New York Times
The Murray’s, who gave us the enchanting Store Front, a daylight look at dozens of mom & pop storesacross the five boroughs, have returned with New York Nights. But please don’t think of this as the noir version of their first book. It’s more like the Through the Looking Glass companion to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Gotham at night for the Murrays is pure enchantment.
Malcolm Jones Newsweek/The Daily

Signed Copies US: http://shop.clicgallery.com/products/new-york-nights-james-karla-murray