Thursday, August 21, 2014

On this edition of Independent Sources Sarah Pizon speaks with James and Karla Murray, who’ve been documenting the demographic shifts in the city through various communities changing storefronts.

(Our segment starts at around 20 minutes in...)
Watch on channel 25-3 at Independent Sources regular air times: Thursday 11pm or Saturday 8:30am.

Or see it on Youtube:

Lenny's Pizza. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NYC.

LENNY’S PIZZA became famous in 1977, when John Travolta ordered two slices of Lenny’s pizza and ate them piled on top of each other “double-decker” style in the opening sequence of the hit movie Saturday Night Fever. The pizza shop was founded in 1953 and has been run by Frank Giordano and his family since 1983.

"My father bought this business in 1983 after it already had appeared in the “Saturday Night Fever” movie. At that time, Bensonhurst was a very Italian neighborhood and we lived nearby. My father came to this country from Italy with about $500 to his name and slowly started saving money by working nights at a pizzeria on 42nd Street. That was when 42nd Street was full of prostitutes, drug dealers and crack users. He eventually bought his own pizzeria in East New York but sold it after being robbed many times at gunpoint. When he bought Lenny’s Pizza, he worked 12–13 hours a day, seven days a week, helping grow the business into what it is today. He started offering all different types of pizza for sale, not just regular and square Sicilian slices. Now we have the whole Baskin-Robbins thing going for pizza, with it being offered with many flavors, styles, and toppings.
I started working here when I was ten years old, cleaning trays and tables. My family is a very traditional Italian family, which places an emphasis on working and learning the value of things. I remember that I was able to buy my first Nintendo with money I saved from working here. It took me a long time to reach the pizza oven because I was only five-feet tall, but now I make the pies and work 10 to 12 hour days helping my father run the business. I went to culinary school after high school and after graduating, I added whole-wheat pizza and gluten-free pizza to the menu to expand our offerings for more health-conscious customers. We take pride in being a family restaurant, and we care about our customers. I know all my customers by name and that is why even with the poor economy and many of our patrons having lost their jobs, we have not raised our prices as much as we really should have. We are fortunate that we own this building, but the price of raw materials such as flour and cheese has increased greatly. I just don’t have the heart to add to our customers’ stress by raising prices. Brooklyn is the best place to be and we are not leaving." — Josephine Giordano second-generation owner

(Image and text from our book NEW YORK NIGHTS)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fanelli Cafe, late. SoHo, New York City.

"Fanelli Café is one of the oldest eating and drinking establishment in New York City, dating back to 1847. It began as a “grocery store” which basically was a liquor store and evolved into a corner saloon. After 1863, it was rented to Charles Bullard as a saloon where liquor and beer were sold. Owners changed hands a few times until 1878 when Nicholas Gerdes took over and ran the salon until 1902. Nicolas Gerdes inscribed his name on the transom over the front door and his saloon licenses still decorate the dining room wall to this day. From 1905 to 1922, Harry Green and his family ran the Price Café on the premises. Michael Fanelli, a retired boxer took over the café in 1922 and renamed it Fanelli Café. Old boxing photos still hang on the wall behind the bar. Fanellis operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition until 1933. The Fanelli family sold the business to the Hans Noe in 1982."(Text and photo from our book NEW YORK NIGHTS.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

R.I.P. Paskesz Kosher Candies. Borough Park, Brooklyn.

"Paskesz Kosher Candies was founded in 1954 by Lazar Paskesz, a Hungarian immigrant. His father, Anshel Paskesz introduced him to the candy and citrus fruit business in Mako, Hungary. After moving to New York in 1954 with his wife, three children and no means, he discussed his situation with Rabbi Teitelbaum of Satmar, who suggested he open a candy business. He opened his first store in East New York and later moved to a larger location in Borough Park. Paskesz Candy marketed the first kosher chewing gum in the 1960s. In addition to their domestic line of kosher candies and confectionery, they sell and import products from all over the world. Their Borough Park retail location closed in 2010."

(Text and photo from STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York)

Friday, August 8, 2014

R.I.P. Peter's Grocery, Lower East Side, NYC.

Peter’s Grocery Store was in business from 1947- 2011. The storefront and sign are original. At the time of the interview in 2004 it was run by the second-generation owner, Pete Migliorini.

"My father opened this store when the neighborhood was mostly Irish with some Italians and Polish immigrants. Over the years, the area has become a lot less residential. Many of the apartment buildings have been demolished and/or converted into office towers. I still have some customers that live around here and come in to shop for groceries but most of my business has shifted to office workers on break from their job. I’ve been working here since I was a kid and have seen many of my old-time customers grow up and have become friends with many of them. I’ll even sign for their packages from U.P.S. when they are not home to get them. The delivery guy knows to just leave their stuff with me and that I’ll give it to them the next time they stop in the store for something. My family owns this building so I don’t have to worry about rent or anything. That’s why I’m probably still in business. If I had to pay the going rental rate around here, I’d never survive."

Image and interview with Peter Migliorini, second-generation owner of Peter’s Grocery Store, from our book STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Closing: Subway Inn Bar with its original glass brick facade. Upper East Side, NYC.

2009 Interview from our book NEW YORK NIGHTS. Subway Inn was founded in 1934 and has been owned by the same family since 1946.

"I have worked as a bartender here since 1982. Subway Inn was originally owned by a brother and sister, who opened it right after Prohibition ended. In 1946, they sold the business to Charlie Ackerman, who just recently died about three years ago. His nephew now runs the place. Charlie used to live above the bar and told me that he paid $25,000 for the entire building and bar business. That was a lot of money back then because the average salary was only like $20 a week. People were just surviving at that time after World War II ended. There were many bars like this in the area, at least one or two on every block from the river to Lexington Avenue. But over the years, the neighborhood started to become upscale and by the 1970s, rents had increased so much that many bars were forced to close. I left the neighborhood in the 1970s, and when I came back to the area in 1980 after retiring from my job, I decided to start bartending. I was recently divorced and my son was grown and I found myself spending a lot of money every week going out, so bartending seemed like a good idea to make some extra money. Charlie hired me and I’ve been here ever since. Not much of the interior has changed since it opened. We still have the original wood bar and booths and even a really old jukebox. The exterior façade of the building was redone a few years back because the building, which was built in the 1880s, was crumbling. The neon signs we have are original and they were preserved when the exterior work was done. This place has always been a workingman’s bar, without much of a white-collar clientele. Prices are very reasonable for the neighborhood and it really is about the cheapest place to get a drink around here. The bulk of our business is the after work crowd of people stopping in for a drink but we also do decent business at lunchtime with construction workers stopping in. The downturn in the economy though has certainly affected us. There is a lot less construction going on in the area and therefore less workers nearby, which means less business for us. Hopefully we can weather it as we’ve done in the past during other downturns." — Rodney Williams bartender

Photograph from our critically acclaimed book STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York.

"Historic Preservation, Meet Restaurant Preservation" - Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

At yesterday evening's lively program, "Historic Preservation, Meet Restaurant Preservation", a panel discussion about beloved food establishments. This panel of food industry professionals was moderated by GVSHP's Karen Loew. The panelincluded Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic, from, who proposed this preservation plan, plus former New York Times restaurant critic and longtime Villager Mimi Sheraton, Columbia University assistant professor of urban planning Stacey Sutton, and Tower Brokerage president Robert Perl.