Monday, December 11, 2017

Grassroots Tavern

VANISHING

The Grassroots Tavern will close on New Year's Eve. It's been a favorite dive on St. Mark's Place for 42 years and many will miss it (especially this guy).



Last week, Grieve reported that the Grassroots had a new owner--and it didn't look good. Richard Precious has a chain of bars called Ginger Man. As Grieve pointed out, New York magazine said Ginger Man "feels like Euro Disney's vision of the classic Irish watering hole."

Now Grassroots is closing for the same reasons pretty much everything is closing.

“All the sudden, overnight, the rent skyrocketed, so we were put out of business,” one bartender told Bedford & Bowery. And, of course, the building was sold in 2015--ironically to a company called Klosed Properties.

Steven Kachanian, Principal of Klosed, said at the time, "We are thrilled about the long term potential of this asset. The retail rents on this stretch are on the rise."

So St. Mark's is dead -- again.

Post Script: For a little history, see Daytonian in Manhattan's post on 20 St. Mark's Place. He points us to this item from the New York Times in 1932, on the opening of a scruffy predecessor to Grassroots:






Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Call Your Mother Hot Dog Cart

The cart stands on Houston near Lafayette.



Between the many signs for hot dogs, hot pretzels, and honey roasted peanuts, hand-written messages tell passersby to call their mothers.



"A smiling face is a...beautiful mankind," reads another.



"Let's back to our childhood. There we used to mistake again and again. Some people used to forgive us over and over."

"Wake up! Re-start. U'll overcome this time."



The vendor says the signs bring people to him, inspire them to stop and talk. It's a good thing. "We're all turning into machines," he says, "in this system." It's a good thing to stop and connect.

And go call your mother. Which I did.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Friedman's at the Edison

The fifth location of Friedman's has now opened in the space that long held the beloved Cafe Edison, which was forced to close in 2014 after decades in business.

The new restaurant announced its opening on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: "FRIEDMAN'S @ Edison has officially opened and we are super excited !!😊" Plus the hashtags: #eatgoodfood #mindfuleating #farmtotable #friedmansnyc #glutenfreee #celiacsafe #fall #edisonhotel #nowopen #2017 #goodvibesonly #dinner #breakfast #lunch #brunchnyc



Reluctantly, I went to see what had become of the wonderful Cafe Edison, the place we fought so hard to save -- and lost.

A sign at the door of Friedman's read: "A little taste of the farm for the big city." (See: The Wisconsinization of New York.) Already, everything was off.

Through the entrance, no more Betty at her cluttered cash register surrounded by signs that read, "No Large Luggage" and "Cash Only" and "If you are grouchy or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you."



At Friedman's, all the character has been stripped away.

The dusty old chandeliers have been ripped out. The counter is gone. The giddy pink and powder-blue walls and columns have been painted beige. And beige. Two shades of beige.

As Rem Koolhaas wrote of The Generic City, "Close your eyes and imagine an explosion of beige."



At Friedman's, you don't have to close your eyes to imagine. The place has a beige personality--nice and neutral, completely inoffensive.

The water comes in a glass bottle that says, "Inspired Living." The music is as innocuous as muzak, but up to date, all soft jazzy hip-hoppy sounds, including a re-mix of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," that iconic rock poem of transsexuality and prostitution, the stuff of old Times Square, now stripped of its language.



I forced myself to try the matzo ball soup, a staple of the old Cafe Edison. It tasted good, but so what? I missed the way the bowls of soup used to come crashing from the noisy kitchen behind the counter. I missed the counter and its swivel stools, its trays of glazed doughnuts under cloudy plastic domes.

I missed the people who used to sit on those stools and lean in over those bowls of soup, tossing their neckties over their shoulders, getting their eyeglasses steamed.

And I missed the brusque waitresses with their accents and post-middle age exhaustion. The ones at Friedman's are deferential, soft-spoken, and youthful. All perfectly nice.

Everything at Friedman's is nice.

#goodvibesonly!



Once again, New York has sold its soul for nice. In its restaurants, it has traded character and history for food that tastes clean and new. For a frictionless experience that neither agitates nor inspires.

In the 2000s, New York was remade into a city that caters to consumers. The Bloomberg Way, as urbanist Julian Brash has written, was "a notion of governance in which the city is run like a corporation. The mayor is the CEO, the businesses are clients, citizens are consumers, and the city itself is a product that’s branded and marketed." That product must be inoffensive, made beige and nice, so as not to disrupt or displease the average consumer.

This approach to city life comes from the radical free-market capitalist ethos of neoliberalism. Milton Friedman, the economist who helped popularize neoliberalism, once said, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." In other words, you can't tax businesses to pay for public services. Which brings us to the current federal tax plan of today.

It also brings us back to Friedman's restaurant, which was named after Milton Friedman and not after a Jewish family and their matzo ball soup. There was a Jewish family running the Cafe Edison for decades. They made good soup. They didn't worry about creating a beige experience. They were loved by many and they are missed.


2014

Read all about the closure of Cafe Edison and the fight to save it.




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

French Roast to La Contenta

Many people were unhappy this summer when French Roast closed in Greenwich Village.

Now its replacement has announced itself:


photo: Ora McCreary

La Contenta, a Mexican restaurant "with French accents," has another location on the Lower East Side.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Walter's Antique Clock & Watch Repair

VANISHING


all photos by Justin Hicks

The following is a guest post by Justin Hicks:

Pretty much everyone in the West Village agrees: Walter Dikarev is magical.

“I love him,” Rosemary Wettenhall, owner of Madame Matovu, said. “Because he’s like this magic man. He can fix anything.”

For nearly 20 years, Dikarev held court at his small antique clock repair shop on 10th Street between Hudson and Bleecker Streets. Neighbors squeeze into his cluttered shop to chat, all the while surrounded by his cases of glittering watches, clocks, and jewelry.

“[There’s] even [a] special smell in here, the smell of the clock and watch oil,” Dikarev said. “It’s extremely rare; to be in my business and feel exactly like what you could feel maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty years behind you, and feel like you’re exactly in the past century.”

“What I give when anybody’s coming here, I give unto this person my love,” he said. “My love and nothing else. My smile, my love.”



Unfortunately for him and the city he loves, he’s being forced to close his shop at the end of the year due to a rise in rent.

“I guess my business is not profitable, not profitable anymore,” Dikarev said. “Just to survive I need to raise the prices for my customers and I do not like it.”

For Walter, it’s just a modern take on the David and Goliath story. Big businesses came in and took over the real estate, raising the prices of rent and displacing the patrons who used to visit his shop.

“[It’s the] biggest killing smallest,” he said. “That’s it. [They make] more money and kill the small things. Like bugs. That’s my story of my life.”



Local shop owners describe Dikarev as the “watchdog” of the neighborhood. His decision to fold under the growing pressure of high rent and low sales is unpopular to say the least.

“Nobody likes my decision,” he sighed. “Everybody asks me please don’t close this business because we just feel very, very alone. [There will be] no business to take care of us here.”

When he goes, the West Village will lose yet another charm that made it so magical.



“It’s losing a lot of the smaller charming shops that help make it what it was,” Sherry Delamarter, the owner of Cowgirl restaurant, said. “I don’t want to whine or be a crybaby about it, but there’s something sad in that passing. That’s something sad for the Village as a whole.

“We will certainly miss Walter,” she concluded. “He was a little jewel of a man who fixes jewels.”

For more, visit www.justinmhicks.com or follow @Hicks_JustinM on Twitter.





Monday, November 20, 2017

Second Hand Rose Records

VANISHED

For a few weeks now, there's a been a sign on the door of the Second Hand Rose used record shop on 12th Street, saying they were closed temporarily for renovation.


October

As Alex at Flaming Pablum noted, "maybe they are just renovating, and will re-emerge, Phoenix-style, from the ashes of their former ignominy with a robust new outlook." But "I’m not holding my breath."

Today the sign just says "CLOSED," no more note about renovation, and the shop is empty and dark. A few Bob Dylan posters sit in the window. When I asked, an employee of the building said, "They're closed forever."


October

We do not know the reason for the closure. But we do know that the building, 817 Broadway, was sold to Taconic Partners last year and they planned to "reposition" the property. As the Real Deal reported, "by April 30, 2021, all the building’s current leases will have turned over."

More recently, its anchor tenant, the Social Service Workers Union (SSEU), moved out of 817 to a smaller space in Times Square.

And the building is now wrapped in a new banner declaring it "The address of innovation." The website claims that 817 is "now poised to redefine what a building can do to inspire a city."

We can guess that means "Tech Hub" and not used record shop.





New Ziegfeld

When the old (but not oldest) Ziegfeld theater closed in 2016 after 46 years in business, many New Yorkers grieved. We wondered what would happen to all its odd character when it became an upscale corporate event space.

Well, now we know. Recently, the new Ziegfeld Ballroom opened for events. Here's what it looks like:



"Drawing inspiration from the 1930’s luxury cruise liner the SS Normandie," reads the new company website, "the Ziegfeld Ballroom features a color scheme of silver and greys to reflect its art deco heritage."

Another inspiration appears to be the corporate hotel conference rooms of, well, Midtown.



Gone are the plush, blood-red walls of old, the sky-high ceiling, the antique sconces, and that circular banquette where one could rest beneath a sprawling chandelier while breathing in the aroma of fresh popcorn.

What became of the artifacts from the Ziegfeld Museum that once lined the stairways and halls? I heard that some are on display in the lounge of the New Amsterdam Theater, home of the “Ziegfeld Follies” from 1907 to 1927.

But what about the weird "STORY OF THIS WOOD" plaque screwed to the wall, informing moviegoers: "Carbon 14-isotope dating shows this wood has been buried in a peat bog near Cambridge, England, since 2120 B.C."

Who knows where it's buried now?


Before: via Cinema Treasures