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Coffee With A Conscience? GrandLo Cafe Serves Up Cold Brew With a Splash of Job Skills

GrandLo Café, a “new social enterprise” from nonprofit Grand St. Settlement, will turn your daily coffee habit into a chance to support disadvantaged youth. The coffee shop and café, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 16 after a soft opening that same week, is now fully open for business.

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City Reliquary Unveils a Sculpture Garden That’s Pure Garbage

(Courtesy of City Reliquary)

Many art shows can be classified as “trash” but a new sculpture garden takes it a step further. Part of the ongoing “NYC Trash!: Past, Present, & Future” exhibit at the The City Reliquary, the new garden features creations made from garbage by 10 local artists to show that trash “can and should be reused.” Global warming permitting, an opening reception will take place in the Williamsburg museum’s back garden on Saturday, April 7, at noon. 

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More Great Ghost Signs of the East Village and LES

We’re back with the fifth in our series of ghost signs. Click the photos to see artifacts of businesses that have long disappeared.

<STRONG>Edelstein Bros. Pawnbrokers, 233 East 14th St.</STRONG>

Edelstein Bros. Pawnbrokers, 233 East 14th St.

Jazz great Charlie Parker kept a chronology of the last 10 years of his life, which was published as Bird's Diary. Its last page shows a pawn shop ticket for Parker's famous King Super 20 alto sax from Edelstein Bros. dated Jan. 24, 1955, less than two months before his death.

According to Walter Grutchfield the Edelstein Brothers, Isaac and Max, moved to the 14th St. location in 1945. The brothers inherited the business from their father Simon in 1875. Edelstein Bros. remained at this location until 1981.

<strong>Burger-Klein, 28 Ave. A</strong>

Burger-Klein, 28 Ave. A

Fifty years ago, Ave. A was a mecca for furniture retailers. Nine stores stood cheek to jowl between Houston St. and 7th St. including Tifford's (107 Ave. A), Greenstein & Sons (26 Ave. A) and Lichtenberg's (48 Ave. A). Burger-Klein sported a distinctive cube-shaped sign that remained for years after the store closed but was removed in 2014.

<STRONG>Benson Furniture, 6 Ave. A</STRONG>

Benson Furniture, 6 Ave. A

The Ave. A furniture district is gone but the ghost sign of Benson Furniture has survived. Turn the corner on Houston St. and a skinny sign tucked away on the side of 244 Houston St. still beckons furniture shoppers looking for a good deal.

<strong>The Industrial National Bank, 72 2nd Ave.</strong>

The Industrial National Bank, 72 2nd Ave.

The design of the Industrial National Bank remains as unique today as it did on its opening in 1929. "The architects had produced a startlingly different structure," explains Daytonian in Manhattan. "The upper floors exploded in color and fancy. While the overall style was vaguely Renaissance Revival, the green and beige terra cotta spandrel tiles and the rope-twist engaged columns added an exotic air."

By 1931 Continental Bank & Trust moved in and the building has remained occupied by a variety of banks ever since, which has helped preserve its façade. Today the building is a branch of Bank of America but "The Industrial National Bank" remains etched in the roofline on 4th St.

<strong>Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.</strong>

Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.

When it closed in 2006 the Grand Machinery Exchange was the last artifact of a once-bustling downtown machine district. The Exchange was a showroom for used equipment used by nearby bronze forgers, book printers, food canners and garment makers. The New York Times explained that here "a tribe of used-machine dealers gathered, most of them former junk peddlers, and their refurbished presses, shapers and grinders kept the factories humming." As factories moved out of the area and fax machines and the Internet connected buyers and sellers, a central location of machinery was no longer needed.

The Machinery Exchange, opened in 1927, was not the building's first occupant. The Baxter St. building was erected in 1915 as a stable for the Police Headquarters on Centre St. Today it is called the 136 Baxter Condominiums, but some of the barely-legible Exchange signage remains.

<strong>Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.</strong>

Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.

When it closed in 2006 the Grand Machinery Exchange was the last artifact of a once-bustling downtown machine district. The Exchange was a showroom for used equipment used by nearby bronze forgers, book printers, food canners and garment makers. The New York Times explained that here "a tribe of used-machine dealers gathered, most of them former junk peddlers, and their refurbished presses, shapers and grinders kept the factories humming." As factories moved out of the area and fax machines and the Internet connected buyers and sellers, a central location of machinery was no longer needed.

The Machinery Exchange, opened in 1927, was not the building's first occupant. The Baxter St. building was erected in 1915 as a stable for the Police Headquarters on Centre St. Today it is called the 136 Baxter Condominiums, but some of the barely-legible Exchange signage remains.

<strong>Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow St.</strong>

Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow St.

In the late 19th century, the Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society was one of many landsmanschaftn, organizations that provided medical and financial help to Jewish immigrants from a specific hometown – in this case, Kletsk, Poland. The Lower East Side notes, "At its humblest, the landsmanshaft was simply an association of people from the old town who could provide the lonely immigrant with moral support, and perhaps with modest funds to take care of such stark necessities as medical care or burial. More prosperous associations could help struggling businessmen get started, or even build their own synagogues or gathering places."

The building was sold in 1911 and since 1930 a series of funeral homes have occupied the ornate building. Today Boe Fook Funeral Home serves the Chinese community there.

<STRONG>Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A</STRONG>

Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A

For decades, Ave. A was the destination to shop for baby carriages, strollers, cribs and toys. Ben's Juvenile Mart (87 Ave. A) and Schachter's Babyland (81 Ave. A), with its kiddie horse ride in front, were a few doors apart. Schneider's Juvenile Furniture (20 Ave. A) on the corner of 2nd St. was the last to leave the neighborhood in 2004.

Across Ave. A from Schneider's was another kids store whose name is unknown. Its gilded glass signs advertising children's dresses and suits, underwear and "novelties" remained hidden for decades until they were discovered in 2016 by the owners of 2A Bar. "We were simply doing routine renovations on the façade of the building to fix our windows," says Laura McCarthy, co-owner of 2A since 1984. "Lo and behold, we found these signs hiding out for decades upon decades underneath."

<strong>Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A</strong>

Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A

McCarthy found that one of the six original panes was missing. Local artist and patron Lisa Barnstone created a replacement that reads "2A Bar." "She was able to beautifully replicate the missing plate in the same style and font as the originals and it blends right in," says McCarthy. The bar features a small gallery of historical photos of the corner storefront that includes its past life as a dentist's office.

<strong>Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery</strong>

Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery

The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors notes that "by 1890 it was estimated that 9,000 homeless men, many of them alcoholics or gambling addicts, found lodging in Bowery flophouses. Accommodations could be a person-sized spot to flop on a wooden floor in a large open ward for five cents or a wooden cubicle about four-feet-by-seven for 15 cents."

The Alabama House was built in 1889 to fill that need. Daytonian in Manhattan provides an exhaustive account of the “loafers, lounge lizards, dancing men and kindred Broadway and Bowery folk" who flopped at the Alabama. A faded ghost sign for the hotel is visible on the north side of the building.

<strong>Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery</strong>

Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery

By the end of the 20th century, the Bowery's Skid Row was replaced by the Restaurant Supply District. Chair-Up, a supplier of chairs, stools and tables, moved into the storefront in 1984 and covered the façade with huge signs. When Chair-Up moved to Delancey St., the removal of its awning revealed painted glass signs that advertise coffee urns, steam tables and other restaurant supplies. By their age, the signs may have been for Advance Kitchen, Chair-Up's predecessor.

<strong>Witty Brothers, 50-52 Eldridge St.</strong>

Witty Brothers, 50-52 Eldridge St.

In 1939 the Witty family – four brothers and a cousin – took over the Lower East Side clothing shop founded by their grandfather in 1888. Witty Brothers became a chain of six stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn that sold high quality men's wear. The eight-story Eldridge St. manufacturing plant employed 400 people, according to Distinguished Jews of America. Witty Brothers was acquired by Eagle Clothes in 1962. Infamous New York notes that when notorious mobster Monk Eastman was found shot to death on 14th St. and 4th Ave. in 1920, detectives found a Witty Brothers tag inside his jacket. The tag read, "E. Eastman, October 22, 1919—No 17,434—W.B.” After the murder, Henry Witty told the New York Tribune, “Monk Eastman, the old time gang leader … we have made clothes for him for 19 years. The last suit we made for him was delivered Oct. 21, this year.”

<strong>Martin Albert Custom Draperies, 288 Grand St.</strong>

Martin Albert Custom Draperies, 288 Grand St.

In 1980 friends Al Harary and Martin Zeliger founded Martin Albert Custom Decorators at 288 Grand St. The custom drapery store had a small upholstery business around the corner on Eldridge St. "On Sundays you couldn't move on that street," says Harary. "We had a guard at the door, we couldn't let everybody in at one time."

Its two-story sign, with a bold red arrow pointing to the storefront, was painted a year or two after the store opened. "We're looking at about $300 to paint the sign and considering how they designed the lettering [laughs] it was a little rough. I think it was a guy with a scaffold. We didn't have money for sign painters. A year or two ago somebody painted over the sign so it wouldn't disappear from the world. Kind of an amateur restoration."

Martin Albert Interiors moved to 19th St. in 1993. In 2012 Martin Albert moved to 257 W. 39th St., where today it creates custom interior designs and upholstery that have appeared on the Today show, Saturday Night Live and Sex and the City.

<STRONG>First Roumanian-American Congregation, 89-93 Rivington St.</STRONG>

First Roumanian-American Congregation, 89-93 Rivington St.

The First Roumanian-American Congregation, a synagogue built more than 150 years ago, was known as the "Cantor's Carnegie Hall" for the acoustics created by its high ceiling. The synagogue was torn down in 2006 after its roof collapsed but its entrance's ghost sign remains. According to At the Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, Jacob Pincus – who would go on to achieve fame as opera star Jan Peerce – was one of many cantors "drawn by the synagogue's magnificent acoustics … entertainers Eddie Cantor and Red Buttons were in the congregation's choir. George Burns was a member … Edward G. Robinson lived on Broome St. for a while and celebrated his bar mitzvah" at the synagogue.

<strong>Max Feinberg, 86 Orchard St.</strong>

Max Feinberg, 86 Orchard St.

Pushcarts dominated the streets of the Lower East Side before they were banned in the 1930s but local businessman Max Feinberg thought big. Feinberg bought the building at 86 Orchard St. in 1928 and established his clothing business on the street still famous for its storefront merchants.

"Feinberg provided ready-to-wear children’s clothing, and sold them at wholesale prices on the ground floor of his building, while holding his office on the 2nd floor and storage on the 3rd," notes the Tenement Museum.

<strong>BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.</strong>

BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.

Paul Devitt converted the venerable salon into a bar in 1995 and the concept has spread across the U.S. Beauty Bar customers can sit under the salon's original hair dryers and enjoy a manicure with their martinis.

<strong>BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.</strong>

BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.

Though the retro signage at the Beauty Bar seems authentic, its design is based on the original signs of the Thomas Beauty Salon, a 14th Street fixture for 40 years. "We had the original signage for a few years, but had to replace them with similar style signage, due to damage and age," explains Michael Stewart, managing partner of the "beauty saloon." "The only original sign is the one inside the display window."

Photos by Frank Mastropolo

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City Seeks to Streamline Landmarking Process, But Public Doesn’t Want to Be Shut Out

(Sign provided by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission wants to speed up its approval of certain building modifications by eliminating public hearings, but preservationists argued yesterday that the move would silence New Yorkers concerned about the historic fabric of their neighborhoods. At a hearing replete with criticism, pleas, hissing, and head-shaking, the crowd spilled out into the hall, brandishing signs that read KEEP YOUR PRESERVATION HATS ON and DON’T CUT THE PUBLIC OUT OF THE PROCESS. Keep Reading »

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UFO Cults, Modern Vaudeville, and More Performance Picks

WEDNESDAY

(image via Wondershow / Eventbrite)

Wondershow
Wednesday, March 28 at Lot 45, 7 pm: $25

When you think of vaudeville, you may imagine charismatic and fast-talking magicians, jokesters, and other memorable figures circa hundreds of years ago. Though it had its heyday in the past, this type of vaudevillian evening is far from extinct, and you can find it tonight in the form of Wondershow, a night helmed by mentalist Eric Walton. In addition to mind-melting tricks from Walton himself, you can also see “elegant sleight of hand” from Alex Boyce, dancing from Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies, and comedic experiences from Jonathan Burns and Harrison Greenbaum. Time Out called this show “professional mindfuckery,” so provided that’s what you’re into and consent is obtained, I assume you shall be in for a treat. Keep Reading »

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The Canadian New Yorker’s Dilemma: Am I a Yankees Fan or a Mets Fan?

As a baseball-loving Canadian living in New York, the 2018 MLB season presents me with an important question: should I root for the Yankees or Mets? This may seem innocuous, but for most sports fans, having a favorite team is an important part of their personal identity. As such, I don’t take this responsibility lightly. The process will involve digging into the deepest and darkest recesses of my history, to figure out which of the two New York ball clubs is worth my love and devotion. It’s like my own little version of the Subway Series. Shall we?

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Samesa, Flower Power and More Will Join Essex Street Market at New Location

Rendering of the future Essex Street Market.

Essex Street Market today named some of the vendors that will join the market when it moves to its new home in the Essex Crossing complex. Among them: Samesa, the popular Middle Eastern takeout spot with a location in Williamsburg, and Flower Power Herbs and Roots, a longstanding East Village herbal apothecary. Also in the mix will be Saffron, a Fort Greene florist, and Josephine’s Feast!, a regular at the Union Square Greenmarket.

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Williamsburg’s Dime Savings Bank Is a Newly Minted Landmark

(Photo via CharneyConstruction.com)

Williamsburg’s Dime Savings Bank has been declared a New York City landmark. The unanimous vote at a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing today was cast two weeks after a public hearing in which the historical designation was supported by individuals such as the property owner and City Council member Antonio Reynoso. As an LPC staff member noted, the building’s elegant design along with the history associated with Williamsburg’s historic financial center were significant reasons to justify the building as a landmark.  Keep Reading »

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‘Downtown Was My Heaven’: Generations of Performers Revisit Club 57

L-R: Holly Hughes, Moe Angelos, Martha Wilson, Carmelita Tropicana (photo: Cassidy Dawn Graves)

Last Thursday, the theater at MoMA went back to the 20th century when Performing Difference: Gender in the 1980s Downtown Scene, a day of panel discussions presented in conjunction with the exhibit “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.”, took over one of the museum’s spacious screening rooms.

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O Canada or NO Canada? A Canuck Reviews Quebec-Inspired Bar UpNorth

(Photos courtesy of UpNorth)

A new Canadian-themed bar and restaurant just opened near the Bushwick-Ridgewood border. It’s called UpNorth, and features the unlikely combination of poutine and cocktails. Along with Thomas Wilson, who provides the cocktail expertise, the concept is brought to you by Harold and Marcel Simoneau, two French Canadian brothers who hail from Rimouski, Quebec, and own Noorman’s Kil in Williamsburg. As the only Canadian working for Bedford + Bowery, I was asked to visit UpNorth and evaluate its “Canadianess.” This, of course, was no easy task. It involved rigorous taste testing and drink drinking, but the result is a strangely scientific rating system that will help you, the consumer, decide how to spend your hard-earned cash. Here we go!

Decor
The wooden motif of a ski chalet has been cross-bred with the polished elegance of an upscale cocktail lounge. There are two wall-mounted ram’s heads, dark handwoven blankets hanging from the wall, a bar made of solid ambrosia maple, and tables with whitewashed pine cladding. UpNorth is a tasteful homage to the homeland, even if it’s lacking in traditional Canadian iconography (read: hockey paraphernalia).
Rating: 8 Drakes out of 10

Atmosphere
When I arrived at UpNorth on Saturday at 5:30pm, there were six patrons, other than me and my date. The manager told me that things start to liven up around 8pm. For now, the room is tranquil, except for music humming from the speakers. They play mostly 60s and 70s classic rock (The Stones, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits), which creates the typical ambiance of a Northern watering hole. Most Canadian bars have beer-stained floors and blaring 40-inch TVs. UpNorth doesn’t, thank god.
Rating: 6 jars of maple syrup out of 10 (before 8pm)

Food and Drink
I ordered the large Deluxe Poutine ($12) which is tender bits of smoked meat, cheese curds, onions, and mushrooms slathered in gravy, atop a bed of French fries. Poutine is usually served out of food trucks and in walk-up restaurants, the perfect eats for a drunkard stumbling home from the bar. The appeal of UpNorth, I think, is that you can eat poutine while getting drunk at the bar.  To drink, I ordered a Molson Canadian ($6). My date ordered a small vegetarian poutine ($9), which is a similar dish with porcini gravy. Her Rose is a Rose cocktail ($14) was made with Dillon’s Rose Gin, cucumber, elderflower, pomegranate, and soda. The whole thing cost $46, and I tipped $8 (because my date was watching).
Rating: 10 Wayne Gretzkys out of 10

Extras
The most nostalgic part of the experience was the selection of Canadian chocolate bars. They serve Aero, Caramilk, Crunchie, Coffee Crisp, and other chocolatey treats you’ve probably never seen before. I hadn’t seen that combo of candy since Halloween ’06, when I splayed my loot bag all over the living room floor for inspection. The WIFI password is “ilovepoutine,” if you happen to live next door to UpNorth and can’t afford your own. And the bartender, who is from Connecticut, which is not in Canada, did look vaguely like Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rush.
Rating: 8 Kid Rocks out of 10 (he’s not actually Canadian but that would be quite the twist!)

UpNorth, 17 Wyckoff Ave., 718-456-1700; open Mon-Fri, 4pm to 4am, and Sat-Sun, 2pm to 4am (brunch coming soon).

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Art This Week: Developer Trays and Stylized Selfhood

(image via Elizabeth Houston Gallery)

Developer Trays
Opening Wednesday, March 28 at Elizabeth Houston Gallery, 7 pm to 9 pm. On view through May 5.

Though digital photography (whether on fancy DSLRs or iPhones with portrait mode) is inarguably king today, there are still people out there shooting film. Though not quite a relic yet, the chemical-laden process of developing and printing your own film in a darkroom is something many people may not understand or even be aware of. One of the key components of doing this is laying the soon-to-be photograph in a tray filled with developer chemicals, which steadily brings the photo to life. Artist John Cyr, a photographer and printer himself, has latched onto the developer tray as an integral object to the working photographer. His images, portraying developer trays that belonged to notable and unknown photographers alike, cast these practical objects in a light usually reserved for more “important”-seeming items. Their unique textures, stains, colors, and designs documented for posterity illuminate film development as a historically-significant art practice in itself. Keep Reading »