Dollar slices, bodega sandwiches, and dumpling deals quickly become dietary stalwarts of any New Yorker on a budget, which is about 99 percent of us. The eternal quest for cheap eats isn’t just about saving cash– it doubles as a way to explore the city. For Josh Olley, Jarod Taber and Marki Becker, founders of Wash & Fold NYC, their favorite dumpling spot is also a creative salon, where they’ve hatched several ideas, including a curated show opening tonight at their local, North Dumpling in Chinatown.
“I was super inspired by Todd Jordan’s ‘Spring Cleaning’ show that happened two years back in an old laundry joint, featuring photographers Larry Clark and Gosha Rubchinskiy,” said Taber. “We strolled into North one day for a round of dumplings—pretty standard lunch for the two of us—and it all literally clicked when we sat down.”
Taber, along with Olley and Becker, built the show around the idea of their “staples,” with a shared love of cheap dumplings being the impetus. Olley lived near the dumpling spot. It was part of his daily routine, sometimes twice a day, but it was more than the food that made him a regular. “It was a place I could afford to eat and see familiar faces,” Olley said. “I might not have known all of the people personally but just seeing the same people gave me a sense of comfort when not knowing many people in NYC.”
Both Taber and Olley came to New York from the West Coast, where they grew up entrenched in the skate scene, which also drew them to Chinatown. Taber specifically mentioned the casual, unpretentious vibe of local shop Labor as another neighborhood meet up/people watching spot. Though it’s experiencing the facelift the entire city’s been undergoing for almost two decades, Taber feels that Chinatown remains an affordable enclave for creative types, with enough character to feel authentic.
“There are hidden galleries, great little restaurants, classic skate spots, and inspiring people all over the place, which make the area really special,” he said. “I don’t take it for granted at all—I just try to stay on the skirts and appreciate it from an observers perspective.”
That appreciation will be on display at North Dumpling tonight, in a multi-disciplinary show, where art will be hung on the walls, placed on tables, and even on the fridge. The idea wasn’t to try to make getting dumplings something heady, but rather to pay homage to the coziness and accessibility that North symbolizes to the curators. The idea was to highlight the space as much as the art housed in it tonight.
Still, as much as the show is about community and comfort, Taber is still looking for his true NYC staple. “I grew up in a really small town just outside of Santa Barbara. Our local liquor store, Copenhagen Liquor, was the spot where all of my friends and I would gather before skate sessions and ask the local elders to buy us cigarettes. The gentleman that operated the counter each day, would give my mom ‘intel’ on the things that he overheard my friends and I doing/saying. I’m still looking for the Copenhagen liquor of NYC.”