The 2019 Gotham Independent Film Awards arrive at a critical moment in awards season. Predating most of the major awards, they provide a clue into which indies are on the industry’s radar. But more importantly, Monday night’s ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street highlighted a selection of excellent titles — from indie gems such as The Farewell and Waves to mainstream favorites like Hustlers. More →
Over the years, B+B contributor Frank Mastropolo has brought us a series on Lower Manhattan’s ghost signs; painted on walls or erected in metal or neon, ghost signs are relics of businesses that vanished long ago.
Schiffer Publishing has just released Mastropolo’s new book, “Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York’s Past.” With photos of more than 100 signs, the book reveals the stories behind the old ads.
Click through the slideshow to see ten additional ghost signs recently spotted.
R&L Restaurant, 69 Gansevoort Street
R&L Lunch opened in 1938, serving the butchers and longshoremen in the Meatpacking District. In 1955, the eatery was renamed R&L Restaurant. Florent opened in the space in 1985 at a time, the New York Times noted, that the neighborhood hosted “a brand of debauchery that had little in common with the sleek corporate offerings that define the neighborhood today.” Florent closed in 2008 and later R&L became a retail space.
Waverly Smoke Shop, 29 Waverly Place
The Waverly Smoke Shop, across the street from New York University, opened in the 1940s and for decades sold cigarettes, candy, newspapers and NYU gear. Shop owners Mel and Jerry Goldstein were perplexed, the New York Daily News reported in 1991, when they were deluged with requests for NYU tank tops. Fans were trying to emulate Ellen Barkin, who wore the shirt in a scene from the film Switch. When Oren’s Daily Roast closed this year, the smoke shop’s sign was revealed.
Ramon, 201 West Eleventh Street
Ramon Hair Design was a Greenwich Village salon in the 1980s. When Two Boots West Village closed for renovations in 2019, workers removed its signage to reveal Ramon’s ghost sign.
S. Klein, 68 Clinton Street
The flagship of the S. Klein department store chain was open on Union Square from about 1912–1975. S. Klein was founded in 1905 and had other stores in New York and New Jersey. This ghost sign, embedded in the floor at the entrance of the Pig & Khao restaurant, may be the last evidence of the stores in Manhattan.
S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer, 317 East Fifth Street
The retail space down a few steps in the East Village was a bar and grill from at least the 1940s until the 1980s. S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer is apparently a much older tenant, though little is remembered about it. Its ghost sign was revealed during renovations in 2019.
Foot Gear Plus, 131 First Avenue
Foot Gear Plus opened in the East Village in 1980. Owner Tony Scifo told EV Grieve why he decided to close in 2019. “After several years of peaks and valleys in business there were just too many valleys . . . We offered great merchandise and great service — no gimmicks. But we just can’t compete with online.”
Foot Gear’s original sign was revealed by workers in 2019 as the site was being cleared.
Nathaniel Fisher & Co., 146 Duane Street
In the 1880s Duane Street and West Broadway was a neighborhood of shoe manufacturers and dealers. One of the most enduring was Nathaniel Fisher, a manufacturer and importer of shoes and boots. Its founder moved here in the late 1800s and remained at the address until 1953.
Craig’s Shoes, 114 Chambers Street
Craig’s Shoes in Tribeca opened in 1949. Before it closed in 2006, the New York Times noted some of its famous customers. “Senator Charles E. Schumer has picked up Rockport Dressports for $100. And the actor Robert De Niro once sent an autographed picture after an assistant bought shoes for him there.” Renovations in 2019 revealed Craig’s ghost sign.
The Yipster Times, 9 Bleecker Street
The Yipster Times was the house organ of the Yippies, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin’s anti-war protest group. Founded by Dana Beal in 1972, the newspaper was published sporadically from 1972 to 1979, when its name was changed to Overthrow. Its small staff wrote and edited the paper in a three-story building that served as newsroom, office, dormitory and meeting hall for East Village activists.
Whalebone, 161 Duane Street
While this Whalebone ghost sign in Tribeca has been repainted, it is authentic. The Tribeca Citizen explains that in the second half of the 20th century, the bones of whales were used in corsets, hoop skirts and buggy whips. George Messmann opened the Pacific Whale Company here in 1890. He later told a reporter, “I had that sign painted large and white because I learned as a mere lad that advertising pays.”
As the whale population was decimated and fashions changed, the whale bone industry collapsed. Messmann closed his store in 1920.
Photos by Frank Mastropolo unless noted.
Pete’s Candy Store opened in Williamsburg on December 1st, 1999. It’s almost unbelievable that it would still be open, 20 years later, considering the trajectory of the neighborhood over the ensuing era. Pete’s stage has welcomed a laundry list of now-famous musicians and writers, while becoming home base for a rotating yet loyal pastiche of social cliques. More →
If gorging on turkey, stuffing and canned cranberry sauce doesn’t sound like a good time and you wouldn’t be caught dead at the Macy’s parade, you might be anti-Thanksgiving. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do in the city that don’t involve gluttonous food consumption or having awkward conversations with distant relatives. If you’re stuck in the city for the fourth Thursday of the month, here are some alternative events to check out. More →
Last week Elon Musk revealed the apparent result of that weed he smoked on the Joe Rogan podcast: the Tesla cybertruck, a retrofuturistic wedge that’s made of dent-proof stainless steel and supposedly shatterproof glass— in case Alec Baldwin ever steps to you over a parking spot. More →
If you text teen pop star Chloe Grace Baker, a.k.a Baker Grace, you’ll probably wait for a reply for three to five business days. The 19-year-old songstress isn’t a fan of technology, or the way social media is being relied on in this digital age. Instead of fawning over Instagram likes and Facebook friends, Baker is using her music to flip the script on how social media is used. More →
Parked under a bridge in Queens is a white Mercedes Sprinter van. On the outside it looks like any other car; maybe you notice the solar panels on top, or the windows blocked with insulation. But on the inside is Nathan Staiger’s entire life. Staiger, 30, goes to school, rock climbs and sleeps in his van. Some may think he’s homeless, climbers may think he’s awesome, but Staiger and a small community of other vandwellers in the city are carrying a torch that has a deep history in climbing and other outdoor sports. More →
The long-awaited Market Line has officially opened, adding 31 new vendors to Essex Market for a total of 71. With new booths from LES legends like Nom Wah, The Pickle Guys and Essex Pearl, this is now the largest market in New York, on par with enormous ones around the world. What’s more, about 50 percent of the vendors come from the Lower East Side, and only two are from outside New York. There aren’t any chains, and just under 80 percent of the stores are immigrant-, woman- or minority-owned businesses. More →
If you’re starting to panic about how many plastic straws you’re using on a daily basis to fuel that iced-coffee addiction, you’ll no longer have to trek all the way to Brooklyn for eco-friendly reusables. Starting this week, Williamsburg’s Package Free shop is taking Manhattan from trashy to tasteful with a Chelsea Market outpost.
Package Free Shop Chelsea Market is 300 square feet of goods that are good for the earth. The design of the store is in line with Package Free’s zero-waste model, too—all of the shelving and modular, reusable furniture was handmade by Josh Colon using sustainable wood.
“We designed everything for what happens in the future,” said Package Free CEO Lauren Singer. “So if we wanted to move locations everything is totally reusable or it could go in someone’s house.”
Other touches in the store include a locally-made arrangement of wheat and decorative items from Singer’s own home. “I wanted to make this store really cozy and really homey, and mix old and new to make it warm and have a bit of a more vintage feel,” said Singer.
The new location’s opening comes shortly after Package Free announced that a $4.5 million investment would allow it to scale its operations. The store wasn’t funded by the venture capital, though, speaking to Singer’s sustainability-focused financial model and the rise in demand for sustainable products.
“Even if we hadn’t taken on venture capital, we would have been able to support it with cash flow,” she said. “I’m very much still flexing my muscles of bootstrapping and only spending money I absolutely have to spend.”
Package Free came to be through Lauren Singer’s personal blog, Trash is for Tossers, where she shares tips for the eco-conscious consumer. Singer opened a pop-up shop on Grand Street in Williamsburg in 2017, which is now the site of Package Free’s flagship store. With the help of online marketing, Package Free has grown from a little-known startup to a major player in the zero-waste movement.
The eco brand prides itself on waste diversion across both the store locations and the e-commerce site. Package Free says it has diverted over 75 million units of trash (including plastic bags, water bottles, straws, coffee cups and disposable razors) since its 2017 launch by making its plastic-free products more accessible.
The sustainability movement is flourishing in the city. Brooklyn-based Precycle and The Wally Shop have continued to scale up their offerings of local, package and plastic-free grocery items, while clothing retailers Zero Waste Daniel and Everlane are bringing radical transparency and waste reduction to the fashion industry.
The Chelsea Market location is another way for Package Free to expand its mission of making sustainable products more accessible in New York. Singer said that she hopes more people will visit the store since the new location is off the L, A, C and E trains as well as the highway. She also wants to educate tourists visiting Chelsea Market about the zero-waste movement.
“Around six million people walk through Chelsea Market every year,” said Singer. “So being able to let that many people know that you can reduce your waste and have a more positive environmental impact is a huge opportunity to align with our mission and help make the world less trashy.”
Package Free Shop Chelsea Market is located at 75 9th Avenue and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“The toilet is a spiritual room, a place to cherish and rejoice… When you open the toilet door, it’s not the toilet inside, it’s your future.” More →