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After Nearly 40 Years in the Subway, a Flower Man Stops Peddling

(Photos: Jo Corona)

Since his early twenties, Peter Tsoumas would open his flower kiosk with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the Greek-American newspaper Ekirikas in the other. A man with a gruff countenance belying a winsome personality, Tsoumas started his business in the late 1960s in Jamaica, Queens, but in 1980 the MTA leased him a nook in the 1st Ave L train station and he has remained there ever since.

“I came in young and I leave an old man,” he told Bedford + Bowery on Monday. After almost half a century of selling flowers to rushing New Yorkers, the Greek native is retiring. Friday will be his last day.

One of his daughters wanted to make a Friday reservation for dinner at Kyclades, the Greek tavern just outside of the train station, to celebrate the date. But Tsoumas said no. “I don’t want my kids to spend money on me. Also, Friday my head is going to be like this,” he said, making a gesture as if it was exploding. He has already started cleaning the shelves from his corner kiosk and the void of the missing objects has been hard on him. As the flowers surrounding him dwindle in numbers—his last purchase was at the beginning of the week—Tsoumas was left reflecting on his memories and his life decisions.

Peter was born Periklís Tsoumas in March of 1948 in the idyllic Western Greek coastal town of Nafpaktos, where young people live a “beautiful life,” in his words, and where Greek mythology says descendants of Hercules built a fleet to invade the Peloponnese.

When he was seven years old, young Tsoumas picked up a book about the US and later that night summarily decided he was going to go to America. His father thought his son had gone mad, but Tsoumas just said, “Yes, I read a book, it says so many nice things.” And so when he turned 20, he traveled to New York. The year of his arrival, he opened the first store in Jamaica and soon after that married his wife, also of Greek descent. “Thank god, I’m happy,” he said.

Although the imminent shutdown of the L train station would have forced Tsoumas to close his shop anyway, he thinks the train repairs came at the right time. “My energy is no good no more,” he said with his heavy Greek accent. “I can’t do it no more, I’m tired.”

Tsoumas remembered that when he first started his business, flower concessions such as Gus Florist, Flowers for all Occasions populated the train stations in the city. Regular folk bought flowers everyday; they “needed” the flowers, he said. Fridays was a particularly good sales day, as were the long dreary days of winter. But now, the money was to be found doing flower arrangements for weddings, funerals or parties, “nothing else.” Tsoumas bemoaned that young people don’t “believe” in flowers anymore and the big retail companies are snuffing out small tradesmen with their wholesale prices.

As we spoke, an elderly woman with big eyes approached the stand and rested her cane against one of the station’s columns as she gazed at the bouquets. Tsoumas came out from behind the flowers and told her he wouldn’t be there next week. “I have bad news, I’m leaving. I’m retiring,” he said, leaning briefly into her.

“Oh, congratulations!” the woman replied and patted him gently on the chest.

“Thank you so much, I appreciate it,” he said.

The gray-haired woman said that she had known Tsoumas for at least 20 years and that whenever she visited the neighborhood she would get flowers from him. She wished him good luck and reminded him to keep doing “something” after retirement.

He nodded, smiling. That is a fear he has: stopping. “If I make it past the first six months I have a long life ahead of me,” he said, sitting back on his black and metal stool. He compared himself to an old car. If you keep it running, it will sputter along. But if you stop the engine, “kaput!” Tsoumas interjected. “But the car goes to the garbage… Me? I go six feet down.”

Cognizant of this, the flower man has his first months of retirement carefully mapped out: on July 6 he travels to his hometown—the place with the long history and crystalline-water beaches. Family members will take turns traveling to meet him at the house he and his wife have there. Tsoumas flies back to New York in September.

The prospect of spending a lot of time with his three granddaughters excites him. “One week, two weeks I stay home and relax. And after that? Tell me,” he asked, shuffling his white tennis shoes back and forth.

He’s thinking that even with the flower concession gone, once a month he might visit the neon-lighted station that provided him with his livelihood so that he can hang around and greet his formerly faithful clientele. One of those customers, a spectacled man clad in elegant wine-colored pants and a vest, approached Tsoumas’ corner.

“Hey Peter, how you feeling, man?” he asked.

“I’m okay,” Tsoumas replied, his squinting face quickly breaking into a beaming smile.

On Friday, Tsoumas will end his professional life giving away whatever flowers he doesn’t sell.

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Turk’s Inn Brings Wisconsin Kitsch (And Music and Food) To Bushwick

(photo: Jeff Brown)

Near the Jefferson L in Bushwick, you can find plenty of big and/or glitzy bars and venues. There’s the ubiquitous House of Yes, burlesque troupe Company XIV’s new-ish theater, party spot Lot 45, and scores of other watering holes of every shape and size. But until now, there hasn’t been anything quite like The Turk’s Inn. Opening this Thursday, the two-level supper club, which also encompasses a separate music venue and kebab shop, is a replica of a shuttered Wisconsin institution of the same name.

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‘Black Power Punk Girls’ Are Turning Brooklyn Into Their Musical Playground

From left: Sivonyia Beckford and Anesia Saunders. (Photos: Mycah Hazel)

A new organization wants to give New Yorkers a safe space– and Soundcloud recommendations. Through their “cozy concerts,” intimate shows featuring local artists, The Black Power Punk Girls promote black female artists in music and film genres where black women are underrepresented, or in genres that are indefinable. Originally based in South Florida, the group held its first Brooklyn event at Williamsburg’s New Women Space this month to a packed house.  

 “It can be a challenge being a black artist and not really relating to mainstream art,” said Sivonyia Beckford, who started the project with best friend and fellow artist Anesia Saunders. Beckford’s own music does not follow a simple formula, ranging from neo-soul, Lion Babe-esque melodies (“11916”) to weighty, sinisterly soulful instrumentals (“Lawless”). “I feel like it’s so important that we have spaces like this so black women don’t feel ostracized just for being themselves. It’s a trend in the entertainment industry and we want to break that mold.”

The Brooklyn cozy concert featured over 10 performers with a variety of styles, such as the production-centered bedroom pop of Philadelphia singer Whomst and the pregame playlist of New York rapper Contraband. Performers played songs released and unreleased. Attendees were also able to wind down over spoken word performances by model and writer Khafeeon Love and by Saunders.


Saunders, who juggles acting, writing and modeling, said it was fulfilling to host “so many different types of artists: people that were rapping, people that have guitars.”

Though firm in its identity as a support system for women trying to enter the music and film industry, the Black Power Punk Girls had a much vaguer mission when it was founded in 2016. Saunders and Beckford created the organization at the University of West Florida, in Pensacola, a town on the “Floribama shore.” The two met after joining the same sorority and formed a special friendship, bonding over their Fort Lauderdale and Jamaican roots.

“Especially going to a school that was predominantly white and almost in Alabama, there was a need to have some sort of safe space,” said Saunders. “The kind of sisterhood that we found as friends, we wanted to share that love and that feeling.”

Saunders and Beckford began by creating the Black Power Punk Girls website in 2016, allowing artists to feature their work on the site. They also used Instagram to share work by black artists like UK-based punk band Nova Twins and Brooklyn-based film producer Octavia Clahar.

They held their first event, called Good Vibe Circle, on January 1, 2017. All were welcome to a serene night of yoga, wine and goal manifesting on Southeast Florida’s Dania Beach.  

“People just really liked how bold the whole idea was,” said Beckford. “They really appreciated the fact that we were going out of our way to make people feel safe. People who have never been in the same room together, people who don’t go out often, people who do.”

The duo gained considerable support from other artists in Pensacola and from groups at the University of West Florida. However, they quickly realized that just being a “safe space” wasn’t going to cut it as a goal.

“It was confusing us moving forward, not having a specific mission,” says Saunders. “So we wanted to do something– what is specific and important to us? What kind of space do we not see that we want to see?”

The mission of promoting black women in music and film came from paying attention not just to the extremely white space around them but to their own experiences as black women in the arts and as black women in South Florida.

“In a lot of ways I was always an outsider when it came to wanting to express myself,” says Beckford, a lover of sci-fi films, thrifting and Sevdaliza. “I was always known as the weird one out of my friend group. Just being expressive and abstract with how I dressed at the time.”

“Rock music was something I listened to a lot growing up,” says Saunders. Paramore holds a special place in her heart. “In middle school especially, that was my genre of choice. I just found myself feeling like I was on the outside in a lot of spaces.”

Saunders attended predominantly white schools from childhood. “I think those things inspired it, cause it was like, ‘I can like rock music and I can be a proud black person,’” she says. “It doesn’t take away from who I am.”

Their experiences not only inspired Black Power Punk Girls’ new focus but also inspired them to move to New York– and bring BPPG with them.

“It was hard to be expressive in [Pensacola] because you were kind of in a way shunned or looked at as if you’re doing too much if you’re trying to express yourself,” says Saunders. “I think it especially had us feeling like, you know, this space was kind of limiting for us being in Pensacola.”  

The duo held their first two BPPG events out of their apartment in Queens before having their first Brooklyn event at the New Women Space.

“The kind of reception that we got the other day of just people saying that they were appreciative of having this space ‘cause otherwise they wouldn’t have, it was very affirming,” says Saunders. “This is needed.”

Since the event, Saunders and Beckford say they already have musicians reaching out to perform at their next show.  

“We never had anything to this extent in Florida,” said Beckford. “We didn’t have the opportunity to find as many black women artists in Florida as we have here.”

As for its future, Black Power Punk Girls says we can definitely expect more events in Brooklyn and throughout the city. They will be hosting Sivonyia’s album release party on June 30th. The location will be on their Instagram. They hope to continue with cozy concerts as well as host film screenings with black women filmmakers. They also want to host events in other cities someday.

“I see Black Power Punk Girls as an all-black-women powerhouse in the future,” says Beckford. “That’s what we’re going for. To really have black women on the ends doing all different artistic ventures and creative things.”    

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Art This Week: Grotesque Femininity and Basquiat’s Travels

Margot Bergman,Bea, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm) (image via Anton Kern Gallery)

Family Album
Opening Wednesday, June 26 at Anton Kern Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through August 16.

Margot Bergman’s paintings draw you in, both with their rich colors and their appeal that’s grotesque, realistic, and dreamlike all at once. It makes sense, then, that she paints “imagined people,” abiding by only the rules of her brain when bringing brush to canvas. A selection of her curious, feminine creations will be on view at Anton Kern Gallery starting this Wednesday; Bergman usually only exhibits paintings, but Family Album will also include an array of “theatrical photographs” taken by the artist, featuring subjects posing with portions of Bergman’s collection of dolls and figurines.

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The 37th Mermaid Parade Was a Sight to Sea

This past weekend marked the longest day of the year–and also the wildest. Sea creatures of all stripes and scales glittered under the Coney Island sun on Saturday as the 37th annual Mermaid Parade made its way down Surf Avenue, with Arlo and Nora Guthrie serving as King and Queen Neptune. Watch our video to see the seahorses, pirates, and the utterly unclassifiable.

Video by Roberto Bosoms.

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Think Strays Are Cute? ‘The Cat Rescuers’ Will Give You Paws

Latonya “Sassee” Walker (images courtesy of “The Cat Rescuers”)

For four years, New York film directors Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence followed cat rescuers as these unsung heroes went about the uphill battle of feeding, adopting, trapping and neutering Brooklyn’s exploding population of street cats. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the resulting documentary, The Cat Rescuers, starts its national theatrical run at the IFC Center on July 5. More →

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After Popping Up in Clubs and Venues, Kichin Opens a Restaurant Of Its Own

(photo: Mary Kang)

If you were near the Marcy J back in 2015, or more recently at music venue Baby’s All Right, you might have eaten food made by the folks at Kichin. You could have taken a rice ball or Korean fried chicken to go, or snacked on homemade curry at a party thrown by the musician Yaeji. Kichin has served at many places, but now they have a storefront of their own again on Myrtle Avenue, steps from the Central M.

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Performance Picks: More Pride Shows and a Comedic Art Opening


(image via Failure A Queer Workshop / Facebook)

Failure Pride: Idols
Thursday, June 20 at Club Cumming, 8 pm: $10

Queer culture is full of idols: pop icons like Madonna and Lady Gaga, classic stars of the stage like Barbra, drag queens of all sorts, activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the list goes on. Plus, we needn’t forget American Idol, which must at least count for something here. Tonight, the recurring performance series Failure: A Queer Workshop, hosted by Ragamuffin, La Llorona, and Le Petit Dumdum, will present a conversation on idols in all their forms, featuring guest performers Cher Noble, Lu Reyes, Agave Lamour, and Jojo Soul.

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Massive Street Art Show Immerses You in a Time Before It Was Selfie Bait

Shepard Fairey

A new exhibition in Williamsburg wants people to know that there’s more to street art than “selfie backdrops”– and it’s taking up a block-long, two-story loft to do so. Beyond the Streets is an exhibition on the history of street art, displaying works new, old and never-before-seen, by street artists and the fellow creatives who were inspired by them. Artists range from New York favorites like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fab 5 Freddy to anonymous and international stars like the Guerilla Girls and Felipe Pantone. More →

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‘Son of an Immigrant’ Packs Up Corner Store That Gave NYC a Taste of Mexico

“Everything I ever had from here was spectacular,” a customer said to Guillaume Guevara, founder and owner of Miscelanea, the East Village corner store that became the go-to place for homesick Mexicans as well as New Yorkers in search of a more contemporary Mexican experience, free of luchador masks and sombreros. But on Tuesday, after a four-year run, it was in its final stretch: closeout sale day.

Guevara, a Mexico City native, thanked the woman as he busily tended to the other customers who, like lost ants, kept streaming into the bodega located on 63 E 4th St. They snatched the remaining $1 and $3 items from the shelves of the 450-square-foot store as they lamented it was closing, all in one beat.

Thirty minutes before locking the doors, Guevara exchanged bills with a customer, took swigs of his Mexican Coke—made with sugar in lieu of corn syrup—and nodded as yet another person expressed their disbelief. “We’ve known for about a month,” he said, probably for the hundredth time. To the inquisitive, he cited the rising costs of rent, payroll, taxes and garbage removal as the main culprits. In recent years, even the price of avocado—which they spread on just about everything—went up.

“But what about you?” the 37-year-old said, flipping the focus back to the customers’ lives. “What do you do?”

He came out from behind the counter to open the near-empty fridge and offer me a refreshment. “It’s on me,” Guevara said, making me choose between glass bottles of luridly-colored Jarritos or a non-alcoholic grape soda called Sangría. My brain jumped back to childhood memories of sipping the fizzy drinks during family vacations in Acapulco or during languid waits at nondescript rural highway stops. I accepted a Sangría.

In strict terms, miscelanea (or miscelánea—with an accent over the á—since we’re speaking in strict terms) translates to miscellaneous. But for anybody raised south of the border, the word is emotionally charged. Misceláneas—delis, corner stores or bodegas—aren’t just the last step of a supply chain, they’re places that are intimately tied to how Mexicans experience food and culture as they go about their daily activities.

In New York City, Miscelanea was the sole purveyor of this market/takeout food experience, Guevara assured. “Even if it’s hard to believe, we were the only miscelánea,” he said, although he agreed he couldn’t be 100 percent sure.

“You can go to Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx and find a store that self-describes as a Mexican corner store. But then you’ll find that the person taking your order is Ecuadorian, the products Venezuelan or Colombian, the food Dominican or Puerto Rican and yes, maybe they sell some authentic chips or Mexican food, but that doesn’t make the place Mexican. Even if it’s hard to believe, a place like that didn’t exist,” he told B+B later over the phone.

Bedford + Bowery, one of many outlets that wrote about the deli’s opening back in 2015, called it “the perfect place to go if you want a bit of Mexico in New York, but can’t handle any more Frida Kahlo meets donkeys meets sombreros meets lone cactus.”

Guevara knew how to make heads turn, offering kids’ sundries side by side with face masks made of Tulum-sourced clay and cookbooks by celebrity Mexican chefs. One time he announced he would give 10 percent of the returns of his hats and beanies brand, Son of an Immigrant, to the ACLU, in support of the nonprofit’s work defending migrants rights. Last year, he started accepting payment in Mexican pesos.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Guevara said. “People always want a reason, they want you to tell them what exactly went wrong. But this isn’t as if I ruined a Rum and Coke drink because I went too hard on the rum. It’s hard to pinpoint what happened.”

In the end, he said, the expenses exceeded the revenue. But he was proud of what Miscelanea accomplished. “There were sales, there were fans, noise, business and all that. I see this as a triumph,” he said. More than 300 reviews on Yelp gave the upmarket grocery a five-star rating.

He also expressed sadness. “For the partners, family, my employees, suppliers, clients; the people who believed in us and who believed in me,” he said on his way to pick up his three-year-old from school. After doing that, he and his wife had a farewell celebration date at Casa Enrique, a Mexican hotspot in Long Island City. “You should go if you haven’t,” he mentioned.

In Miscelanea’s last beating moments, the counter, fridge and wooden shelves displayed a motley assortment of “Mexico is the Shit” jackets, cooking wooden mixers, dried epazote herbs and chillies of the mulato and ancho varieties, traditional Mexican popsicles and other popular sweets, bottled grasshoppers (chapulines), Oaxacan cheese, corn to prepare pozole soup as well as tortilla-ready corn in masa, one lime squeezer, and hats and beanies from Guevara’s Son of an Immigrant brand. A propped-up white book with the serendipitous title Las cosas pasan por algo, o no (Things Happen for a Reason, or Not). A small basket even offered half-a-dozen units of the first aid antibiotic Vitacilina, whose advertising jingleVitacilina… ¡ah qué buena medicina!” was so popular in the country it’s forever engraved in the collective memory of its people.

A woman trailed in and asked about the wooden bench situated at the store’s entrance. On a lucky day, clients would find a spot on the bench to sit and enjoy their tender and juicy meat or scrambled-egg tortas. “Oh, you want it? Take it!” he said, as he wiped it dry from the day’s rain, “I had it custom made.” Guevara sold it for under $20 and helped the woman load it into a van.

The retail entrepreneur has called New York City his home for more than a decade. But now he has plans to fly with his family back to Mexico City, where he hasn’t lived since he was 17. “I went to study in Europe and never returned,” he said, and added, “I want my son to learn Spanish properly.”