15 April 2014

Lost City: Chicago Edition: Hollander Storage

Shiver and cower before the hulking immensity of Hollander Storage in the Logan Square section of Chicago!

Ahem, excuse me: Hollander International Storage and Moving Company, Inc. The enterprise's full name, don't you know. This business was founded in 1888. And, as far as I can tell, this impressive, five-story, brown-brick building was erected around that time period.

The outfit is still in family hands. The website tells us, with due confidence, "Whether you require residential moving, business relocation, long-term storage, or something in between, it's a commitment four generations of the Hollander family has nurtured." Hey, they've got my attention.

14 April 2014

A Good Sign: Parkside Lounge

The Parkside Lounge has been lending beauty, grit and integrity to the corner of E. Houston and Attorney Streets for decades. How they stay in business in this climate, I do not know. The owners must one the one-story building.

11 April 2014

Two Stories of Beauty at Henry and Union

I am quite familiar with the northeast corner of Henry and Union Streets in Carroll Gardens. I've eaten many a slice of pizza there over the years, first at Nino's, a neighborhood institution that closed in 2007, and then at its replacement, the not-dissimilar Francesco's. A recent rent shake-up caused Francesco's to move and reopen in what was once half of its former space, on Henry Street; the other half, on the corner, is empty for the time being.

Going into the new half-Francesco's recently, I spotted on the wall the above photograph, which told me something about the corner's pre-Nino's history. That the area was once occupied by a candy store and a dairy shop of some sort is less interesting to me than the look of the building in this 1940s photo. Today, the two, two-story storefronts attached to those two Henry Street brownstones are covered in nondescript red brick. They are not attractive.

In this photo, however, the two storefronts are just gorgeous. Look at that curbing, long cornice, that immense stretch of plate glass. If I'm not mistaken, there's some stained-glass panes on top of each larger window.

10 April 2014

Lost City: Chicago Edition: The Logan Theatre

The Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, down on its luck for some years but now in the midst of a resurgence, has been robust enough to hold on to its grand old movie house, appropriately named the Logan. It's a bold presence with a large vertical sign climbing up the facade and an old-fashioned marquee and box office, and a lovely stained glass arch outside. Inside, there's a rather spectacular, Art Nouveau, fully stocked bar. I'd go to the theatre just to drink there.

It was opened in 1915 as the Paramount Theater. It had only one screen then, as did many movie houses. In 1922, a family named Vaselopolis took over. It remained in family hands for many years. (Scion Chris Vaselopolis was born in the theatre.) The building enjoyed a thorough renovation in the 1990s. The theatre is now owned by the Mark Fishman, a real estate magnate who bought it in 2010. (Fishman, unfortunately, also owned may apartment buildings in the area and have a rep for jacking up rents. Is suspect Fishman's renovation of the Logan is less altruistic in nature and more about improving the general value of the neighborhood so he can charge higher rents. Still, better to have had the reno done through greed than not at all.)

09 April 2014

Who is Louis Zuflacht?

Louis Zuflacht. What a name. Hard to forget. Especially when it's in large metal letters (formerly lit by neon), in an ostentatious font, on the side of a building.

That's the name that has graced the building at the corner of Suffolk and Stanton Streets for many decades now. A clothier, Zuflacht hasn't done business out of this storefront in a generation or two. But subsequent occupants of the address—either out of deference to the lovely signage, or out of laziness—have left Louis' name up there, ensuring that the former proprietor has not entirely passed from public memory.

I've passed by the sign dozens of times and never bothered to look up his story, though I've always been intrigued. It seems the right time to correct that error since the shop is unoccupied at present (after being everything from an art gallery to a video gamer hangout), so, it could be argued, 154 Stanton Street belongs to Louis Zuflacht more now than in has in many years.

08 April 2014

Lost City: New Brunswick Edition: A Good Sign: Walk Rite Shoes & Shoe Repair

Cute little store on George Street in New Brunswick, NJ. There's another Walk Rite in Newark. A mini-chain? The diner next to this shop isn't a bad joint, either. 

07 April 2014

The Windows of Ben Freedman Gent's Furnishing

When voices like mine bemoan an old business going down, we don't always mourn the event for the same reasons. Some businesses are missed because they are classic purveyors of their type (the Stage Deli, for instance). Some because they are part of the fabric of a particularly neighborhood (the Hat restaurant, or Milady's). Some because they did one special thing better than everyone else (Joe's Superette, with their prosciutto balls). Some because they perform a bygone task that nobody else does anymore (typewriter report, for one). And some just because they are remarkably old (Manganaro Groceria Italiano).

Take Ben Freedman Gent's Furnish, one of the last old-school garment hawkers left on the Lower East Side. It's been there on Orchard since 1927, which makes it pretty old. But it's not a classic. The name Ben Freedman is not normally on the lips of everyday New Yorkers. It is not a famous store, and it does not carry the best clothes in town.

04 April 2014

And So Roseland Ballroom Closes....

Roseland Ballrom, the iconic dancing and concert hall set in what was once the cultural center of the Universe (i.e. Times Square), is set to close April 7.

Roseland did not play a large part in my New York experience, not directly anyway. I have been, in fact, to Roseland a grand total of once. The occasion was an opening night party for a Broadway show opening. I danced. I can say I actually danced at Roseland.

Still, like so many New York landmarks that we take for granted, it did play a kind of contextual role. I often walked by it and thought to myself, yes, I live in a city that contains Roseland, a legendary dance hall and music venue, and has contained it for decades. Thoughts like that, however fleeting, are often what keep you going in New York. As E.B. White repeated often in his famous essay "This Is New York," I "did not attend." But I could have.

03 April 2014

Fifth Avenue Flowers

Blooms on Fifth—Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that is—holds down a nice little storefront. Not an unique one; it's obviously a twin to the building to the right. But, unlike it's neighbor, it's managed to hold on to more of its original two-level storefront.

The store's website doesn't tell you much about the site's history. (What is it with florist websites, by the way? I have noticed over the years that they are uniformly anonymous and nondescript and offer nothing in the way of business history, even when the business is very old.) However, there is a line saying "Blooms on Fifth, Ltd. has been proudly serving the Brooklyn area for over 83 years." At this location? With that very-modern-sounding name? It doesn't say. But there's a chance that Blooms has inhabited the three-story brick structure since the 1930s. There was indeed a florist here in 1965—a gentleman named James Daniel—according to a New York Times account.

02 April 2014

A Memory of Levy's Pizza

Levy's stood at the northeast corner of Delancey and Essex in Manhattan, where Roma Pizza now is, and sold frankfurters, hamburgers, custard and pizza. You could buy a (non-kosher) hot dog and a glass mug of root beer for ten cents. Though the pizza doesn't get the biggest play on the sign, apparently it was something else. A reader recently wrote in:

Levy's pizza was something special, ironic in that a purveyor of a very ordinary pie (Roma) now occupies that location. The Levy pizza was unique in its composition of very thin crust, slightly tangy sauce and relatively light quantity of mozarella. I'd classify it as highly addictive. I lived in the neighborhood but had a friend "hooked on the pizza" who would often travel from midtown to partake of several slices. From my recollection, they served that same recipe from as far back as the '60s into the early '80s at which point they switched over to a more conventional product. Apparently, the Levy slice is something that must remain but a fond memory.