March 29th, 2010
La Mexicana, at 638 Broadway, is one of at least two Mexican-American grocers in the city. As such, it’s not really a one-of-a-kind retailer, but, as a representative of Midtown, it does sell numerous one-of-a-kind items. If you haven’t been to Oaxaca, no need to board a jet: just check out La Mexicana’s shelves, which include beautifully crafted straw bags, tortilla baskets, blankets, shawls and clay pots and a wide range of CDs playing salsa, banda and other south of the border musical styles.
The family business, which is owned by Aldegundo and Laura Juarez, sells queso Oaxaca, a large ball of white cheese similar to mozzarella. For a change of taste, check out the fruit sodas, aloe verde drinks, and coconut waters, some of which are relatively low calorie, when the weather gets warm. Raw cane sugar is sold in packets, large cans of hominy are excellent for soup, and Abuelita is chocolate in a can, that’s dissolved in milk in Mexico for the traditional breakfast drink. Small plastic bags of spices include flax seeds, $1.99 each, which are a healthy addition to fruit and yogurt, and cacao beans. On occasion, homemade goodies, such as coconut sweets and rice putting, are for sale.
March 29th, 2010
Blue-Byrd’s Haberdashery & Music, at 297 Wall, opened in 1992 in the Rondout before moving to Uptown in 2005. Owners John Blue and Maureen Byrd were looking to open a family business, and since Blue was unable to find decent hats in the area—he’d always worn one, first growing up on a farm, and then in college to attract the girls—they decided on the haberdashery. Besides pork pies, fedoras, and stingy brims—perennial favorites–they also sell leather caps from the Australia Outback, summer panama hats, and handcrafted hats from Nigeria. Prices range from $25 to $51, with higher-end fur felts priced from $150 to $190.
The store also sells walking sticks–“a tribute to Dr. John,” Blue said—harmonicas, calendars, suspenders, performer’s shirts (including Charlie Sheen bowling shirts), and of course, blues CDs. While the Internet has led to a decline in those sales, Blue said his resources and knowledge of the genre give him an edge over the Web. “I have a catalog of probably 1,500 different blues artists and collections,” he said. “I’m a special order guy who can get you what you want as long as it’s still in print, or used.” He’s also starting to stock vinyl recordings for collectors. Not surprising, the store’s clientele includes a number of noteworthy musicians, “We are still the neighborhood music shop people grew up with, “said Blue.
Blue, who has a full-time job with the New York State Office for Children and Family Services, is in the store on Saturdays. He credits his wife, Maureen Byrd, who presides during the week, with running the business. Blue also steams, cleans, and reblocks hats as a side line. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 to 5:30 and on Saturday from 11 to 5.
March 29th, 2010
Ed Butler opened Wright Gallery Vinyl Record Store, at 50 North Front Street, four years ago, attracting customers solely by word of mouth. He currently stocks more than 20,000 records, which are priced from $1 up to $150 (that’s for a 1952 10-inch disk featuring jazz saxophonist Allen Eager). He also sells $40 brand-new reissues on vinyl. College kids buy his records because they want to play the music, while collectors in search of a first pressing just want to have the record.
Entering his store is like traveling down memory lane, with at least one of your favorite albums likely peeping out of the rows of cardboard boxes. Butler, who formerly ran a gallery in the store, does rotating themed displays of record covers (current theme: dance records). Also adorning the walls is a cover with a fetching photo of Edith Piaf, the album cover for Godz (an early art rock band), an early Johnny Cash album, and a cover for Tex Larabey, pasted with a photo of his tombstone.
When Butler still had the gallery, he did a show of album covers, borrowing records from friends. On the opening night, he set up a table, started selling albums, and the rest is history. Butler also plays guitar, and the jam sessions that used to happen in the back of his store led to the building of a recording studio. He now records musicians in the facility and also fixes guitar amps. Wright Gallery Vinyl Record Stores is open from 10 to 5:30 Monday through Saturday.
50 N. Front Street
Kingston NY 12401
March 29th, 2010
Pirate Upholstery just opened at 25 Broadway moving from its uptown location to the Rondout. Besides a sewing machine, bits and pieces of seats, and a test seat rigged up on a sawhorse, there’s some cool stuff to peruse, including owner Jay Teske’s 1962 blue Vespa—his first—and a snazzy Triumph, plus vintage photos of his in-laws scooting around in Israel.
Pirate Upholstery specializes in custom motorcycle and Vespa leather and vinyl seats, but it also does a lot more: Teske, a former tattoo artist from Staten Island, does leather tooling and makes handsome leather bags that fit on the back of a motorcycle (or a bike, for that matter). He also repairs briefcases and purses and can fabricate just about anything in leather.
The motorcycle seats average around $300 and are fashioned from memory foam, a material designed for NASA that conforms to and supports the body. Teske, who works with Vespa dealers from all over the country, gets most of his customers from the tri-state area. However, in the short time he’s been open he’s already gotten some walk-ins. He’s open from nine to five Monday through Fridays and does appointments.
Teske and his wife bought the building on lower Broadway and plan to move in upstairs once renovations are complete. “I love it here already,” he said. ‘I’ve met every business owner on my side of Broadway, and everyone’s really nice.” Teske and his wife left the city in 2007 and opened a shop in New Paltz. However, they missed city living, and so moved to Kingston a year and a half ago. Kingston’s walkability and relatively stress-free lifestyle, compared to NYC, make it the perfect place, said Teske.
Pirate Upholstery - 25 Broadway – (718) 909-0764 Info@pirateupholstery.com