Ronald McDonald House is a very special place that provides a "temporary 'home away from home' for pediatric cancer patients and their families." Having had an apartment, for a short time, just a few doors down from their 73rd Street location, I was aware of the wonderful work that they do. When I mentioned to Sophie, one of our Manhattan Sideways team members, that I wanted to feature them on 73rd, she lit up and shared her close connection to the organization on the West Coast.
Sophie told me that she was honored to visit and help her mother volunteer with her miniature horses at the Los Angeles and Pasadena chapters. "I was immediately won over by their mission, but even more important, by the children themselves. A significant aspect of their programming is to provide children with the opportunity to just be kids, first and foremost. Seeing the kids interact with the miniature horses showed me how much excitement and exuberance these children have. The smiles on the faces of their parents were always equally heart-warming."
Ronald McDonald House New York has been providing care and support to families since 1978. They "coordinate emotional and physical services, psychological care, ministry support, wellness programs, tutors, music, art, transportation, activities for siblings, holiday and birthday parties, and camaraderie for parents struggling with their child's cancer diagnosis." In addition, this particular location has a Greek Division that provides services for families from Greece and Cyprus, Camp Ronald McDonald in the summer, classes in English as a second language, therapy for dogs (Angels on a Leash), and Weird Science, where the kids conduct intriguing and engaging experiments.
Love and care are Ronald McDonald's central tenants. New York has its own set of angels in the way of the volunteers who play a major role in the day to day lives of the children. The Day Team leads afternoon activities and the Evening Team coordinates birthday parties, holidays, and dinners. The volunteer sign up is a major commitment to help provide a sense of normalcy and strength to the children and their families. If interested in volunteering, please visit their website.
Kate Rheinstein Brodsky, the creator of KRB, was immersed in the world of design and retail from a young age. Her mother, Suzanne Rheinstein, is an internationally recognized designer. Ever since Kate was a child, her mom has run Hollyhock, a Los Angeles furniture boutique. "I really loved retail," Kate shared, telling me how she would go to Hollyhock after school and work there over summer breaks. As a teenager, she wanted to open a bookstore, but realized that this might be difficult in the digital age. As a "homebody" and frequent hostess, Kate knew that she enjoyed creating beautiful homes, both for herself and others. As she described it, "I loved the feeling of home, of having a nice place to live in." Ultimately, her passion for retail manifested itself in a career in the design world.Upon graduating from New York University with a degree in art history, Kate worked for Jeffrey Bilhuber, the interior designer. "I love interior design...but I'm not an interior designer," she said. Working for Jeffrey, however, she learned a lot of things that would help her later on in the world of retail. She realized the importance of customer service and doing things "correctly, in a thoughtful manner." Following her time with Jeffrey, she worked at Elle Decor, which taught her discipline and introduced her to new looks. "I was exposed to so many different styles," she explains. "Sometimes you don't know you like something until you see it." Kate has maintained a good relationship with Elle Decor – they recently featured her Upper East Side apartment as part of their "House Tour," which brought a collection of readers, impressed by her style, to Kate's boutique.When I visited KRB, I was taken by the variety of colors, as opposed to the usual browns and golds that dominate antique shops. The salesperson, Fiona, said that adding bold colors to antique pieces is one of Kate's trademarks. She showed me some traditional chairs with bright olive green seats as an example, saying, "Green's a big color for her," before pointing out Kate's love for French opaline. Fiona went on to say that Kate could be inspired by anything. She spoke of a box of old cameos that Kate found. When Fiona inquired, "What are you going to do with those?" Kate answered matter of factly, "I don't know, but I'll figure it out." Kate elaborated, "I like to reinterpret old things." By this, she means both in the pieces, as with the chairs, and in the way they are used. She told me that there are many beautiful finger bowls out there that are no longer used - or at least not as finger bowls. Kate encourages customers to use them in new ways, by putting votive candles in them or a small scoop of strawberry ice cream. "I like taking things out of their original context," she admitted. As another example, she told me about the tric trac tables, tables used to play a precursor to backgammon. The board is so similar to backgammon that the tables have been able to be repurposed."I get very attached to furniture," Kate admitted, likening different pieces to rescue animals. "I want them to have good homes." She realizes, however, that people have different styles and that she may have to wait a while for the right person to come along. She added that although her mother heavily influenced her, the two women do not always see eye to eye on design. "We have our own taste," she said. Despite their differences, the store is still inspired by her mother's extraordinary career. "I always love watching her, how she explains to people how to incorporate beauty into their life."There is the possibility that a third generation of Rheinstein women might enter the world of design. In 2015, Kate was the proud mom of new daughter number three. "I love that my children comprehend what I do," she told me. When they ask her where she is going, she can answer "to the store" and they know exactly where she will be. Owning the boutique means she has a flexible work schedule and can easily spend a lot of time with her children. She specifically opened on the Upper East Side to be near her family – and other families. She wanted to be in a place where people could stumble upon her and buy a housewarming present, rather than in a design-industry-heavy neighborhood. "I just hope I'm on people's path. I encourage them to come look....browsers welcome." As for her daughters and what they think of her boutique, Kate told me that her five-year-old recently told her teacher that when she grows up, she wants to be "a mommy and a shopkeeper."
Mario Guerrero, a black belt, has made a name for himself in the martial arts world for helping at-risk kids by giving them training in discipline, fitness, and hand-eye coordination. He now has studios scattered throughout the city, from Tribeca to the Upper East Side, where children and adults alike can learn kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Mixed Martial Arts. Recently, Krav Maga, a form of Israeli street fighting, has been added to the roster. Modern Martial Arts advertises classes for everyone from "casual fitness seekers to trained, professional fighters." The studio does more than offer classes; however: they also create a community. Mario and his trained teachers offer karate birthday parties, fitness-centered movie nights, and "Parent's Night Out" evening classes for kids.We met with Adam, who was teaching an adult mixed martial arts class. He greeted each of the students who walked in with warmth and humor. Once the class began, the group transitioned from generic fitness exercises to work with punching bags and finally horizontal punching bags where the studio members practiced their "ground pounds." Watching Adam encourage his students to let out a "pshhh" sound each time they hit, I realized that the class was a terrific way to let off steam.
Whenever I step inside Via Quadronno, I feel like I have been lifted out of Manhattan and gently dropped onto a pedestrian street in Italy. The walls are lined with wines and jars of honey, jam, and olive oil. On the day when I descended into the warm, rustic dining area, there was the smell of cappuccino wafting through the air that attracted my senses. It was the owner, Paolo Della Puppa, however, as authentically Italian as his restaurant, who captured my heart.Paolo spoke to me about the history of Via Quadronno, which is intertwined with his own story as well as the social history of the world. He began his career publishing music through his own company, Anyway Music. He went on to sell Anyway to Warner Brothers in 1992. In 1983, Paolo moved to New York while continuing to run the business, but when the conversion rate jumped to 2000 lira for every dollar, he realized he needed to find a new job. Friends encouraged Paolo to speak with Hans Pauli, owner of the recently opened Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue.At this point in his story, Paolo took a moment to explain Hans Pauli's background. I had previously heard a bit of this story, as I had visited Sant Ambroeus on West 4th Street when I first began walking the side streets. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to hear Paolo share what he knew about Hans. He told me that Hans had bought Sant Ambroeus, which originally opened in the fashion district in Milan in 1936 and was regarded as one of the nicest cafes in the city. Apparently, when Hans Pauli became the highest bidder to purchase this Italian icon - all in cash - he created quite a stir. Enthusiastically, Paolo went on to tell me that the reason why Hans had the money was because of his success with Bar Quadronno, the hottest paninoteca in Milan. Paolo, who had owned a discoteca from 1972-1974, explained that paninotecas had become popular because of the social revolution of the 60s. As discotecas became the default entertainment for young people - who now could go out and dance without any dress code or elaborate partner rituals - Italians were looking for grab-and-go food that would fit their lifestyle. Bar Quadronno opened in the late 60s and turned the original Panini, which was traditionally just ham and cheese, into a new food sensation with the help of a man named Giuseppe Tusi. Giuseppe Tusi turned a two-ingredient sandwich into a seven-ingredient masterpiece, using tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, boar’s ham, and countless other traditional Italian foods.Returning to his personal story, Paolo went on to tell me that when he inquired about a position at Sant Ambroeus, Hans simply asked him if he could make a good cup of cappuccino. Paolo replied, “Do I need to show a diploma?” Paolo laughed and declared to me, "any true Italian knows how to make a cappuccino." He then added that Martha Stewart has taped a show in Via Quadronno about how to prepare the perfect cup.Paolo worked at Sant Ambroeus for years before opening Via Quadronno with Hans on 9/9/1999 - “My partner is a little superstitious,” he explained with a grin. Taking the story full circle, he ended by telling me that the two men then brought in Giuseppe to train the Panini chefs, allowing Via Quadronno to churn out the exact paninis that made Bar Quadronno an instant hit in Milan over fifty years ago.Ultimately, Paolo began to fly solo, turning his restaurant into an Upper East Side sensation. He continued to join in other successful ventures in New York, as well as opening a second location of Via Quadronno. Paolo proudly said that even after so many years, his first restaurant is “still very much loved” among its neighbors. He even mentioned numerous actors and actresses who are known to stop in for the tiramisu and other classic dishes. Despite the flock of familiar faces to this Upper East Side institution, Paolo assured me that he treats all of his customers the same - from tourists to celebrities. “Everyone is equal - everyone waits for a table." He then went on to say, “We are not pretentious, in fact, we receive compliments on how friendly we are.”Of the many stories that Paolo shared with me, the one that involved a successful businessman was my favorite. Apparently, several years ago, this gentleman requested that Paolo open a bit earlier in the morning to accommodate his schedule. If Paolo complied, and began his day a half an hour sooner, the man would then invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to open a Miami location of Via Quadronno. Check, check. Although the Florida restaurant has since closed, the Manhattan restaurant continues to open its doors every weekday morning at 8:00am. Paolo will never forget this kind man who did not want shares or a percentage in his business, he just wanted breakfast.Paolo said that he returns to Italy multiple times each year, either to visit family or to attend the restaurant show, Host, in Milan. He then grinned and admitted that he loves New York, and has no desire to move away. As he so brilliantly summed it up, “New York is Tokyo, Paris, Madrid, Milano, Hong Kong, and Shanghai in one. And all the best parts of each!”
"Like a kid in a candy shop" is not an adequate description of how I felt walking into The Sweet Shop. I felt even happier: I was an adult in a candy shop, both dazzled by the color and array of decadent desserts and warmed by the nostalgia brought on by the chocolate cigars and sugar wafers of my childhood. As I watched the flow of customers going in and out of the small store, I realized that I was not alone in my thoughts. All ages come in, with big smiles on their faces, to buy treats from the Candyman, himself."We're a nostalgic experience," the Candyman, also known as Kelly Jaime, said when he saw my jaw drop as I walked in the door. Since 2000, Kelly has lived in the neighborhood while working in sales for a Fortune 500 company, and continually lamented that there were no late-night ice cream stores. In 2013, he decided to solve the problem himself. What started as a simple ice cream parlor, however, turned into a place serving candy and ice cream. "The demographic in this area changed overnight," he explained. "It's much younger – there are strollers everywhere." With this new kind of audience, Kelly decided to offer all sorts of sweet delicacies rather than ice cream alone. This meant he could sell his favorite treats: marshmallows."You have to understand this about my dad," his son piped up. "He loves marshmallows." The sweet shop is a family-run business. Kelly and his son Matthew, also known as "Pie Guy," man the store while his wife, Glyn, is the designer behind the Willy Wonka-esque decor. She even made the breath-taking chandelier made of candies and the whimsical sweet-themed cabinet door handles. One of the few things in the space that Glyn created, but did not illustrate, is the little logo of Kelly in his uniform, which they commissioned an artist to do.Despite the fact that Kelly decided not to focus solely on ice cream, he is still very proud of the frozen treats. "We sell five of the top ten ice creams in New York," he beamed. He pointed out that there is no other location in the city where you can find this many varieties of high quality ice cream in one place. He carries OddFellows and Van Leeuwen standard choices, as well as Van Leeuwen's vegan flavors. He also sells Snowballs, which he describes as, "Better than a snow cone – just smooth, slushified ice." Even though the whole store is filled with sugar, Kelly says that he is very careful not to feed unhealthy habits. "We are selling small things," he said. He showed me an example of the tiniest size cone that he fills. They are custom-made by a secret source solely for him, and though he originally meant them for children, they are also bought by many health-conscious adults, counting the nearby medical community among those constituents. Kelly went on to tell me that he buys the highest quality candy and has Underwest Donuts delivered fresh everyday. "We are a fresh fruit stand for candy," he said with a smile.Moving away from the ice cream counter, Kelly was eager to show off his chocolate collection. He carries a variety, from companies that have been in production since the 1940s to the Mast Brothers, a relatively new chocolatier. He also has a lot of "bean to bar" creations that emphasize the flavor of the cacao bean. When he saw me circling around, questioning where the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were, Kelly quickly responded, "I don't sell anything that one can find in Duane Reade." Instead, The Sweet Shop has a private company that makes their amazing peanut butter cups.Next Kelly had me walk over to the drawers upon drawers of Swedish candy. "This candy is just utterly, utterly delicious," Kelly exclaimed, filling up a bag for each of us from Manhattan Sideways. Next, Kelly gushed over his world famous butter crunch, saying that it has now been shipped to every continent, including Antarctica. And, of course, marshmallows can be found throughout the store, both on their own and in treats like the "Jakewich," a marshmallow wedged between two Tate's chocolate chip cookies.Though the store is packed with candy, part of the treat of visiting the Sweet Shop is simply talking with the Candyman. Kelly is full of witticisms and stories. I overheard him telling a customer that the licorice was "black like my heart and just as delicious." He told me that a lot of his whimsical attitude is thanks to his grandmother, who worked with Walt Disney. When Kelly visited her as a child, she would throw him in the Magic Shop whenever she needed a babysitter. There is a small section of the Sweet Shop that acts as an ode to these childhood memories: Kelly pulled out a drawer at the bottom of the Swedish candy that was filled with vintage magic tricks, pranks, and fake candy. Not only that, but there are plastic ninjas and little optical treasures hidden around the room. Recognizing that every inch of space has an element of fun, I learned from Kelly that he had worked in an amusement park in his youth, and was greatly influenced by the excitement of entertainment.When I inquired as to what might be next, this clever, warm man confided that he was about to launch his own chocolate bar line. The flavors were still a secret, but he seemed very excited. "I've been extremely happy with what we've been able to accomplish in two years," he said enthusiastically. There is no doubt that Kelly has managed to feature an outstanding variety for those of us with a sweet tooth. As we were leaving, Kelly's last words were, "Our family is trying to bring the best confectionary treats, by brand, into one place" From what each of us witnessed and tasted, we would have to agree that he has succeeded.