Two sisters came together to the United States from Turkey in the 1980s, and after settling in New Jersey, they were ready to utilize their talents. "Our father did not actually teach us how to be seamstresses, but rather we grew up watching and absorbing what he did as a tailor in our homeland," Jeannie explained to me. "He had no idea how much we learned from him." Jeannie went on to say that at age fourteen or so (they are sixteen months apart), they began stitching clothes and have been at it for over forty-five years.
Upon their arrival in the U.S., the sisters worked in factories, but when business was taken to China and they were out of jobs, the ladies decided to open their own tailoring shop on 36th Street. They named it Sorelle, which means "sisters" in Italian.
Since 1995, Jeannie and Mary have been working with designers, stitching their samples up, making alterations during Fashion Week and creating garments from scratch. In addition, they have gained a reputation for their intimate apparel work - designing and making bras. From the short amount of time that I spent observing, it became apparent that opening in this location was a brilliant move. And, not only is it beneficial to the commercial garment district, but also for the residents of the neighborhood.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave. ”
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.