Manhattan Sideways made one of the most wonderful discoveries, nestled amongst the brownstones on West 21st Street and almost unnoticeable to the typical passerby. “I’m the princess that lives behind the castle gate,” Andra Gabrielle, the eponymous founder of the hidden clothing shop exclaimed as we stepped inside her secluded workspace. This introduction merely hinted at her passion for fashion, her one-of-a-kind exquisite pieces of clothing and, most importantly, what an extraordinary human being she is.As a self-taught woman, Andra credits her success to her ancestral knowledge, which allowed her to pick up the trade of printing through books and teachers that lent themselves to her cause along the way. Andra shared with us that she had done some research about her past and found that she had an aunt who lived in Chelsea in 1849. She was known for her needlework and beautiful christening gowns. This discovery sparked a fashion revelation for Andra. Today, she gives credit to her nineteenth century family member for passing on the skills of the trade.Inspiration constantly surrounds Andra, specifically in the forms of Japanese art and kimonos. During a visit to England's Victoria and Albert Museum, an exhibit kindled a deep reverence for Japanese culture within Andra. She continues to draw heavily from the power of Japanese symbolism. “The Japanese art swept away the Victorian era. That’s the emergence of modern image,” Andra said.As a young child, Andra told us that she was quite shy. She would play under a rhododendron bush and dress her twig dolls in flowers. Many years later, she made her mark in the fashion industry while working for the lingerie department at Barney’s. "They didn’t have a women’s store before, so there was no standard that I had to fit into." Her lingerie was featured in Vogue and in many movies.The walls of her quaint shop are lined with Andra’s creations, “I never stop making things - that’s my nature," Andra admitted. While these pieces were not completed with a particular individual in mind, Andra cherishes the story that each one symbolizes. When one of the Manhattan team members inquired about purchasing an astoundingly beautiful top and scarf combination, Andra politely informed her that she was not yet ready to part with them.Other inspiration for her designs comes from working directly with her customers, as she believes that clothing should be created for the individual. “We already know who we are and what works on us. I can give five women the same shirt and they’ll all like it for five different reasons.” Andra elaborated, “Colors change because we change. Everything about the garment says something.” For example, pine needles on a kimono would represent an old, happily married person, because pine needles always fall in twos. Andra told us that she made a dress for a woman who was getting married to the love of her life, so Andra put her “love dedication” to the woman’s husband in the hemline of the wedding dress. “I am this anomaly. I want to make clothes with respect. It’s a privilege to be able to do this with my life, as I continue to meet people who can teach me.”
The store is a mosaic in itself. Denes Petoe, CEO, and Graham Barr, president, have laid out their showroom to facilitate the nearly 1,000 varieties of natural stone, as well as to capture the eye of each customer. Style here is in the eye of the beholder, not in the hands of the retailer.
“I really want families to play together. That’s my goal in the store,” said Christina Clark, who has been wowing parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, children for decades with her wonderland of toys and games.Christina worked in a toy store as a young mother and realized she had found her calling. She opened Kidding Around on Bleecker Street, followed by several other locations. Today, it is the 15th Street shop that has survived throughout the years. “I love going to work every day, so it was a good choice for me.”In the shop’s beginnings, its selection of toys and games leaned toward the traditional — “no batteries, no remote controls, and everything that just uses your imagination.” Over the years, however, Christina chose to grow with the times and introduce more modern, automated items into her inventory. Her own children later helped her bring new options into the store. Today, Christina feels lucky to work with her daughter, Kasey Coyle, who uses her background in applied behavioral analysis to stock plenty of books and toys for younger children and those with special needs. Interestingly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina found that her clientele went back to the basics — the demand for puzzles and classic board games was revived. “I hope that trend continues,” she said earnestly. “I hope that people remember how much fun they had playing games with their family so it brings us together and off our devices.”
On any given day when passing by, there are legions of young, hopeful actors hanging around outside this building in between classes. Lee Strasberg, known to moviegoers for his role as gangster Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II, founded his institute in 1969, almost forty years after he participated in the formation of the Group Theatre (an ensemble of actors that were committed to putting on productions representative of "the life of their times.") As artistic director of the Institute until his death in 1982, Strasberg continued to train his students through Method Acting - a technique that has been recognized internationally. Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, and Marlo Thomas are only a few of the actors who were taken under Strasberg's wing and taught to fly. Today, the Institute continues to flourish as it turns out many fine actors both here and at its Hollywood location. For those who would like to watch some of this training in action, there are two theaters (The Marilyn Monroe Theater and the Lee Strasberg Theater) connected to the Institute where students perform.
Enter through the looming stone archway and immense wooden doors and walk inside the Horseman, where the gloomy interior is an aesthetic rather than dreary. The exposed brick, recycled wood from new England barns, and flickering natural gas lamps conjure a communal vibe. In the dark warmth, one can almost imagine a massive stone fireplace roaring with pots of stew simmering over open flames, or moors lying in wait just on the other side of the smoked windows. This rustic, colonial gastropub is one of the latest additions to 15th street. When we asked the bartender why the pub was named after Ichabod Crane’s spooky pursuer, he gestured toward the door and asked us what street we were adjacent to: Irving Place - and local legend claims Washington Irving lived at 122 East 17th Street. His famed character’s namesake bar is anything but sinister. The rotating seasonal beers and atypical comfort food could warm anyone's bones.