After wandering through the beautiful park in Tudor City, it was easy to understand how someone was inspired to open a flower shop across the street several years ago. In the spring of 2016, Barbara Mele made the bold decision to take over the existing business and turn it into her own - Gatherings Floral Design. The location, design of the store, and the warm community all contributed to Barbara's decision.
Barbara has been a florist since 2000. She told me that she initially became interested in plants thanks to her grandmother, who was a landscape architect. “When I was younger I was around flowers and plants a lot,” she said. As an adult, she chose to work for numerous flower companies, learning the different techniques of the trade, before deciding to finally branch out on her own. Barbara went on to say that in addition to the magnificent flowers that she is surrounded by each day, she appreciates the opportunity to spend time with so many lovely people in the neighborhood. “I enjoy helping people get something that makes them smile,” she confessed. In turn, residents of the community have expressed their appreciation for keeping a flower shop up and running in the area.
The previous owners had been affiliates of FlowerSchool New York. Barbara now teaches there and, I was delighted to learn, hosts interns from the school at her shop. The space and Barbara’s flowers have been used frequently in the past few months for romantic endeavors. Barbara told the Manhattan Sideways team that the gardens across from her shop are listed as the most romantic place to propose. “I have already had three businessmen come to the shop looking to use either the space or the flowers to help them propose.”
Gatherings is not a traditional cash-and-carry shop. Customers cannot buy prearranged flowers as they can from most American Florists. Barbara instead opts for a traditional European style. The flowers and plants that she carries are, for the most part, locally sourced based upon the season. Customers work with Barbara to create their own personalized floral design.“People react to flowers emotionally,” she said. Based on the customer's favorite flower, color, or based on the occasion, Barbara along with her client work together to create an arrangement that is exactly what the buyer wants. Instead of paying a set price, customers pay based on the number of flowers used and the size of the arrangements. Barbara continued, “ I can’t be offended that my idea of romantic is not someone else's idea of romantic when making an arrangement.” Her devotion to customized flower sales makes her work a significantly more creative, social, and open experience, as well as more cost-effective.
PLEASE CALL TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT“Flowers bring the innermost smiles out of people, this little moment of awe and wonderment. That’s what I try to give, ” said Bella Meyer, who runs fleursBELLA, an Edenic oasis on 11th Street. As the granddaughter of revered artist Marc Chagall, flowers have long been a part of Bella’s life. Chagall is known for his modernist depictions of vibrant blooms, and he always had a bouquet in his studio while he worked to remind him of the chemistry of colors. Bella, too, shared his passion for natural beauty. She initially meant to follow in the footsteps of her father, a “formidable art historian” and museum director in Switzerland. Bella was researching and writing her PhD in medieval art history while teaching at a university in Paris when she eventually gravitated toward other creative pursuits. She found herself spending more time decorating spaces, painting, and making puppets, masks, and theater costumes. Like her grandfather before her, “I wanted to color the whole world around me and beautify it, ” Bella shared, albeit through different mediums. When seeking a way to express her joy at a friend’s marriage, she took it upon herself to build a chuppah (a wedding canopy) out of flowers and birch branches. The project was an epiphany for Bella. “I was intrigued by the symbolism of the decor. To create meaningful things and spaces, I realized I needed flowers. ” She made arrangements for several events before deciding to open fleursBELLA as a retail business some twenty years later. She envisioned the studio as one “where people could just walk in and find a moment of peace. ” The space was designed to be deeply personal, and she brought in items from her childhood in France to achieve this. The bathtub that her mother bathed her in as a baby is now used to wash the daily flower deliveries, and the family’s old bookshelves are lined up like sentinels along the walls. “These things hold all the warmth of the best parts of my home and my mother, ” Bella believes, and they lend to the shop’s special atmosphere. Above all, fleursBELLA acts as a creative outlet, allowing Bella to convey her philosophy on life and beauty through the blooms she sells. Visitors are greeted by a serene woman made of moss, with foliage climbing the walls and flowers adorning every surface — entering the wild, wonderful shop feels like a sudden departure from the city. As Bella aptly describes it, fleursBELLA is “the perfect hidden place” for someone to get lost in.
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting Teishoku, or home-style cooking, to its American diners. Since 1958, Japan has been fortunate enough to have access to this chain's nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia, there are over three hundred Ootoya restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant on 18th Street or their latest addition on 41st.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you? " I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater. " Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband and I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine. Wolfgang's, located in the sleek New York Times building on West 41st Street, is equally pleasant, but offers an entirely different ambiance. During the daytime, the sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the steaks to glisten even more as they are being brought to the tables. The businessmen in their suits still dominate during the lunch hour; however, theatergoers and tourists fill the restaurant in the evening. Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants. Over the years, I have been to the four in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to. " They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous. " There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal. " But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his meat, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which Wolfgang continues to deliver.
Notorious bikini bar Tobacco Road will finally get a new lease of life as a four-story venue for the Queer community when Red Eye NYC opens on W41st Street. The once-gritty dive bar at 355 W41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenue was shuttered in 2017 for failing to pay its rent, but five years on, a round-the-clock space offering coffee, bagels, shared workspaces and rehearsal rooms by day and high-end entertainment and cocktails at night is to rise from Tobacco Road's ashes in spectacular style. Red Eye NYC is the brainchild of Taylor Shubert, Daniel Nardicio, Samuel Benedict and Adam Klesh, who were determined to bring a "whole new concept" to Hell's Kitchen for the Queer community. Their work is nearing completion and they hope to have permissions from the city in place within weeks, allowing them to open by the end of the year. The venue has a long history — including as a concert venue that played host to luminaries including Thelonius Monk and Etta James — and that history has inspired the Red Eye NYC team. By day, the theater will offer rehearsal space, with Queer performers a priority. When not rented, it will be open for everything from piano playing to ballet practice. Red Eye NYC will also host streamed events, and plans to have its own podcast, recording on-site. By night it will be a raucous venue for burlesque and boylesque personalities, DJs, drag royalty and stars of Broadway and television. They will have a happy hour and promise to have some sort of event every night somewhere between 7 and 9pm. The four founders have spent the past few months on a massive program of renovations, detailing their work on the Red Eye NYC Instagram feed, including stripping the building back to the studs, pouring concrete and installing up-to-date appliances. They even helped out with the caulking. The team has deep Hell's Kitchen roots. Klesh opened W52nd Street's Industry Bar and Shubert has been a bartender at 9th Avenue's Flaming Saddles for almost eight years. He has also represented Hell’s Kitchen as a Democratic Party judicial delegate and a member of its New York county committee. The foursome say they want the "pink dollar" to stay in the gay community, and plan to champion Queer-owned suppliers for every part of the business, including wine-makers and other drink suppliers. This story originally appeared on W42ST. nyc in October, 2022 as "Red Eye NYC will Revive Bikini Bar Site with a Coffee-to-Cocktails Queer Venue. "
In a city where cultural fads and neighborhoods change frequently, one necessity has remained the same - men continue to be in need of a haircut. That simple fact has kept Olde Tyme Barbers in business since 1929. Or at least that is how Joe “the Boss” Magnetico explains being successful, despite the way midtown has changed since his grandfather opened his doors. Joe is the third generation of barbers, and his daughter Anne-Marie is the fourth and first female barber in the family. Joe’s grandfather, the original “Joe the Barber, ” first opened his shop at the Statler Hilton Hotel. In 1945, his son, Frank Magnetico, moved the barbershop to the current location on 41st Street underneath the Chanin building, a New York City national landmark. This makes Olde Tyme Barbers the oldest retail establishment currently in business on 41st from the East River to the New York Public Library. It is easy to tell that Joe, his family, and his staff take pride in the work that they do and the history they have created. Joe still uses the original chairs from the barbershop his grandfather opened. Sitting behind the cash register, Joe stated, “We’re not a business you can do on the internet. ” By this he means that despite the way business and the neighborhood has changed in the past years, Joe and his family have survived for so long by remaining true to their trade. He charges what is fair and treats everyone who comes in with respect. Joe told me, “you have to be able to make relationships in business: it’s how you survive. ” This is why Joe’s regulars are so loyal. Generations of men in the same family continue to come from all over the Metropolitan area to get their hair cut by his staff. They have been able to do something special in midtown - to create a neighborhood environment in an area of Manhattan that is not considered a neighborhood anymore. Joe ended our conversation by mentioning that he does not believe that he could open a barber shop in today’s market for the price that he charges on this block. "We are a dying breed in the sense that there is not much room in midtown for small owned businesses. " In his opinion, all the chains in midtown do not bring the same sense of community or character to the area like the businesses that use to be there.