Thirty years ago, Jorge moved from Lima, Peru to begin a new life in the United States. Little did he know that someday he would own such a reputable tailor shop in the heart of Manhattan. Within his small lower level basement, Jorge operates his tailoring business with a client base ranging from celebrities to the average, local New Yorker.Sitting behind his desk with a patient smile, Jorge described what it was like to grow up in Peru and have his father first involve him in the tailoring profession. “My father was a tailor. I grew up with the work since I was a boy learning how to sew. I like to think I am where I am now because of my father,” he told me. When he decided to move to New York, his father saved enough money to send him, and he began dreaming of owning a business. After working for various tailors, most of which were Italian, he was given the opportunity in 2011 to buy Peppi’s from a retiring tailor. “The opportunity was in front of me so I decided to go for it,” he said.Jorge specializes in hand finishing and stitching, but any type of alteration is received at Peppi’s Tailor. “I do everything, from sewing on a button to altering a Zenga suit. But I always like to make my changes look exactly like the original. That is the most important thing.” From dresses to jackets, Jorge works on pieces in his shop or travels to a specific New York location at the request of a client. “I once had to go to Madison Square Garden. I usually don’t know who the client is until I get there, and in this case it was Michael Buble,” Jorge shared. Whether doing a job in person or completing a rush service in his shop, all of his work is done by hand and given the same detailed attention. “I do the same work for everyone, every job is important.” He proudly brought out a few jackets and showed me how he alters them, what he plans to do for some, and the stitching needed for a specific repair.In the corner of the room I could see a small curtain, serving as a changing room. Jorge's desk and sewing machine are strategically placed slightly between the curtain and the mirror placed on the other end of the room. This way, Jorge explained, he can work on his alterations while he sees how the work fits his client. Jorge did mention that it "is a very tiring job on the eyes, which not many people understand. It requires a lot of hours and focus.” As he admiringly gazed at the racks of suits, shirts, pants and dresses lined up next to his sewing machine, he added, “But I love my job, and until my eyes give up on me I will continue doing what I love.”
The building that houses Flute Bar & Lounge was once home to a speakeasy called Club Intime, run by the notorious chorus girl Texas Guinan. Today, Flute's owners pay homage to their predecessors with 1920's music and drinks served in mugs, as was the custom during Prohibition. The underground champagne bar has no windows and dim lighting, and its seating - plush sofas and ottomans clustered around low tables - give it a far more intimate feel than a traditional lounge.With countless brands from which to choose, champagne may be the focus, but Flute also serves a wide variety of cocktails - many of which feature champagne - and small accompanying food plates. Texas Guinan once called the speakeasy business an "essential and basic industry." Though her Club Intime was shut down after only six months in business, she would certainly be heartened that its spirit lives on in Flute today - especially on the last Saturday of each month when Wit's End celebrates jazz music and dancing with an assortment of talent.
The Neighborhood Playhouse is both a great community resource and an old-fashioned reminder of the timelessness of great theater. Virtually invisible from the street, the only clue to its existence is a red, unmarked door and a modest sign. Once inside, however, I discovered that this almost one hundred year old building holds within it a proscenium theater, a full-size dance studio, and plenty of dressing rooms and classrooms. What a fascinating tour I was treated to by Emily Duncan, the admissions administrator, where I learned about their history and mission.The lobby, with its shabby elegance, features photos of famous graduates, as well as scenes from plays over the course of the school's history. The top two floors of the building are devoted to a beautiful dance studio with wood floors and soaring ceilings. A lover of dance, I was particularly moved when Emily announced that I was standing in the former domain of dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, who taught at the Neighborhood Playhouse alongside actor and teacher, Sanford Meisner.I was also enrapt by Christine Cirker, the librarian, who proudly discussed their vast collection of plays and theatre criticism. Incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the world of theater, she told me that she also teaches classes on script interpretation. Christine went on to explain the playhouse's claim to fame: the Meisner Technique, a method of acting that emphasizes that one should "live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances." Sanford Meisner developed his famous improvisation-based technique at the Playhouse in the mid-1940s, which continues to train actors to this day. It counts among its list of prominent alumni names: Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Steve McQueen; and more recently, it has added to its roster, Allison Janney and Chris Noth.The playhouse trains about one hundred students at any given time, seventy-five first-years and twenty-five second-years who have been invited back as a result of a unanimous faculty vote. According to Emily, graduates have an easier time finding work than most aspiring actors due to their alma mater's extensive network of influential writers, directors, and actors. Much of the faculty is closely involved in the theater world, and as Pamela Moller Kareman, the playhouse's executive director, shared, "It's a big leap to become a professional actor; we want people to know that you can do this with your life." And from the time that I spent here, it became apparent that the staff at Neighborhood Playhouse is there to guide and support students every step of the way.
"The Gem of Swimwear" is the tag line for Pesca, and as I discovered quickly, an absolute "hidden gem" on the side streets of Manhattan. Imagine stepping indoors from the gray shades of winter into a petite, yet beautifully filled boutique, where one is greeted by the aquamarines, corals, and creams of the tropics. The contrast was a welcome reprieve, but more important to me, was to discover the rare professional, yet loving relationship between the mother and daughter, Shahlla and Teresa Azizian. Their familial affection for each other is obvious, and seems to only have been strengthened by running a business together. Not only are they the lifeblood of Pesca - the only all-year-round swimsuit boutique in the area - but there is no doubt that both of them could model their wares on any runway.Shahlla came to the States by way of Iran, and originally opened her boutique in 1979 to sell swimsuits and fur coats. After a few run-ins with theft, however, she decided to focus solely on swimwear. The store services women from age sixteen to seventy, and stocks suits from around the world. Teresa enjoys her frequent travels to France for the swimsuit shows, but mother and daughter sell suits from South America, Israel, the United States, and other parts of Europe. Shahlla admitted to having a particular fondness for Karla Coletto, an American designer, whereas Teresa revealed that she prefers the European and South American fashions.The secret to the two women's success is their personal touch. "We don't sell to sell," Shahlla said. Their goal is to find the perfect suit for each woman, so that they can gain the trust of regular clients. Both mother and daughter have a magnificent eye, and can pick suits that are perfect for a woman's body type and taste. Their personalized service extends to keeping a record of past purchases, and if a repeat customer orders a swimsuit on-line, they will send two or three more possibilities in the mail for them to try. "Our business is based on trust, the women shared with me, "If the extra swimwear does not work, we know that the client will send it back."Pesca is not just about the swimsuit. "We pack your suitcase for you," Teresa explained. Amidst the rainbow of swimwear, Pesca sells cover ups, beach dresses, hats, bags, sandals, jewelry, and belts. We provide "the full story." When I asked what their favorite aspect of the business continues to be after so many years, both women commented that with their extensive experience and knowledge in their field, the two are often invited to sit with designers and recommend color combinations, or alterations to a style so that it would best flatter a woman's body.