There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Ezrath Israel was originally established as a Jewish Community Center in 1917 by the West Side Hebrew Relief Association, a group of Orthodox Jewish shop owners. The area was known for its busy steamship ports, however, the entertainment business eventually became one of the biggest industries in this part of town. As show business grew, so did the number of congregants, and it became the place of worship for many prominent actors and performers, including Sophie Tucker and Shelley Winters. The Actors Temple continued to thrive until shortly after WWII when people in the industry began journeying across the country to Hollywood. The synagogue then found its membership slowly decreasing. By 2005, there were only twelve members left in the congregation. A year later, when Jill Hausman became the rabbi, she found herself resuscitating what had once been a proud shul. Rabbi Hausman was pleased to report to us that in the eight years that she has been there, membership has increased to about 150, a marked improvement. Still, she has hope that the Actor's Temple will continue to grow. "We are a well-kept secret, " she says, "but we don't need to be. " To help maintain the synagogue, the sanctuary is shared with an Off Broadway theater company that performs on their "stage, " just a few feet in front of their sacred arc and collection of eleven torahs. Today, Rabbi Hausman welcomes all denominations of Judaism, even those who are "on the fringes of society. " She is a warm, sweet, bright woman who not only has her door open to everyone, but her heart as well. She emphasizes the importance of love and acceptance in her sermons and is adamant that the Actors Temple is a "no-guilt synagogue. " People should come if they feel compelled to pray – Rabbi Hausman's only goal is to have them leave with a desire to return.
For the first seven years, Phil Podemski had his shop on Park Row across from City Hall, but in 1973, with the help of his son, Sam, they came uptown and have resided on 47th Street ever since. "It was a good move on our part, " Sam admitted. "It has allowed us to weather each of the storms that have come our way. "Because Phil's Stationery is in the Jewelry District, there have always been customers in need of memorandum books, special jewelry bags for shipping, and other necessary items that Sam and his dad never allowed to run out of stock. "This has kept us alive. " That and the warm customer service that he strongly believes in. "Yes, I could close up shop and sell my goods solely on the internet, but I would miss the people — the human connection. " Sam's best connection, however, was with his dad. "We were together for forty years until he passed away in 1996. I have the best memories of him yelling at me throughout those years, always in the most loving way. "When Sam and his dad initially opened, they were not known as an office supply store. They carried an amalgam of health and beauty products, chocolate, and other novelty goods. As time progressed, they evolved into a full office supply shop carrying absolutely everything that one could want or need for their desk. In addition to having fun rummaging through the stacks of notebooks, journals, pens, markers, and an array of art supplies, it is the collection of Berol pencils made in the U. S. in the 1960s, the old Swingline staplers — and several other items that date back some fifty to sixty years — that will provide a noteworthy trip down memory lane for many.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven, ” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house. The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.
The wood-paneled walls of Nino's convey a sense of comfort that seems well-fitted to the people in the neighborhood. The first time I stopped in, on a rainy and cold afternoon, Franco Vendome greeted me with his warm smile and pleasant conversation. He absolutely had me at hello! Franco explained that he took over running the restaurant from his parents in 2008, although I have had the pleasure of meeting his mom on a few occasions, as she does not seem to have slowed down one bit after "retiring. " I was sad to hear their story of a devastating fire in April 2011, but they picked up the pieces, renovating the entire interior and re-opened to an eager crowd nineteen months later. Known as "Nino's on 46" since his parents named it in 1982, Franco has guided the restaurant to higher culinary aspirations, focusing on recreating traditional Italian dishes with a contemporary twist. Like many restaurants in the area, Nino's gets its fair amount of regulars for lunch - and I was so pleased when many would gently interrupt our conversation, simply to say thank you and good-bye. Franco plays a vital role here; bouncing back and forth between the front and back of the house, he somehow manages to expertly run the kitchen while consistently providing a familiar presence to his patrons. Of course the mom insisted that we sit down and try some of their specialties when we returned to take photos one day. Within a short amount of time, she presented the Manhattan Sideways team with an array of dishes - from the classic eggplant parmigiana, a homemade pasta, thin crust pizza, and a Caesar salad, to the inventive truffled mac and cheese bites with a lemon aioli dipping sauce, beet-infused gnudi and Frank's special sandwich with a piece of breaded chicken cutlet, prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, roasted peppers and a balsamic vinegar dressing. Franco's imaginative sensibility distinguishes Nino's from the standard fare; as he acknowledges, this place brings "a downtown vibe to Midtown, " creating a hipper menu with greater variation than the traditional Italian restaurant. This push to innovate at Nino's derives in part from its family history. As the first-generation to grow up in America, Franco often visits his grandparent's home in Avellino, Italy; living on a self-sufficient farm and making their own wine and olive oil, his grandparents initiated him into a food culture dependent on fresh, local ingredients. Having spent his childhood in the "traditional" Nino's, Franco sought to combine his commitment to sustainable agriculture with the values he learned from his parents and grandparents, while also giving the new Nino's his own stamp. We believe he has succeeded.