Nestled up on the eighth floor and without any sign to indicate its existence to passersby on the street, the Jazz Record Shop is certainly not easy to find. But Fred Cohen’s collection of music and memorabilia has a cult of clientele who come from around the world to see it with their own eyes. During my visit, Fred’s wife, Bobbie, helped customers navigate the CDs,DVDs, posters, books, and records while he led me to a quiet corner for our “heart to heart.”
While growing up in Boston (Dorchester, West Roxbury, then Jamaica Plain), music was a peripheral part of Fred’s life. “My mother had a lovely voice, she sang in a chorus in Pittsburgh and there were records of show-tunes around the house,” he reminisced. “We did have a piano but my sister was always the pianist. It wasn’t until my aunt took me to the Boston Jazz Festival that I was exposed to music that really blew me away.”
Still, Fred never expected that jazz would become his life’s passion. After college, he took a job with Odyssey House in New York as a drug rehabilitation counselor. “This was 1969 through 1982, and after eleven years I was burned out. I didn’t know what to do. I figured I could live for a year off of my savings, and it helped that Bobbie was making good money as a textile designer at the time. That’s when I got the call from Jolly Roger.”
Jolly Roger was a jazz record store on Columbus Avenue that Fred often frequented. The owner was looking for a new person to take over the business and offered the opportunity to Fred. “I really didn’t think it was a good idea,” he recalled. “In my previous job, I was traveling to conferences and centers across the United States. The idea of sitting at a desk waiting on people - that did not sound like me. But Bobbie said we should at least take a look. The shop was incredibly narrow, like a railroad flat, and you could barely turn around with all the record racks in there.” Fred paused a moment and shook his head before picking up the story once more. “But at the back there was this window and you could see this tree. And on this tree were two crooning morning doves. Bobbie took it as a sign. We opened on April 1st 1983, moved to the West 26th location in 1992, and, well, we are still here today.”
As the years went by, Fred broadened his musical interests, schmoozed with fellow collectors, and listened carefully to his customers. Today, Fred is the one who does most of the teaching, and by all accounts he is an expert in identifying and appraising jazz memorabilia. He literally wrote the book on collecting Blue Note records to help fellow enthusiasts identify original pressings. And it turns out, according to Fred, that sitting behind a desk is not so bad. “Selling CDs is a boring experience but LPs are a different story. Each one has such a vast technical, social, musical, and cultural history that I could spend a day talking about each aspect.” Fred led me over to a closet called the “vault” to show me some of his personal items that are not for sale. Perhaps the most impressive was a Charlie Parker LP “Bird Blows the Blues” that Dial records offered exclusively via a mail-in order coupon in the June 3, 1949 issue of Downbeat Magazine. Fred has not only the record (of which only about fifty were sold), but the magazine issue and the coupon, too. When I inquired about the value of the Charlie Parker material, he told me they are worth five to ten thousand dollars, but he doesn’t plan to part with them any time soon, if ever. To Fred they are priceless.
Eventually, Fred and Bobbie plan to step away from their business. What that will mean for The Jazz Record Center, they are not sure. “To be honest, it’s a little scary to think about,” Fred said. “I do want it to live on. In one form or another, I’d love for it to survive.”
As a kid, Matt loved to tear guitars apart and rebuild them. He is one of the lucky few that never had to grow up; now he does so professionally, at his own shop, and calls it "repair. " 30th Street Guitars sells used and vintage guitars, from beginner level to upper-echelon. Most are electric, but a few are acoustic, and there are a few basses hoping to find new owners, as well. Matt's expertise means that he repairs and "does a lot of fretwork" with guitars, banjos, and basses. But recently it also led him to design his own line of guitars. "Basically, " he told us, "I took everything I know about old guitars - playability, what goes into them - and put that into a guitar. The result is guitars that look old, and sound old, but play like new. " The customers meandering through the store seemed to agree. Asked what he likes most about his job, Matt responded that his store is "like a bar without the alcohol. People come in, talk, commiserate. "In November of 2015, 30th Street Guitars moved from West 30th to its current location. With his loyal clientele and recognizable branding, Matt decided not to change the name of his shop, though he realizes it can be confusing. He loves his friendly new neighborhood. “It is the safest street in Manhattan, ” he explained, mainly due to the high security provided by FIT.
In 1983, the world was a very different place. That is obvious, maybe, but for the younger members of the Sideways team this reminder can be an important exercise in perspective. When Rogue Music opened, the Internet was not yet up-and-running and hip-hop had yet to really arrive as a cultural force. Fast-forward to the present and, of course, the Internet is omnipresent, inescapable, and rap is more mainstream than ever. Rogue, throughout it all, has maintained a steady approach. They sell a host of related music items – instruments, soundboards, mixers, speakers, amps – and offer repairs for dysfunctional equipment. The store is a haven for everything musical. We walked in and were pleasantly surprised by the placid noodlings of a salesman, Clay, playing a guitar melody for all the store to hear. The whole staff are musicians, each with an artistic side to match the professional knowhow. Engineer Brent McGlocklin, for example, played in Bailter Space, and was “huge in New Zealand. ” A fun twist: Rogue was instrumental in supplying early hip-hop artists with their gadgets. There is a wall full of mixers, synthesizers and samplers straight out of the golden era of hip-hop. Rogue has retained its appeal over the years. “People like to come and touch gear instead of buying it off the Internet, ” reasoned Clay. The air is thick with the contentment of people being exactly where they want to be. Plus, Clay explained that customers “can save a lot of money buying second-hand, and we offer a free month guarantee. If anything goes wrong, we can fix it. ” Elegant and honest, this philosophy is what has kept Rogue relevant.
Growing up in Queens, Dan Courtenay became enamored with music when he attended a performance by Albert King — a renowned blues guitarist — in 1968. The sounds were so gripping to his fourteen-year-old self that Dan recalls the feeling vividly decades later. In 1972, aged eighteen, his taste transitioned away from rock to blues, jazz, and more esoteric music. A chance meeting with the great Tal Fallow, a sign painter from New Jersey who be-came one of the world's most acclaimed jazz guitarists, sent Dan on a quest to hear “real” rather than “contrived” music — a journey many young men of Dan's age embarked on as music “became more corporate and theatrical. ” Though he strayed from his pursuit of music for a time, Dan was forced to reevaluate what made him happiest after an elevator accident in the 1980s. In 1989, he opened Chelsea Guitars in the historic Chelsea Hotel. Built in 1885, the hotel once hosted musicians including Janis Joplin, Leonard Co-hen, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bette Middler, and Madonna. Dan has made full use of the quaint space, where new and old instruments jut out from the walls, creating a warm community for musicians and music enthusiasts to congregate. This has allowed him to indulge in his nostalgia for “a little taste of what New York City used to be — and should continue to be — all about. ”
Alessandra and Mario De Benedetti had never been in the restaurant business. She was a law professor and he was in finance - both living in Italy. When a passion burns inside you, however, and a desire to live in NYC is so strong, why not change careers and pursue your dream? This is exactly what the dynamic duo chose to do. Working alongside Elizabeth Roberts, architect extraordinaire, the team created a space built for dramatic floral arrangements and an enchanting atmosphere for dining. Alessandra combined her love of flowers by integrating them into the restaurant's splendid cocktails, specialty dishes and magnificent displays. In 2019, their dream finally became a reality as they opened the doors of Il Florista on West 26th Street.
Crossroads Trading Company now has almost thirty locations around the United States, but even in Manhattan they keep their original relaxed Bay Area vibe. The company began in Berkeley in 1991 and has since become a hub for recycling both men and women's clothing with the goal of helping the environment and working to eliminate waste. Locals are welcome to come in and sell their gently used garments for cash or credit... and while there, hopefully browse for something
If one were to close their eyes and walk into Hill Country, there is no doubt that in an instant they would know what kind of food was being prepared. At Hill Country, they take their barbecue very seriously. The food is prepared in their very own custom meat-smoking room, and everything is done in the style of Central Texas barbecue. The atmosphere is kitschy and relaxed, with live American music most nights of the week.
When Ashley Van Goehring, Hotel Giraffe’s director of sales and marketing, led me up to the rooftop bar as part of a tour of the entire building, I did not expect to find such a quiet nook. Despite being in the middle of the busy Flatiron district, the patio’s height and warm red brick border meant that the sky-high courtyard is reasonably silent. It is also beautiful: every inch appeared to be carefully designed with hanging plants, potted shrubs, and striped deck furniture that hinted at the hotel’s name. There is even a metallic giraffe statue in the corner, named after owner, Henry Kallan's granddaughter, Jesse. The seasonal rooftop does not remain quiet at night. Though the garden is only open to guests during the day, at night it turns into a cocktail bar, run by Bread and Tulips, the restaurant attached to Hotel Giraffe. The tucked-away space is also attached to the hotel’s private event room, which has a little roof terrace of its own. Ashley told us that the room had been used as Big’s apartment in the Sex and the City movie, and pointed out the little details that can be seen in some of the film scenes. The small attached patio shows just as much care and attention to detail as the larger rooftop bar, with potted flowers and warm, giraffe-inspired colors. Staring out at the sunny view, Ashley turned to me and said, “It’s nice to be reminded that this city is not just the place where I live. It’s a magical place. ”
Whenever Rebecca, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, asked her glamorous college roommate from Arizona where she had bought whatever fabulous item of clothing she was wearing, the answer was always the same... Buffalo Exchange. Founded in 1974 by Kerstin Block in Arizona, it was one of the first used clothing shops to open in the country. The store offers its patrons a place to buy, sell, or trade second-hand garments so that they can find a new life in someone else's wardrobe. Today, Kerstin continues to run her company with the help of her daughter, Rebecca, and they have expanded to forty-seven stores nationwide. The company has maintained its funky, fun vibe and reasonable prices even as it has grown so large.