Nicolo Melissa Antiques & Art is a story that combines a personal relationship with a passion for the arts. Melissa Magid met Nicolo Camisa, originally from Italy, when he was studying English in the United States, and the two fell in love. Nicolo had been trained in the family's antique business since he was sixteen, and so it made perfect sense for Nicolo to open a small antique store in Manhattan with his new bride. Melissa admits that she did not know much about antiques before Nicolo, but when she traveled to Italy to meet his family, and found his home filled with treasured pieces spanning the ages, she recognized the importance of this world that Nicolo had grown up in. And it did not take her long to decide that she wanted to join him as a partner. Though their gallery is completely separate from Nicolo’s family’s business, Melissa told me that they frequently keep in touch with his Italian kin in order to trade secrets and discuss their acquisitions.
A favorite story that Melissa enjoys sharing is when her older son, at the age of two, already seemed to have an eye for fine art: When they took him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he was staring up at some of the paintings on the wall, he gestured to his father saying, “Papa, bring this one home!” Because the young child was so accustomed to accompanying his parents on buying trips, he did not understand the difference between viewing art in a museum and their vast collection that his parents have amassed. Both in their home and at the gallery, Nicolo and Melissa’s two boys are surrounded by Renaissance bronzes, classical sculptures, and micro mosaics. Nicolo quickly added that despite the variety, their collection is carefully curated, and forms a cohesive whole that he hand selects both from travels around the United States and abroad. The gallery specializes in artwork, furniture, and decor from the 19th century and earlier. Melissa showed us some of her favorite pieces, including a Florentine 19th Century ebony cabinet and a pair of Cesare Lapini white marble angels. It became clear rather quickly that Melissa is quite proud to run a local, family-owned gallery. As she so sweetly described the first venture that they embarked on as a couple, "This is our first child.”
Although filled to the brim inside, the adventure begins simply by gazing through the impressive windows of John Salibello's three antique lighting shops on East 60th. The dazzling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling at No. 211 were only the beginning, for upon entering, I learned that the excitement extends back into an even more inspiring gilded maze where every inch of space is utilized to display the carefully curated collection, both upstairs and down a flight. Lori Gray, the store's manager, spoke to me about John Salibello's origins. It turns out that she is one of the best people to do so, as she has been by John's side for years - ever since he was working in the fashion industry. Lori followed John when he left Benetton, as he had become a close friend and she "deeply respected his taste. " I learned from Lori that John was one of the first people to deal in Mid-Century Modern design, "probably because he opened his business just as it was becoming temporarily distant enough to be desirable. " Breaking new ground, he found his stride and has stayed true to it ever since. John's knowledge of the period is extensive, but he makes a point of not being driven by a particular designer, despite their fame. As Lori explained, "He can "talk that talk, " but in the end, John travels the world searching for beautiful pieces, no matter what their origin. "This is why he has been so successful as a trend-setter, " Lori proudly stated. Most items are vintage, but there are some custom-made objects, such as a row or colorful glass boxes made by an artist from Murano. The employees chimed in during a conversation one day, sharing with me how they enjoyed having input into the color combinations for each one. The staff is a crucial part of this well-oiled machine. As one woman put it, they are in charge of the "visualization of the store - John does the buying and we set it up and then sell it. " They are also meticulous about maintaining the inventory, as every piece is always gleaming, a hard outcome to achieve in a store filled with so much glass. John Salibello's triumph in the furniture world also has a lot to do with its location. Because the store is in the design district, everything is in one place, making it easy for interior designers and their clients. When engaging in conversation with John, himself, one day, he expanded on his concept of three boutiques on one street. "We have a tremendous amount of inventory, as that is what our customers prefer. " He said that he loves 60th, but because he cannot house everything in one location, he has chosen to take over additional retail space, while remaining in the same neighborhood. John explained that just the shear size of the pieces he finds requires more room, and then went on to say that he is pleased that his shops are in demand, as people like what he carries and he is forever finding new things to add. As John expressed, "if you want to be spectacular, this is the only way to do it. "
In a rather small space, Royale Galleries has accumulated a treasure trove of collectibles since 2003. Showcasing items from the nineteenth century, the mother and son team, Madeline and Ephron, boast an impressive collection of paintings, clocks, chandeliers and jewelry. One could spend hours sifting through the colorful vases, mirrors, sculptures, lamps and artwork. "We carry very eclectic, one-of-a-kind pieces, " Ephron explained, as he rummaged through their inventory trying to show me some of the rare finds. Accordingly, Royale Galleries does business with decorators and collectors from around the world. "We have people come from the Middle East in private planes to view our gallery, " Madeline proudly stated.
There is an entrance to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (also known as the 59th Street Bridge) between First and Second Avenues, making maneuvering back and forth across East 58th difficult. Notwithstanding this challenge to life and limb, nothing was going to deter me from making my way to the front door of the perfectly kept, precious red brick house with its white picket fence. From across the way, I was intrigued, and could not wait to learn the story of this nineteenth century home. Inside, I was warmly greeted by Diana and Mark Jacoby, the couple who own and run the almost seventy-seven year old antique store, Phillip Colleck. Mark and Diana met at Phillip Colleck, where they began working in 1980 on 57th Street. When Phillip Colleck, himself, passed away in 1987, the couple ran the business for six months before deciding to purchase the company. They moved into the current location in 2000, turning what had previously been a private residence into a space used partially for commercial purposes, and to my utter delight, the remainder as their home. The history of the Jacoby's pre-Civil war house is rich and fascinating. The oldest building on East 58th, it was originally the home of the brick mason who built it for his family in the 1850s. Since then, it has undergone various changes. In 1967, the owner was offered a million dollars for the building, but instead of taking the money, he had the house landmarked. When Diana and Mark renovated the front of the house - which had been painted a color they described as 'blueberry yogurt" - they had to carefully peel off the paint in an effort to preserve the layers underneath. Considering its proximity to the entrance to the bridge, I commented on how remarkably quiet it seemed indoors. Mark explained to me that the windows are the original ones and that they do not allow much sound to penetrate them. He went on to tell me that the walls are "three layers of brick thick, " then proudly boasted, "this house was solidly built. " And if I wasn't already in awe, the Jacoby's then took me out back to their charming garden where Diana said that they often entertain guests and clients. Phillip Colleck specializes in English furniture and art pieces from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. From tables to chairs to mirrors and other fine pieces, my favorite among the many treasured items was an exquisite Spanish chandelier, still in its original design with candles to keep it lit. Although it is of course for sale, Diana announced that they are in no hurry to sell it, as it is perched over the table that they dine, and she feels it fits in perfectly. The previous tenant was a composer and professor at Julliard, and would often invite students to his home for master classes. Mark and Diana also welcome scholars into their house, allowing professors from different universities to host classes. "Our mission is largely to educate about English furniture and its place in history, " said Mark. In addition, the Jacoby's invite outside collectors to exhibit their pieces. On the day of one of my visits, during the 2014 Christmas season, I had the pleasure of meeting Harry Heissmann, who was there displaying his antique German Christmas tree stands from his own business on West 45th Street.
I first discovered Newel when it was on 53rd Street. Pressing the doorbell, I was greeted by Jake Baer, the fourth-generation family owner of Newel Antiques. Entering the showroom lit by Murano glass chandeliers, I made my quick introduction, and was kindly offered a tour of their five floors - each one filled with an astonishing assortment of furniture. From the French, Italian, English, Modernist or Renaissance period, as well as a basement filled with wicker pieces, Jake explained to me that Newel has an eclectic selection to keep up with the latest trends. They represent every period and style and can go in any direction depending on the need and interest of the time and the customer. I was overwhelmed, yet mesmerized, at the same time, by shelves stacked to the ceiling and overflowing with treasures from the fifteenth century. There were chairs and tables of all shapes and sizes crowned together, as Jake nonchalantly rattled off their backstories including telling me where they had been used. "That giant Venetian birdcage was on Boardwalk Empire, " for example. Jake also shared that Pygmalion was the first show that launched his great grandfather's company; they still have some of the original pieces that were used some seventy-five years ago. Newel is not a typical antiques store. The business got its start in the 1930s when founder, Meyer Newman, began visiting various Broadway productions and asking what type of furniture they needed for their sets. "Without quite knowing how, " Jake explained, he would find what directors needed and rent it to them for less than buying the piece would have cost. This same model continues to this day, though "ninety-eight percent" of the furniture, according to Jake, is for sale. Most of what Newel does is to rent out period furniture and paintings for television shows, movies, fashion shoots and store windows. "Rental is the DNA of our business - it got us to be where we are today, and always takes us back to our roots. " "Nobody does it on this scale, " Lewis Baer, Jake's father, told me about the renting side of Newel's business. Nor does anybody have the volume of authentic, high-quality items. "Anyone is welcome inside of this world of antiques, " Mr. Baer went on to explain. Newel tries to make themselves accessible to all ages. They work tirelessly to interact and build relationships with the theater world, movie set designers and interior decorators. Nowadays, minimalism is in vogue and people do not buy as many antiques as they would have a generation ago. Thus, the Baer family focuses most of their energy on renting their antiques, and on selling their new line of beautiful original chandeliers, crafted on the island of Murano in Venice. Most importantly, though, Newel remains family-owned just as they were in the 1930s, and these warm ties are evident in every aspect of the business.
Olivia, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, was in a state of fevered anticipation when she realized we were inching closer to 64th Street, where the southernmost Alice's Tea Cup is located. The whimsical tea shop has three different "Chapters, " and this is the second in the series. Unlike the original location, which sits on the ground floor, this chapter has two floors, decorated with Wonderland characters and Lewis Carroll's cryptic text. The tearoom is owned by Lauren and Haley Fox, sisters who have loved tea for as long as they can remember. And, they have always been passionate about everything Alice in Wonderland: they grew up on the Upper West Side, just a short distance from the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and both adored Lewis Carroll's books. It made perfect sense, therefore, to open an Alice in Wonderland-themed teahouse in 2001. The eatery has become an enormous success, and has attracted many different groups of people: like the book, the tea house, though full of curlicues, bright purple hues, and fairy dust, is not geared towards children. Children are frequent and enthusiastic visitors, but it is just as likely that one might see a business meeting between two creative types, an exuberant reunion between friends, or a solitary adult diner nursing a pot of tea. The tea list is extensive and scrumptious. "List" is a misnomer – it is more of a booklet. Olivia has tried at least fifteen of their teas so far and has not made even a dent in their selection. Each tea is brought out in a personal pastel pot, to be poured into one of the eclectic mismatched cups and saucers that decorate the repurposed sewing machine tables. The tea also makes its way into the food menu: Olivia raves about the smoky Lapsang Souchong chicken breast, made using a Chinese black tea that smells and tastes like a bonfire. Despite the brilliant concept, the adorable decor and the excellent selection of teas, it is the afternoon tea service that steals the show. Diners can choose between "The Nibble, " "The Mad Hatter, " and "The Jabberwocky, " depending on how hungry they are, and servers will bring them a heavenly three-tiered stand layered with finger sandwiches, desserts, and scones - without a doubt, the most popular being the pumpkin scone, drizzled with caramel syrup. So as to have the full Alice in Wonderland experience, there is a mini shop up front where Haley and Lauren's cookbook, Alice's Tea Cup, is on display alongside many other trinkets such as fairy wings, picture books, and anything one might need to reproduce their own magical tea party at home.
"If I won the lottery, I would continue to do the same thing every day, " Dennis Remorca told me as I stepped off the elevator and introduced myself to him. Clearly passionate about his fitness centers on the Upper East Side, Dennis went on to tell me that he has been training children from the age of seven up to a woman who is ninety-six. He emphasized the importance of the relationship that he and his fellow trainers have developed with each of their clients. Laughing, Dennis said, "I have like fifty moms always making sure that I eat. " Trained in physical therapy, Dennis shared with me that he comes from a family who practice medicine, and they did not understand how he could make a career in PT. I believe that he has shown them that it is possible, for after four years owning his gym on 74th Street, he decided it was time to open yet another facility on 64th. Upstairs in the newly converted Weston House - a building that was completed in 1881 by architect Theodore Weston, founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - the space is perfect for private training sessions. Filled with state-of-the-art equipment and a friendly staff - one was a principal dancer for American Ballet while another was a trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers - I have no doubt that this is a terrific environment for workouts. And, I learned from Antonia, the owner of Altesi downstairs, that in the warmer months, Dennis will be offering yoga classes outside in the garden of the restaurant followed by a healthy breakfast.
"A shoe is not an accessory, but a necessity, " Vanessa Noel declared as I sat with the woman who has been a top shoe designer since the 1980s. I went on to learn that making a shoe requires equal parts design and engineering, because the success of a shoe depends on balance and form. As Vanessa explained, anyone can decorate a shoe, but to actually form a piece of footwear to fit a woman's feet is a truly difficult task. Vanessa is very conscious of comfort – "I can't stand when I see women who are unable to walk because of their shoes, " she told me. "It is a sign that their shoes are not well made. " Vanessa, who claims to often walk around the city in six inch heels, makes shoes that will not cause women to need to call a cab after two blocks. She is very proud of the fact that just the other day she "put a congresswoman back in high heels. " Vanessa describes her shoes as "comfy, sexy, elegant, and beautiful. " She designs the entire line herself, and has everything handmade in Italy. She loves discovering and playing with exotic materials. I was able to get a glimpse of her stretch alligator skin that she created herself, and which has become her trademark. It had twenty-four carat gold embedded in the high-quality Louisiana skin, allowing the brilliant shine and color to permeate through the entire material. Vanessa continued to walk me through her workshop as she shared a prototype of translucent alligator, which was streaked neon pink. While gazing at her treasure trove of shoes, she told me about an extraordinary order that she once produced: over-the-knee flat stretch orange python boots. Although customer service is a key element of Vanessa's business model, she is not solely concerned with the needs of her clients; Vanessa also tries to look out for the people producing her shoes. When she became aware that some of the ancient Italian tannery families were developing cancer because of the chromium used in their processing techniques, she commenced researching better methods. She then discussed her interest in being chemical-free more generally - and that passion drove her to open the ecologically friendly Hotel Green in Nantucket. Vanessa's most recent addition to the shop is a new line of handbags. She had been making them for herself for years, but was encouraged to design some for her customers after being spotted with one on a fashion runway. They come in a wide variety of bright, fun colors and are made with high-quality Italian leather, similar to her shoes. At this moment, while sitting and chatting, in strolled Emma, Vanessa's mother, the delightful inspiration behind some of the bags. I watched as Emma headed straight for these new additions and joked about taking one, before being told that the design was actually called the "Emma bag. " Smiling, her daughter said, "you are welcome to take one. " After looking very pleased, Emma turned to me and began sharing stories from her daughter's childhood, as Vanessa looked on with an amused grimace. Although difficult to believe, Emma said that Vanessa was "a monster" as a child, who once, at the age of four, with her little bit of cash, convinced a Greek herder to allow her to ride his donkey halfway up the mountain. I continued to be fascinated as Emma described their visit to the Emilio Pucci palace with her sister and Emma, and had dresses made for all three of them. Vanessa’s latest creative endeavor is the Noel Shoe Museum, which will be the first of its kind in the United States. It will display shoes from around the world, spanning several centuries, with an aim of showcasing their creativity and the history of their design and manufacturing. Nevertheless, Vanessa’s greatest mission remains to repair women’s relationships with luxury footwear. In her words, “I try to make glamorous shoes that essentially become an extension of a woman’s leg. ”
Specializing in nineteenth and twentieth century masterpieces, Achim Moeller opened his first gallery in London in 1972 followed by his New York gallery in 1984. On the day that I visited, I was able to view sketches by Lyonel Feininger. The exhibit focused on his early years, and was mainly composed of studies of houses and landscapes. I was especially drawn to a picture of a small cottage covered in snow, which was delicately mapped out using only charcoal.