375 West 125th Street
Showman's Jazz   LOST GEM 1 Bars Clubs Jazz Blues Harlem Manhattanville

Mona Lopez met Al Howard when she was working at a bar in the Bronx. A detective with the New York Police Department, he would come into the bar to make sure that police were not stopping by and drinking while on duty. When Mr. Howard purchased Showman’s in 1978, he convinced Mona to check out his new place on 125th Street for a few days. Those “few days” turned into “over forty years,” Mona said. “It’s been good. I’ve met a lot of great people. Mr. Howard is now in his nineties, he would like to sell Showman’s, and when he goes, so do I.

Mona never tires of relaying the story that made Mr. Howard a hero in Harlem. On his first day out with his partner Phil Romans in 1958, Mr. Howard got a call that there was a problem at a book signing involving Martin Luther King Jr. A “crazy” woman had stabbed him with a letter opener, missing his heart by a speck. Mr. Howard told another woman who was about to pull the letter opener out to not touch it — and warned Dr. King not to “sneeze or move” as he could sense that the opener was too close to his heart and could be fatal. Mr. Howard and his officers summoned the ambulance that took Dr. King to Harlem Hospital, where they saved his life.

Showman’s has had three homes through its long life in Harlem. When they were located next door to the Apollo Theater, Mr. Howard had the 125th Street beat. “He fell in love with the people going in and out of the theater dressed up in proper attire.” The musicians would then go into Showman’s on their breaks and hang out, sometimes performing.

The first Showman’s location held 300 people, the second could accommodate half that amount, and since 1999, the bar has the capacity to hold only eighty. Mona describes this space as far more intimate. No food is served, but occasionally she will cook something up and everyone is invited for a potluck dinner during the three performances each week. Mona welcomes the younger generation, particularly the students from Columbia University who appreciate the history and charm that Showman’s offers — but she emphasized, “Believe it or not, there are still people left who have been coming to Showman’s longer than I have been working here.”

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Showman's Jazz   LOST GEM 1 Bars Clubs Jazz Blues Harlem Manhattanville
Showman's Jazz   LOST GEM 2 Bars Clubs Jazz Blues Harlem Manhattanville
Showman's Jazz - LOST GEM 3 Bars Clubs Jazz Blues Harlem Manhattanville
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More places on 125th Street

Lost Gem
Harlem Underground 1 Mens Clothing Womens Clothing East Harlem

Harlem Underground

“People gravitate towards Harlem, ” said Leon Ellis, the accomplished entrepreneur behind Harlem Underground. Leon Ellis grew up on the island of Jamaica and went to college in Alabama. He would often stay in New York over the summers as he sold Black history books door to door to pay for his education. Upon graduating, he chose to remain in Harlem permanently and embark on a bevy of intriguing business ventures throughout the 1990s, including a gaming store, Emily’s — a restaurant named after his mother — and a barbecue joint named for his father. Today, his clothing shop is surrounded by two newer ventures: Chocolat, a full-service restaurant, and Ganache Cafe, a coffee shop. His projects as a restaurateur aside, Leon felt that he wanted to “spread the word about Harlem all over the world. ” With the neighborhood already a recognizable name, when Leon would travel outside the city dressed in Harlem gear, many people wanted to know where he purchased his clothing. Thus, Harlem Underground began with a mission: “We look to create an image or projection of what Harlem is — its music, its culture, its people. ”The shop hires local designers to create merchandise that revolves around the “raw theme of Harlem NYC. ” To Leon, this is the essence of his success. “Our resources are developed here, and we expend those resources here. We embrace the Harlem community, and we believe it embraces us. ”(Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after years of operating on 125th Street, Harlem Underground consolidated its locations and now remains open on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. )

Lost Gem
Capsule NYC 1 Sneakers and Sportswear Mens Clothing Harlem Manhattanville

Capsule NYC

The modern, stylish setting of Capsule is the perfect backdrop for the well-curated collection of clothing and sportswear. I was fascinated to learn that the owner, Daniel Farouk, originally from Ghana, always had a passion for fashion, but actually studied aeronautics and trained to be a commercial pilot. It was only after finishing his pilot certification that he found he missed fashion, prompting him to emigrate to the States to delve into the industry. He never received any formal training - instead, what he knows he learned “on the streets and on the job. ” For a period of a few years Daniel worked at Sammy’s Fashion in the Bronx as a buyer and then became head buyer before opening his own stunning sportswear store. Stopping by in the middle of the afternoon on a warm July day, in 2017, it became immediately apparent that many are attracted to this beautiful shop. I was surprised by the number of people from every age group that were there chatting with the friendly, knowledgeable sales staff, while browsing through the well-presented racks of men's and women's clothing. I loved that not only were there jeans, jerseys, sweatshirts, athletic shorts and baseball hats, but there were also women's handbags and an adorable pile of t-shirts for little ones. Walking towards the back of the store, and up a step, a sliding door opened automatically to reveal an eye-catching display of unisex sneakers, as well as a selection of other stylish shoes and boots. When Daniel got a moment to breath, he came over to speak with the Manhattan Sideways team. He was proud to share that he had personally designed the store and its decor, focusing on a vision of brick walls and wood pallets to display his merchandise. Daniel told us that his goal in opening the store two years prior in 2015 was to “supply customers with stuff that is rare, ” and he takes care to order clothes that are exclusive and high-end. “We’re trendy, in that we try to stay ahead of the trends, ” he explained. A big advantage in accomplishing this is the fact that he works the floor and interacts with customers on a daily basis. That way, when the time comes to order new items, he can search out things that he knows will be “hot for the customers” rather than relying on general fads. Daniel chose Harlem as the ideal neighborhood to set up shop because he felt it was the “birthplace of fashion” and has a colorful past. His particular location on 125th Street has a very rich history, as it housed the famous M& G Diner, which was used as a filming location for movies like Precious and Belly and even a James Brown shoot. To respect this legendary site, Daniel has kept the diner’s sign displayed on his storefront. Despite his fondness for their current location, Daniel is hoping to open more shops around the city and in other boroughs. He was happy to say that they have “gotten a lot of love” from their customers and the neighborhood over the past two years. This is partly because Daniel is dedicated to providing an approachable shopping experience, where anyone can feel free to peruse his high-end wares without feeling any scrutiny or pressure. As a result, people who frequent the store range from Harlem locals to well known athletes and celebrities. When asked how he attracts so many high-profile clients, Daniel stated simply, "social media. " He then went on to say, “We have the hottest brands, the hottest fashions, and we’re growing daily. ”