Rime is unique in quite a few ways. For starters, it is one of the only stores that deals primarily in athletic footwear on the Upper East Side, and it is one of the few such stores that sells women's sneakers along with men's. But what I appreciated most is that it is run by Susan Boyle, which, according to her staff, makes Rime the only store of its kind with a female owner on the eastern seaboard.
On my initial visit to Rime, I met two employees, David and Joe. They referred to Sue as "really open-minded" and "a cool person to talk to." I believed David and Joe, since they, too, were pretty darn cool. They spoke to me about how hard it is to be a hidden gem in the world of high-end footwear. Many people who find Rime on their own do not want to share their discovery for fear that new shoes will be bought out by friends before they can get to them. The result is that the most often repeated phrase of people walking through the door is, "I didn't even know you guys were here!"
Luckily, Rime is located in an area that gets a fair amount of pedestrians going by, as it is near the subway. Rime is also very good about reaching out to customers. In addition to having an active Instagram account and mailing list, Joe told me that he often has people personally text him to check if a certain size is in stock. He is very knowledgeable: both he and David graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology where they majored in athletic footwear design. In addition to selling sneakers, they both continue to design them. When I spoke to Joe, he had just submitted something to Footlocker's design competition. "I can find the beauty in every sneaker," Joe told me, laughingly adding that it makes it hard for him to stop himself from buying them. Sue, he informed me, is very open to her employees' creative ideas and enjoys chatting about them.
"There's nothing like this around here," Joe told me, saying that for other sneaker stores like Rime, people have to travel north to Harlem or downtown to Soho. When I spoke to Sue, she confirmed that fact, and then shared how she has been in retail for over thirty years. In the early 2000s, she found herself working for a company owned by two brothers. One of the brothers branched off and opened Michael K, a street wear store, and Transit, a sneaker shop. Sue describes him as "one of the kings of sneakers." He invited Sue to join him because of her experience in apparel. She worked with him and learned about sneakers on the job. After five years, Sue decided that she wanted to do her own thing. She opened her first small store in Brooklyn in 2007, originally assuming that Rime would be a clothing store. On a lark, she applied to Nike to get permission to sell their sneakers, and was shocked when they agreed. Nike realized that Sue had chosen an area that had no athletic footwear retailers, and they were enthusiastic to have Sue sell their sneakers.
Sue had only just gotten her store up and running when the economy crashed, but she was able to use her experience in the industry to keep herself afloat. "I was a retailer: I knew how to handle my product." She focused on her Brooklyn store until 2012, when she decided to add a second location. By that point, Manhattan was cheaper than Brooklyn. Her reasoning for her choice of location is that she has always loved the Upper East Side and that "no one was touching that area." Sure enough, when she approached Nike, they mapped out the neighborhood and realized that there were no businesses selling their sneakers from 14th Street to 114th Street. They gave Sue permission to open the store.
"I work well in the city and I think it's because I'm a woman," Sue said. She finds it exciting being the "only one in the game." She elaborated, "It's like being in the boy's locker room. And the men embrace me really well – I'm like the sister, the mom, or the aunt." She believes that she has an advantage over other sneaker stores because of her gender. "I'm a mom and there are a lot of moms up here," she said, referring to the Upper East Side. Mothers are not afraid to ask her questions about shoes for their sons, whereas they can often be intimidated in other athletic footwear stores. "They can sometimes be like boy caves...like barbershops," Sue said, discussing the sneaker stores where women are not made to feel welcome and are often dismissed. Stores owned by men also do not often know how to cater to women, choosing to stock women's shoes in pink or not realizing that girls enjoy trying things on, unlike their male counterparts who often just come in and grab their size. Sue is able to do a lot of business in women's athletic footwear, which is unheard of in a sneaker store, because her store is so approachable and she knows how to cater to men and women alike. However, Sue laughed when sharing some of the comments she sometimes hears - "It's your store, not your husband's?" and "You can speak sneaker-talk?"
Sue is a great role model for women. "I'm not afraid to wear anything – I love it all," she told me. I learned that "all" includes bright red sneakers. "I've always been the girl who wears sneakers," she admitted, telling me about her personal eclectic collection including the new Rihanna sneakers. She is excited that people in the spotlight are drawing attention to the fact that women also like to wear flamboyant, dressier, hipper athletic shoes.
In addition to running her two shops, Sue contributes to the surrounding community. She mentioned that she had spoken on a panel at the Brooklyn Museum about women in the sneaker culture and that she has been reaching out to schools, offering discounts at Rime to students with good report cards. Overall, Sue hopes that more people will continue to find her. The store is filled with exciting footwear from Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and other well-known brands, as well as quality Canadian outerwear companies, including Canada Goose. It is clear that Sue's stores bring her personal joy, for as she admitted, "Every time I open up a box, I think, 'These just make me happy.'"
St. Joseph’s was founded in 1873, when the German-speaking locals who represented a large portion of the inhabitants of Yorkville asked the Jesuits of St. Laurence O'Toole Church on 84th Street and Park Avenue (now St. Ignatius Loyola) to help them find a German-speaking priest. The Jesuits sent Father Joseph Durthaller, who became the first pastor of St. Joseph's. In 1880, St. Joseph's School was founded, and in 1894 the current church was built in the Romanesque Revival style to replace the original small Gothic structure that had been dedicated in 1874. In continuation of its German heritage, St. Joseph’s offers a German Mass on the first Sunday of every month, which is said by Father Boniface Ramsey, the pastor. Even though, like many churches in Manhattan, participation has dwindled over the past forty years, St. Joseph's still has an active community with over 750 congregants and about 350 children in the school. There is no longer a large German population, but St. Joseph's is now home to the New York Hungarian Catholic community, which has a Mass every Sunday afternoon that is conducted entirely in Hungarian. The Hungarian community came from St. Stephen of Hungary Church on 82nd Street, which was recently closed. Father Boniface himself attended St. Joseph’s School for a short time, but he never imagined that he would end up as the pastor. He calls himself an "Upper East Sider, " born and bred. Though his mother was German, she did not teach him her native tongue, since he was born in 1945, when the political climate caused German speakers to be unpopular. Instead, he studied the language in college. The church itself is medium size and beautifully proportioned, with elegant confession booths, stained glass windows, and colorful murals on the ceilings. At the front of the main aisle, just before the sanctuary, there is a mosaic worked into the floor. It is the personal crest of Pope Benedict XVI, who visited St. Joseph's on April 18, 2008. Despite the attractiveness of other features, my eye was drawn to the enormous, historic organ that dates back to 1895 and "hasn't been fooled with, " in Father Boniface's words. He told me that music is very important to St. Joseph's and that Alistair Reid, the church's organist, is "superb. " In addition to the organ, St. Joseph’s also has a piano and one of very few harpsichords to be found in a church. Leading me up into the choir loft, Fr. Boniface pointed out that the organ is particularly large in comparison to the size of the church. He believes that this is because the Germans who founded the church and installed the organ were probably hearty singers. He mentioned that a big choir is not needed to fill the space. "The acoustics are famous, " he said, and vocally demonstrated the four to five second reverberation. Father Boniface took me on a quick visit to the school next door, a building dating to 1926. It warmed my heart to hear the children playing in the street yell "Hi Father! " and to see him smile and wave at them. "I usually create a ruckus, " he said with a grin.
The Suburban Hook & Ladder Company No. 13 was formed in 1865, the same year that the cities of New York and Brooklyn were combined and the “Metropolitan District” fire department was officially created. With the creation of the department, firefighting became a profession, and firehouses were no longer filled solely with volunteers. The members of Hook & Ladder Company 13 are remembered for having helped during the deadly explosion on Park Place in 1891. It was referred to by the news as “one of the worst disasters that ever happened in this city. ” The firemen of Company 13 arrived on the scene on the third day to help reinvigorate the search for bodies. They also dealt with countless fires in the tenement houses of Yorkville, most notably a house fire at 60 East 87th Street filled with residents. The stories of the heroic deeds of the these firefighters could fill a book. In the twentieth century, the Company moved to 85th Street and the little brick house stood empty. In 1962, however, Andy Warhol rented the second floor to use as his very first New York studio.
After only spending a few minutes walking through Doyle's display room, I realized that Louis Webre, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Media at the prestigious auction house, was correct - "Auction houses are one of the best places to go for free, cultural events in the city. " Though the room was filled with an exhibition on Impressionist and Modern Art when I visited, Louis told us that the shows change almost on a weekly basis. Once this particular show ended and the art auctioned, it would be followed by Post-War & Contemporary Art. "Every week it's something new, " Louis stated. William Doyle, who established the company in 1962, has continued his legacy through his wife Kathleen, the current Chairman and CEO, and his daughter, who also plays a substantial role in the company. Doyle holds about forty auctions a year, making it one of the premier auction houses in the world. "Our audience is very global, especially for jewelry sales, " Louis informed me. He added that part of the job of an auction house is to identify the new affluent populations of the world and to find out what international billionaires are buying. He then clarified this by saying "Almost all of what we sell, however, is from collections and estates within the US. "The auction house is a family company not only in its continued connection to the Doyles, but also because it is now working with clients who are third generation. Doyle employees have seen children and grandchildren of early customers come through their doors over and over again. Louis, who has been working for Doyle since 1987, has witnessed situations where parents have passed away and their children have offered the resulting estate, originally purchased from Doyle, back to Doyle. I asked Louis about the most impressive piece that he has seen auctioned over the years, and without hesitating he replied, "The pair of pearls. " He then shared the fascinating story with me. Doyle's appraisers have been working with the Antiques Roadshow since the late 1990s. During one episode of the show, Kevin, an appraiser, met with a woman who had brought in some of her grandmother's jewelry. She mentioned that she had one of the older woman's brooches with a pair of pearls, but that the piece had already been appraised at $1, 500-2, 500. After spending some time with this woman, Kevin's interest was piqued and he asked if she would mind sending the pearls to him. Upon receiving them, he immediately shipped them to Switzerland, the only place in the world that grades pearls. "They sent back a letter unlike any we had ever seen before, " Louis continued. The letter revealed the pearls to be a "treasure of nature" as it is extremely unlikely for two oysters to produce such large, identical pearls. They then traced the pearls' story and discovered that they once belonged to Empress Eugenie of France, but that France sold all the crown jewels in the 1870s. One of the largest buyers was Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany and Co. This explained how the jewels got to America, eventually ending up in someone's grandmother's safety deposit box. When the pearls were sold, they broke the existing record sale for a pair of pearls by $900, 000. The heart-warming ending to the story is that when the woman found out what the pearls sold for, she announced that she would use the money to purchase a new canine van for her animal rescue service. After sharing this extraordinary story, Louis enthusiastically continued his walk through the gallery while pointing out some of his favorite pieces of art. There were quite a few pieces from the painter Paul Cadmus, but a favorite was an early self-portrait from when he was living in Mallorca with his partner between the wars. The room also held a collection of Paul Kleinschmidt's paintings, including a portrait of the collector who originally owned them. After showing me a painting of a crowded Coney Island beach scene done by Reginald Marsh, Louis said, "It's unbelievable to me how few New Yorkers take advantage of this. " He gestured to the rest of the room. "It really is the greatest free show in town. "