Staying true to their motto, “One size fits none,” the team at Normal has been 3D printing customized ear buds on 22nd street since the summer of 2014. The concept is simple: ear buds crafted to the shape of each ear offer both a more comfortable fit and more impressive sound quality. However, the process of acquiring custom-made earphones used to be complicated, lengthy, and expensive.
With the emergence of 3D printing technology and the innovative genius of Normal founder and CEO Nikki Kaufman, getting a pair of personalized headphones has become quick, painless, and reasonably priced. At the flagship store in Chelsea, customers can get fitted for their Normals and enjoy a cup of coffee while they watch the 3D printers work their magic. Once the machine has crafted the individual earpieces, the “ear magicians” in the lab assemble the rest of the product, complete with a sleek carrying case, as well as a remote and microphone that allow users to control the volume and answer calls.
Although we would encourage anyone purchasing a pair of Normals to witness the whole experience on 22nd street, ordering remotely is also an option. With Normal’s mobile app, users just snap a few pictures of their ears, choose the colors, and voila! Normal keeps them in the loop with notifications for each step of the process, and delivers the ear buds in as little as 48 hours.
This Swedish Lutheran church is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2015. The church, organized by two missionaries, was named for Gustavus II Adolphus, who was King of Sweden from 1611-1632. Though the church opened in 1865, it was not until the early 1900s that English services began on a regular basis and electricity was installed in the building. The membership fluctuated over the years that followed, as the church introduced attractions such as the Sewing Club, Help Our Neighbors Eat Year-Round, and the Basement Coffeehouse Program for college students and young adults. In 1961, the church had the honor of hosting a memorial service for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld. In celebration of this milestone anniversary, Gustavus Adolphus is renovating its interior, and replacing the chandeliers and stained glass windows in preparation for a festival in the fall of 2015.
“We come together on the common ground of arts, letters, and women owning their own destinies, ” stated Executive Director Dawn Delikat. For well over a century, Pen and Brush has been dedicated to supporting women in the visual arts and literature. The organization was founded by two sisters and painters, Janet and Mimi Lewis, who were frustrated with being barred from art societies solely on the basis of their gender. Knowing of so many talented women suffering a similar fate, the siblings decided to create Pen and Brush to “stop asking for permission and forge their own way in the city. ”Though the group was nomadic for thirty years, it was able to purchase its first location in 1923. Decades later in the early 1960s, the ladies celebrated paying off their mortgage by dressing in their finest ballgowns and burning the contract in the fireplace. “Women persevering is as much of our understory as anything else. ” The organization carries the torch passed down by these remarkable women, whose members include First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a number of Nobel laureates. Today, Pen and Brush’s goal remains the same, albeit adapted to twenty-first-century circumstances. As such, it makes space for both women and non-binary voices — better reflecting our evolving conceptions of the gender spectrum — and works to bring in the diversity that has been kept out of the canon “not for lack of talent, but for lack of access. ” To this end, Pen and Brush functions as an art gallery and a book publisher, where visual artists and writers from across the world can submit their work. The group evaluates submissions, seeking pieces “that need to be supported, ” either for expressing something that has not been said before or for demonstrating an incredibly high skill level. This has meant giving career-making opportunities to veteran artists looking to break the glass ceiling of their field, gifted students just out of an MFA program, and self-taught artists who received no formal introduction to the art world. Achieving true equality in the arts and letters may seem a daunting task, but Pen and Brush is tireless in its mission to give a platform to brilliant women and non-binary creators. “We can’t give up on them. We have to build into the future so that we can keep passing that torch, so maybe someday, it won’t be needed. ”
Living Fresh Men’s Spa was the first men-only spa in New York when it opened in the early 2000s. Here, men can relax and enjoy luxurious spa treatments in the privacy of this serene, dark wood and stone-paneled space. The store’s entrance is small, so most people are unaware of its existence. Once we walked inside, we were both enchanted and impressed by how extensive and comprehensive it is – a contemporary, warmly lit seating area leads back to a well-appointed bar, manicure and pedicure room, and a long hallway of private spa rooms dedicated separately to facial, body, and hair removal treatments and services. Living Fresh Men’s Spa also works with botox and filler treatments, laser hair removal, ReFirm skin tightening, and acne laser therapy. Each thoughtfully-appointed treatment room has its own sauna and shower. We found Living Fresh to be a luxurious setting for busy, stressed, or simply hygiene-obsessed men to take care of their bodies and release some of the tensions brought on by the daily cacophony of New York. From Tuesday through Saturday, after 6pm, men can enjoy 20% off single service massages.
We stumbled into BXL on a blisteringly hot day and were met by their refreshing air conditioning -- reason enough to stay. But even more, BXL is a splendid space, with warm wooden floors, banquette seating indoors and tables set up outside when the weather cooperates... and a very kind European owner. We spoke to Klaas about his restaurant and learned that having grown up in Belgium, and completing his training, he became the private chef for their ambassador. He was disarmingly charismatic and kind as he told us about BXL’s menu – he emphasized the "all you can eat" mussel pots that come with a cold Stella for $22. 00 and the array of different sauces to choose from: white wine shallot broth, white wine and cream, endive and cream, wheat beer, cream with bacon and onions, coconut milk with lemon grass and curry. Mussels are not the only food choice. There are other great Belgian dishes, plus simple burgers, pasta and salads. Without a doubt, stopping by BXL for a cold beer and some friendly conversation was exactly what our team needed.
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.
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. ”