Kiehl's began as a single pharmacy in the East Village on the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street in 1851 and has subsequently grown into a global enterprise of more than 250 locations. The brand is known for its large male customer base, a result of a decision of former owner Aaron Morse. He had taken over the business from his father who had purchased the store in 1921. In addition to growing the company internationally, Aaron is credited with introducing products exclusively for men. Thus, this Hell's Kitchen location features a barber shop that offers haircuts and shaves - among other services - to its clientele. Today, Kiehl's is owned and operated by L'Oreal, however, they make every effort to continue to produce and market products that remain true to its roots.
“I like our name, ” explained barbershop owner Steve Polanco, “we give people an editing. ” Having studied hair care in college and worked under another barber for many years, Steve opened his own place with his wife in August of 1984. The salon, originally known as Etsy and Twiggy, eventually morphed into a barbershop to capture the fun masculine dynamics Steve appreciated in his visits to others. One of Steve’s hires, a ninety-year-old man, was the son of Frank Sinatra’s father’s barber, and received immediate and plentiful requests as soon as he started, a barber with a following. Steve showed me some old photographs and smiled, “People get some editing and some laughing. ”
There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Ezrath Israel was originally established as a Jewish Community Center in 1917 by the West Side Hebrew Relief Association, a group of Orthodox Jewish shop owners. The area was known for its busy steamship ports, however, the entertainment business eventually became one of the biggest industries in this part of town. As show business grew, so did the number of congregants, and it became the place of worship for many prominent actors and performers, including Sophie Tucker and Shelley Winters. The Actors Temple continued to thrive until shortly after WWII when people in the industry began journeying across the country to Hollywood. The synagogue then found its membership slowly decreasing. By 2005, there were only twelve members left in the congregation. A year later, when Jill Hausman became the rabbi, she found herself resuscitating what had once been a proud shul. Rabbi Hausman was pleased to report to us that in the eight years that she has been there, membership has increased to about 150, a marked improvement. Still, she has hope that the Actor's Temple will continue to grow. "We are a well-kept secret, " she says, "but we don't need to be. " To help maintain the synagogue, the sanctuary is shared with an Off Broadway theater company that performs on their "stage, " just a few feet in front of their sacred arc and collection of eleven torahs. Today, Rabbi Hausman welcomes all denominations of Judaism, even those who are "on the fringes of society. " She is a warm, sweet, bright woman who not only has her door open to everyone, but her heart as well. She emphasizes the importance of love and acceptance in her sermons and is adamant that the Actors Temple is a "no-guilt synagogue. " People should come if they feel compelled to pray – Rabbi Hausman's only goal is to have them leave with a desire to return.
For the first seven years, Phil Podemski had his shop on Park Row across from City Hall, but in 1973, with the help of his son, Sam, they came uptown and have resided on 47th Street ever since. "It was a good move on our part, " Sam admitted. "It has allowed us to weather each of the storms that have come our way. "Because Phil's Stationery is in the Jewelry District, there have always been customers in need of memorandum books, special jewelry bags for shipping, and other necessary items that Sam and his dad never allowed to run out of stock. "This has kept us alive. " That and the warm customer service that he strongly believes in. "Yes, I could close up shop and sell my goods solely on the internet, but I would miss the people — the human connection. " Sam's best connection, however, was with his dad. "We were together for forty years until he passed away in 1996. I have the best memories of him yelling at me throughout those years, always in the most loving way. "When Sam and his dad initially opened, they were not known as an office supply store. They carried an amalgam of health and beauty products, chocolate, and other novelty goods. As time progressed, they evolved into a full office supply shop carrying absolutely everything that one could want or need for their desk. In addition to having fun rummaging through the stacks of notebooks, journals, pens, markers, and an array of art supplies, it is the collection of Berol pencils made in the U. S. in the 1960s, the old Swingline staplers — and several other items that date back some fifty to sixty years — that will provide a noteworthy trip down memory lane for many.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven, ” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house. The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.
As the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, there was much pressure placed on the young Maria Lanza to go to college, become a doctor, and live the American dream, but even as a child, prone to cutting and braiding the manes of her Barbies, Maria knew she wanted to be a hairstylist. At the age of nineteen, tired of the Eastside attitude she encountered in the salon she was working in, she entered an ad in the Village Voice and was soon whisked away to the other side of town to begin work as an assistant at David Ryan Salon in Hell's Kitchen. Specializing in color and highlights, the "boutiquie" salon was well rooted in the neighborhood, having first opened its doors in 1991. Though, by 2005 salon owner David Ryan was ready to retire, and having worked her way from assistant to manager to Master Stylist, Maria Lanza stepped up to take over the reigns. As the owner of her own business, Maria is glad to say she now has the full support of her family who was at first dubious of her alternate route to success. Today, they are proud of the salon, which offers a range of services including men's cuts, smoothing treatments, extensions and even makeup application. Maria ensures that David Ryan Salon has something for everyone, and with eleven stylists and flexible appointment times, there are plenty of opportunities to prove her right.
Originally a pharmacy selling products for showgirls, Alcone has been in business since 1950. Now owned by the Mallardi family, it is the go-to makeup company for TV, film and Broadway actors. Academy Award-winning makeup artists have collaborated with Alcone on notable projects, including the face of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Of course, those who do not work in entertainment also frequent the shop and the manager, Jacob, indicated that their products come in a wide range of prices. When asked about being located on a side street, Jacob told us that the neighborhood is simply "awesome. " "The Theatre District, " he went on, "not only brings in the actors, but also welcomes the tourists. " Even if you aren't looking to purchase anything, a trip to Alcone is still worth it, if only to see some of the items that spawned the Blue Man Group.