According to his daughter, Stephanie Pensa, Rudy came to New York for 48th Street – for the musicians who, in various stages of their careers, congregated together on one block. After years of playing guitar in his native Argentina (including electric guitar, which he converted to after hearing the Beatles for the first time) Rudy moved to Manhattan in 1974 to personally check out the New York scene. After spending four years working for others on the block, Rudy opened his own guitar shop at the top of his current building, but was able to gradually expand Rudy's Music down to street-level.
Ariel Zino, a long-time employee of Rudy's, explained their success as a matter of finding a niche and being able to maintain it while others closed their doors. "The great thing about this street was its wide range of specialties," he said. "There wasn't too much competition because each store had its own role in the ecosystem. We'd recommend people to go check out instruments at Sam Ash and vice versa - it was a much less competitive time." While Rudy's has opened up a new shop devoted to vintage guitars in SoHo, they still maintain their original headquarters on 48th - one of the few remaining devotees to Music Row. "That culture may have gone," Stephanie chimed in, "but we're still here."
I was most impressed listening to Ariel and Stephanie rattle off a list of guitar icons that regularly visit their shop. Rudy has been a close friend of Mark Knopfler, the Dire Straits' guitarist, since 1980 and, in 1985, the two created the "Pensa MK," a small production custom-made guitar built in the store, which has become one of the best high-end models for professional guitarists. Peter Frampton, Lenny Kravitz, Victor Bailey, and the late Lou Reed are among the many who have played with the Pensa MK line of guitars and electric basses.
When asked about the future of Rudy's and the legacy of Music Row, Stephanie seemed optimistic. "We're doing what we can to try to recreate the atmosphere on the street; my father's hoping to work with hotels and other businesses on the block to be a sort of tribute to where so much music started. Hopefully, in time, we'll see music stores in some shape or form returning to Music Row."
Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books.With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality," shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.