Capitol Fishing Tackle sports quite a rich history. It began its life in 1845 in Germany, sharpening tailors' tools and surgical instruments. This avocation eventually gave way to sharpening fish hooks, the specialty when the store moved to New York in 1897. Eric, the current owner, told me that his dad bought the business in the 1970s, and that they remain the only conventional fishing store in the city. Of course, as the sport has changed, the inventory continues to be updated. Today, this institution sells state of the art rods, reels, clothing – virtually anything related to both fresh and salt-water fishing. People come and outfit an entire boat. Customers who are involved in tournament fishing, including the "blue marlin" where the grand prize is ten million dollars, seek the staff's advice. With so much time establishing a foothold, Capitol has achieved an international reputation, drawing customers from across the globe. Eric confidently stated, "Anyone who knows about fishing knows about us." "At this point," he continued, "we have people coming in telling stories of having shopped here as a child and now they are bringing in their GREAT grandchildren."
With Capitol Fishing Tackle on 36th Street, it made perfect sense to discover the largest boating supply retailer in the world on 37th. For any and all boating enthusiasts, West Marine is a must. Boaters can find the right gadgets, gear and fittings to suit their needs. Manhattan Sideways member, and sailor extraordinaire, Megan, has asked the salespeople countless times to help her find the right nut and bolt, cleat, or pulley from hundreds of different options, and each time she has walked out of the store with exactly what she needed to keep her own boat high-tech. She told me that the knowledge about all things boating in West Marine is remarkable. This large franchise originated in Randy Repass’s small garage in 1968, and grew to be an international business of boating-related products. With Randy at the helm every step of the way, and his passion to satisfy each customer’s desires, it is smooth sailing some forty years later.
Wise words from manager Charlie Rhee: "As a salesperson, you end up selling something. I'd rather be selling something I like. " Simple, yet too true. Manhattan, despite lacking green fairways, has a significant golfing population that takes this sport very seriously. Back in 1983, when Charlie's father founded the store on 36th Street, there was a gaping niche between golf pro shops, on the one hand, and more generalized sporting goods stores on the other. Need, meet solution. Clearly, the idea was a good one, as the shop ultimately moved into a larger space (1991), added a second floor (1999), and opened a second shop (2013) on 40th Street. The success is understandable; everybody that works here, from Charlie on down, is an avid golfer, and the enthusiasm for and knowledge of the sport permeates the floor. When I asked Josh, a co-worker, one day, about his interest in golf, his quick response was "I am obsessed with the sport. " The vibe, then, is like a mega-pro-shop, minus the exclusivity. This has led to consistent honors among Golf Digest's top 100 golf shops in the country.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave. ”
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.