Guy Vaknin and his wife Tali opened Beyond Sushi in July of 2012 with the goal of producing healthy, beautiful and earth-conscious food. After learning of the depletion of fish in our oceans – not to mention the health benefits of a meatless diet – Guy set out to be the “first to pioneer the fish-less sushi movement. ” He views “sushi as a vessel that carries the perfect amount of flavor to just grab it in one bite. ” He also praises sushi for its consistency, which gives him room to play around in creating interesting and perfect balances of vegetable's flavors and colors. When describing his extensive background in the restaurant industry, Guy told us, “I had a dream to cook since I was young. I’ve always loved food. ” He grew up on a Kibbutz in Israel - and came to New York after serving in the Israeli army - to help out in his father’s restaurant. He went on to work at numerous other restaurants in New York doing every possible position, and after a brief dalliance with computer engineering, returned to the food world by studying at the Institute of Culinary Education. Fresh out of culinary school, Guy became the executive chef at his father’s kosher catering company. When a request for a sushi station popped up, and knowing that meat and fish are restricted in some areas of the Jewish world, he decided he wanted to create something “cool and innovative - and not fish. ” It took two years to develop his vegetarian sushi, but after selling out at the Vegetarian Food Festival two years in a row, Guy decided to open a business on 14th street. Within three months - working solely with the help of his sushi chef - the growing popularity of his beautiful, healthy, and delicious food quickly enabled him to expand into the thriving company that Beyond Sushi is today. One of Guy’s main goals is to balance sustainability and accessibility to encourage people to choose the healthy option of Beyond Sushi, and the passion that sustains this goal is his creativity. Even now that he has grown Beyond Sushi into a consistently expanding company, Guy still spends around fifty percent of his time cooking, and loves adding new dishes to his menu. He thinks of his business expansion in terms of community impact and wants to be “as big as possible. "
Everything at Norma Kamali's eponymous store feels distinctive, from the layout to the designs of the clothes. In the years since the designer opened her first shop on 53rd street in 1968, she has carved out a style all her own. Her flagship store's aesthetic is striking - white walls, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and fluorescent lighting that feels intentional and welcoming. Racks are placed at different locations throughout the store, showcasing Norma's three core collections - Activewear, Swimwear, and Kamali Kulture. The first includes Norma's iconic sweatsuits, which revolutionized women's activewear when the line appeared in 1984. The Swimwear collection prominently features the Bill Mio bathing suit, a rucked, old Hollywood-esque one-piece. Finally, the Kamali Kulture line was created so that a wider variety of women could enjoy Norma's signature designs; every item in the line is under one hundred dollars. The store also features sunglasses, including Norma's signature cat-eye shades. While being given a personal tour by Marissa, a representative of the Norma Kamali Brand, we learned that Norma's flagship location houses the Wellness Cafe, where women are invited to take a break from their shopping, sit down, and help themselves to some green tea and popcorn - sprinkled with Norma's own line of olive oil. On display is a "curation of products Norma loves, " including health snacks, supplements and weights. Marissa went on to explain that Norma frequently hosts events at the cafe featuring members of the medical community as well as tarot readers. "We invite people with a range of backgrounds and expertise, " said Marissa. Norma has achieved significant recognition in the fashion world and beyond, but many people who come into the store are merely drawn in by the display window. Customers stop by "whether they know that it's Norma Kamali or they're just curious, " Marissa told us. Though Norma's collections are featured in most major department stores, including her Fifth Avenue neighbors, this location on West 56th is the only one devoted exclusively to her. Because of their "small but mighty" status, Norma is able to keep a hand in everything that goes on at her boutique and wellness cafe: she styles the display window and chooses what clothing is showcased. Her virtual presence is strong as well: she narrates her own website, providing the stories behind various pieces of clothing. Towards the end of our time spent here, an exhilarating moment occurred when we had the pleasure of catching a glimpse of the grand lady, herself.
Thirty years ago, Jorge moved from Lima, Peru to begin a new life in the United States. Little did he know that someday he would own such a reputable tailor shop in the heart of Manhattan. Within his small lower level basement, Jorge operates his tailoring business with a client base ranging from celebrities to the average, local New Yorker. Sitting behind his desk with a patient smile, Jorge described what it was like to grow up in Peru and have his father first involve him in the tailoring profession. “My father was a tailor. I grew up with the work since I was a boy learning how to sew. I like to think I am where I am now because of my father, ” he told me. When he decided to move to New York, his father saved enough money to send him, and he began dreaming of owning a business. After working for various tailors, most of which were Italian, he was given the opportunity in 2011 to buy Peppi’s from a retiring tailor. “The opportunity was in front of me so I decided to go for it, ” he said. Jorge specializes in hand finishing and stitching, but any type of alteration is received at Peppi’s Tailor. “I do everything, from sewing on a button to altering a Zenga suit. But I always like to make my changes look exactly like the original. That is the most important thing. ” From dresses to jackets, Jorge works on pieces in his shop or travels to a specific New York location at the request of a client. “I once had to go to Madison Square Garden. I usually don’t know who the client is until I get there, and in this case it was Michael Buble, ” Jorge shared. Whether doing a job in person or completing a rush service in his shop, all of his work is done by hand and given the same detailed attention. “I do the same work for everyone, every job is important. ” He proudly brought out a few jackets and showed me how he alters them, what he plans to do for some, and the stitching needed for a specific repair. In the corner of the room I could see a small curtain, serving as a changing room. Jorge's desk and sewing machine are strategically placed slightly between the curtain and the mirror placed on the other end of the room. This way, Jorge explained, he can work on his alterations while he sees how the work fits his client. Jorge did mention that it "is a very tiring job on the eyes, which not many people understand. It requires a lot of hours and focus. ” As he admiringly gazed at the racks of suits, shirts, pants and dresses lined up next to his sewing machine, he added, “But I love my job, and until my eyes give up on me I will continue doing what I love. ”
VIP Shoe Restorers caters to a high end men’s crowd, carrying a wide range of expensive shoes and polishes. While speaking with Nick, a co-owner of the shop, we learned that he partners with B Nelson Shoes, another well known shoe restoration company, where Nick began his career. He is a third generation shoe restorer: His family has been in business for more than ninety years. Nick has a wide range of connections throughout the industry, including with shoe specialists in Europe. Thanks to these relationships, he has brought a variety of boutique products into the store. Nick continues to solidify his standing in the shoe world by writing a column in a men’s fashion magazine. He has become their go-to expert on shoe advice. According to Nick, his encyclopedic knowledge of the shoe industry and his loyalty to his customers has helped him become "the" shoe restorer for many big midtown firms. He recalled a time when one of his clients brought in a huge bag of shoes from his car, many of them worth "well over $10, 000, " to be cleaned and polished. Nick proudly told us that, "This customer, a shoe fanatic, trusted me enough to handle his shoes properly and use only the best products. "