There is an entrance to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (also known as the 59th Street Bridge) between First and Second Avenues, making maneuvering back and forth across East 58th difficult. Notwithstanding this challenge to life and limb, nothing was going to deter me from making my way to the front door of the perfectly kept, precious red brick house with its white picket fence. From across the way, I was intrigued, and could not wait to learn the story of this nineteenth century home. Inside, I was warmly greeted by Diana and Mark Jacoby, the couple who own and run the almost seventy-seven year old antique store, Phillip Colleck.
Mark and Diana met at Phillip Colleck, where they began working in 1980 on 57th Street. When Phillip Colleck, himself, passed away in 1987, the couple ran the business for six months before deciding to purchase the company. They moved into the current location in 2000, turning what had previously been a private residence into a space used partially for commercial purposes, and to my utter delight, the remainder as their home.
The history of the Jacoby's pre-Civil war house is rich and fascinating. The oldest building on East 58th, it was originally the home of the brick mason who built it for his family in the 1850s. Since then, it has undergone various changes. In 1967, the owner was offered a million dollars for the building, but instead of taking the money, he had the house landmarked. When Diana and Mark renovated the front of the house - which had been painted a color they described as 'blueberry yogurt" - they had to carefully peel off the paint in an effort to preserve the layers underneath.
Considering its proximity to the entrance to the bridge, I commented on how remarkably quiet it seemed indoors. Mark explained to me that the windows are the original ones and that they do not allow much sound to penetrate them. He went on to tell me that the walls are "three layers of brick thick," then proudly boasted, "this house was solidly built." And if I wasn't already in awe, the Jacoby's then took me out back to their charming garden where Diana said that they often entertain guests and clients.
Phillip Colleck specializes in English furniture and art pieces from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. From tables to chairs to mirrors and other fine pieces, my favorite among the many treasured items was an exquisite Spanish chandelier, still in its original design with candles to keep it lit. Although it is of course for sale, Diana announced that they are in no hurry to sell it, as it is perched over the table that they dine, and she feels it fits in perfectly.
The previous tenant was a composer and professor at Julliard, and would often invite students to his home for master classes. Mark and Diana also welcome scholars into their house, allowing professors from different universities to host classes. "Our mission is largely to educate about English furniture and its place in history," said Mark. In addition, the Jacoby's invite outside collectors to exhibit their pieces.
On the day of one of my visits, during the 2014 Christmas season, I had the pleasure of meeting Harry Heissmann, who was there displaying his antique German Christmas tree stands from his own business on West 45th Street.
Although filled to the brim inside, the adventure begins simply by gazing through the impressive windows of John Salibello's three antique lighting shops on East 60th. The dazzling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling at No. 211 were only the beginning, for upon entering, I learned that the excitement extends back into an even more inspiring gilded maze where every inch of space is utilized to display the carefully curated collection, both upstairs and down a flight.Lori Gray, the store's manager, spoke to me about John Salibello's origins. It turns out that she is one of the best people to do so, as she has been by John's side for years - ever since he was working in the fashion industry. Lori followed John when he left Benetton, as he had become a close friend and she "deeply respected his taste." I learned from Lori that John was one of the first people to deal in Mid-Century Modern design, "probably because he opened his business just as it was becoming temporarily distant enough to be desirable." Breaking new ground, he found his stride and has stayed true to it ever since. John's knowledge of the period is extensive, but he makes a point of not being driven by a particular designer, despite their fame. As Lori explained, "He can "talk that talk," but in the end, John travels the world searching for beautiful pieces, no matter what their origin. "This is why he has been so successful as a trend-setter," Lori proudly stated.Most items are vintage, but there are some custom-made objects, such as a row or colorful glass boxes made by an artist from Murano. The employees chimed in during a conversation one day, sharing with me how they enjoyed having input into the color combinations for each one. The staff is a crucial part of this well-oiled machine. As one woman put it, they are in charge of the "visualization of the store - John does the buying and we set it up and then sell it." They are also meticulous about maintaining the inventory, as every piece is always gleaming, a hard outcome to achieve in a store filled with so much glass.John Salibello's triumph in the furniture world also has a lot to do with its location. Because the store is in the design district, everything is in one place, making it easy for interior designers and their clients. When engaging in conversation with John, himself, one day, he expanded on his concept of three boutiques on one street. "We have a tremendous amount of inventory, as that is what our customers prefer." He said that he loves 60th, but because he cannot house everything in one location, he has chosen to take over additional retail space, while remaining in the same neighborhood. John explained that just the shear size of the pieces he finds requires more room, and then went on to say that he is pleased that his shops are in demand, as people like what he carries and he is forever finding new things to add. As John expressed, "if you want to be spectacular, this is the only way to do it."
Toni Cohen first opened up her shop in 1990, but has been selling antiques for most of her life. She described it as “the ideal thing to do.” Toni shared that she loves being able to collect interesting items and tell people about them, especially those who stop by from the neighborhood. “Antiques are a picture into the past. You can learn all about a time period or country from antiques,” she explained.Since opening her shop, Toni has become a fixture on East 55th. She even keeps the lights on all night so passersby can peer inside at her collection. In addition to selling antiques, Toni is a certified appraiser. Her loyal clientele often ask her to visit their homes to evaluate pieces that they have acquired, which she then occasionally puts on sale in the store.Toni's shop is full of decorative, eclectic, and unusual items. She highlighted several unique pieces of furniture and Chinese vases that were her favorite, and her eyes lit up when she talked to Jon, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, about these cherished items. She makes it her mission to learn about the background of every object she purchases, and even takes an occasional history class to brush up on certain time periods.While we were visiting in 2017, Toni’s daughter stopped by, and began chatting with us about her mother’s amazing run on 55th Street. She believes that the reason the store has thrived is due to the relationships her mom has formed with her clientele over the years. Despite the fact that the internet has taken away much of the in-store antique business, Tony finds that customers continue to be drawn to her, for they are eager to hear the history behind the pieces firsthand. “In New York, small businesses can cater closely to their clientele. That’s the thread that connects them, that’s why she’s still here.”
Nicolo Melissa Antiques & Art is a story that combines a personal relationship with a passion for the arts. Melissa Magid met Nicolo Camisa, originally from Italy, when he was studying English in the United States, and the two fell in love. Nicolo had been trained in the family's antique business since he was sixteen, and so it made perfect sense for Nicolo to open a small antique store in Manhattan with his new bride. Melissa admits that she did not know much about antiques before Nicolo, but when she traveled to Italy to meet his family, and found his home filled with treasured pieces spanning the ages, she recognized the importance of this world that Nicolo had grown up in. And it did not take her long to decide that she wanted to join him as a partner. Though their gallery is completely separate from Nicolo’s family’s business, Melissa told me that they frequently keep in touch with his Italian kin in order to trade secrets and discuss their acquisitions.A favorite story that Melissa enjoys sharing is when her older son, at the age of two, already seemed to have an eye for fine art: When they took him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he was staring up at some of the paintings on the wall, he gestured to his father saying, “Papa, bring this one home!” Because the young child was so accustomed to accompanying his parents on buying trips, he did not understand the difference between viewing art in a museum and their vast collection that his parents have amassed. Both in their home and at the gallery, Nicolo and Melissa’s two boys are surrounded by Renaissance bronzes, classical sculptures, and micro mosaics. Nicolo quickly added that despite the variety, their collection is carefully curated, and forms a cohesive whole that he hand selects both from travels around the United States and abroad. The gallery specializes in artwork, furniture, and decor from the 19th century and earlier. Melissa showed us some of her favorite pieces, including a Florentine 19th Century ebony cabinet and a pair of Cesare Lapini white marble angels. It became clear rather quickly that Melissa is quite proud to run a local, family-owned gallery. As she so sweetly described the first venture that they embarked on as a couple, "This is our first child.”
In a rather small space, Royale Galleries has accumulated a treasure trove of collectibles since 2003. Showcasing items from the nineteenth century, the mother and son team, Madeline and Ephron, boast an impressive collection of paintings, clocks, chandeliers and jewelry. One could spend hours sifting through the colorful vases, mirrors, sculptures, lamps and artwork. "We carry very eclectic, one-of-a-kind pieces," Ephron explained, as he rummaged through their inventory trying to show me some of the rare finds. Accordingly, Royale Galleries does business with decorators and collectors from around the world. "We have people come from the Middle East in private planes to view our gallery," Madeline proudly stated.
I first discovered Newel when it was on 53rd Street. Pressing the doorbell, I was greeted by Jake Baer, the fourth-generation family owner of Newel Antiques. Entering the showroom lit by Murano glass chandeliers, I made my quick introduction, and was kindly offered a tour of their five floors - each one filled with an astonishing assortment of furniture. From the French, Italian, English, Modernist or Renaissance period, as well as a basement filled with wicker pieces, Jake explained to me that Newel has an eclectic selection to keep up with the latest trends. They represent every period and style and can go in any direction depending on the need and interest of the time and the customer. I was overwhelmed, yet mesmerized, at the same time, by shelves stacked to the ceiling and overflowing with treasures from the fifteenth century. There were chairs and tables of all shapes and sizes crowned together, as Jake nonchalantly rattled off their backstories including telling me where they had been used. "That giant Venetian birdcage was on Boardwalk Empire," for example. Jake also shared that Pygmalion was the first show that launched his great grandfather's company; they still have some of the original pieces that were used some seventy-five years ago. Newel is not a typical antiques store. The business got its start in the 1930s when founder, Meyer Newman, began visiting various Broadway productions and asking what type of furniture they needed for their sets. "Without quite knowing how," Jake explained, he would find what directors needed and rent it to them for less than buying the piece would have cost. This same model continues to this day, though "ninety-eight percent" of the furniture, according to Jake, is for sale. Most of what Newel does is to rent out period furniture and paintings for television shows, movies, fashion shoots and store windows. "Rental is the DNA of our business - it got us to be where we are today, and always takes us back to our roots." "Nobody does it on this scale," Lewis Baer, Jake's father, told me about the renting side of Newel's business. Nor does anybody have the volume of authentic, high-quality items. "Anyone is welcome inside of this world of antiques," Mr. Baer went on to explain. Newel tries to make themselves accessible to all ages. They work tirelessly to interact and build relationships with the theater world, movie set designers and interior decorators. Nowadays, minimalism is in vogue and people do not buy as many antiques as they would have a generation ago. Thus, the Baer family focuses most of their energy on renting their antiques, and on selling their new line of beautiful original chandeliers, crafted on the island of Murano in Venice. Most importantly, though, Newel remains family-owned just as they were in the 1930s, and these warm ties are evident in every aspect of the business.
Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Bistro Vendome was still abuzz with chatter when the Manhattan Sideways team stopped by at the tail end of lunch hour to meet with the delightful owner, Virginie Petiteau. Although she and her husband Pascal, who is the executive chef, hail from Brittany, France, they met in New York, where they both worked at Jubilee, a French restaurant on First Avenue. After fifteen years there, Virginie said they felt ready to open their own place. She told us that it was great to already have a base of customers in the area that knew and supported them when they opened Bistro Vendome in 2010. And she was pleased to tell us that they have maintained a loyal clientele ever since. As Virginie put it: "Some people who come here saw me when I was pregnant, and now my daughter is fourteen."Pascal started working at high-end French restaurants in France at an early age. After coming to New York, he decided to focus on more casual French food. In 2014, he was inducted as Master Chef in Mątres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious organization aiming "to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development." An unusual occurrence continued to happen as we resumed our walking on 58th, as so many other businesses told us that they eat at Bistro Vendome on a regular basis because the food was as traditionally French as one could hope for in Manhattan.
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.