My kids grew up with this department store of creative art supplies in Westchester. It was their go-to place for every school project they encountered as well as for birthday gifts each year. As they got older and art became their passion, we visited here often to take classes and to purchase items for their own drawing and painting. When we moved to Manhattan, we were delighted to learn that they have a store on 18th Street.
A.I. Friedman moved to 18th Street after residing on West 45th for nearly fifty years. Using borrowed capital from an uncle, A.I. Friedman opened his shop in a fourth floor loft. The original founders made makeshift stock shelves using old packing cases. Their first customers were not families like ours, but rather professional clients, including free-lance artists, advertising agencies, illustrators, and newspapers. The store struggled over the years, especially during World War II, when the only people looking to buy art supplies were in the army. Agencies such as the Office of War Information employed graphic designers to produce magazines, propaganda, and posters. A.I. Friedman recognized this opportunity and began shipping art supplies to the battlefields. Once the war ended, the store began reaching greater success, which eventually propelled them to open a second store in 1974. They relocated to 18th Street when the rent in midtown skyrocketed.
Today, the space is set up into four quadrants: fine arts, paper and journals, custom framing, and furniture. Karma, one of the knowledgeable sales people, rattled off the many types of paints, markers, pencil sets, pens, and paper that the store carries, as well as foam boards and a variety of art paper and digital papers. Karma told me that if the store does not carry a specific material or tool, they are always happy to place a special order. On one of the days that I visited, there was a pop-up leather goods stall at the front of the store, selling desk blotters, pad holders, and pencil cuffs. As I strolled over to the framing section that occupies a large portion of the store, Karma described the custom framers as “very professional – they do a great job and always receive repeat customers.” When I asked about his clientele, Karma shared that while the store sees many locals, "they receive artists from all over." He called A.I. Friedman the “one-stop art-shop,” and I am inclined to agree.
A city landmark and a slice of Old New York, Pete's Tavern has been serving food and draft beer uninterrupted since 1864. It does not take much to envision Pete's as it was a century and a half ago. The scarred, carved bar, the high-backed booths, tin ceiling and functional 1950's register are reminders that this was once the favorite haunt of writer O. Henry, a speakeasy, and a pre-Civil War "grocery & grog." Walking through the rooms, one can also discover hundreds of photos of people from our past - James Cagney, Mickey Mantle, and celebrities of today, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Adam Sandler. To drink here is to drink half in the past and half in the present.
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting its American diners with Teishoku, or home-style cooking. This chain, which opened in Japan in 1958, features nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia there are over three hundred restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant.
Ken Giddon likes to say that he went “from riches to rags” by leaving a career as a bond trader to reopen his grandfather’s men’s clothing store. Harry Rothman used to peddle his wares from a pushcart on Delancey Street in the 1920s before moving into a retail space. “He kind of created the concept of a discount clothing store,” Ken remarked. Rothman’s closed for a time after Harry’s death in 1985, but Ken revived the business a year later in a stunning, 11,000-square-foot storefront on the corner of 18th Street in Union Square. “I love being on a side street. It gives us the ability to afford a bigger space while watching the movable feast that is New York walk by every day.” Five years after the shop’s reopening, Ken invited his brother, Jim, to join him. “This is one of the true family businesses in Manhattan.” The store, which carries both casual and formal attire from top designers, aims to make the shopping experience for men “as efficient and rewarding as possible.” To this end, Ken and Jim scour the market, travel abroad, and attend numerous trade shows to find the best brands. “We try to provide our customers with that personal, small-town feel in the middle of the city,” Jim said. Despite Rothman’s more modern look and merchandise, the brothers strive to keep some core elements of their grandfather’s business alive, particularly by preserving his humble approach to owning a men’s retail store. As Harry used to say, “It’s not so serious what we do. We just sell pants for a living.”