Olivia is a woman who, admittedly, likes to take risks. Fresh out of school where she studied to become a dentist, she instead felt called to selling tea. At the time, there wasn’t a great market for tea in China; when Olivia approached her neighbor - the only person she knew involved in the tea business - for advice, she was met with warnings rather than information. However, Olivia is also a persistent woman, and with some “nagging” her neighbor finally agreed to teach her about tea manufacturing. Additionally, Olivia spent time in the mountains where tea is grown, observing farmers and enriching her tea education. After spending a month tediously picking a storefront, she opened her first store in her hometown of Fuzhou in 1995, and found herself an "immediate success." Just three months later, she was able to open her second storefront in Shanghai, and then finally a third in Guangzhou. Olivia describes this twenty-year journey, and her subsequent move to America, as a “strange kind of fate.”
Jin Yun Fu represents gold, tea’s aroma, and fortune. Her logo captures a red circle representative of the sun and a swirl representing a cloud. This swirl’s open endedness will keep fortune coming to the shop forever as the cloud will continually rise. And though her move to New York was not entirely smooth, she feels strongly about her choice of location and fortunate in the continued success of her Chinese shop. In New York, Olivia wanted a location that was central, which would allow her to interact with people of all denominations, and she feels she found that on West 25th where she is located upstairs in the Showplace Antiques Center. A large percent of her customers are Americans, as she has discovered a budding interest in tea culture of younger generations of Americans. She boasts that she has never encountered a rude customer, though she was unsure whether to ascribe this to either the culture of tea itself or the calming properties of drinking tea.
Olivia’s passion for her work shines through, continually emphasizing the importance that her customers learn the mental and physical healing benefits of drinking tea. She feels that despite tea’s Chinese origins, it is a “worldly gift from nature.” Though she endorses the benefits and specialities of each type of tea, when pushed for her favorite she lists Wuyi Yan tea - a type of Oolong tea - for its texture and special “mouth feel.” Every thing she does in her shop is infused with a care for disseminating the knowledge she has amassed in the years since opening her first shop in the 1990s. When you step into Jin Yun Fu, Olivia’s claim that she’s never encountered a rude customer becomes less shocking. It’s organized atmosphere, equipped with mini statuettes, beautiful tea kettles, and, of course, lines of loose-leaf tea bags would calm even the busiest of New Yorkers.
Established in 1874, Westpfal continues to provide premium knives and tools for leatherwork, as well as to sharpen high-end knives for restaurants across New York City. The leather tools available are of the same ilk as the 1930s tools available oh-so-many years ago and are used by fashion designers from Coach to Dooney & Burke. On any given day, one can stop by and find a regular New Yorker, or even folks from out of town, coming in to have their own knives and scissors sharpened by the highly regarded team of workers.When the Manhattan Sideways stopped in for a visit during the summer of 2017, we had the pleasure of meeting Carmilla Wigman, who has been working at Henry Westpfal for over sixty-five years. She was kind enough to share some of the history of the shop. Carmilla pointed out a display board of vintage cutlery from 1931, which she referred to as “her pride and joy.” She also showed us a pair of scissors that was previously owned by John F. Kennedy Jr. and were used in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening of Grand Central Station in 1998. Westpfal now rents these scissors out for similar ceremonies.Unfortunately, one can no longer watch and wait as knives are put on the machines, as they have had to move their factory to New Jersey. It is an example of the age-old story: Rent became a factor on the side streets of Manhattan for Westpfal.Who are their biggest clients almost 150 years later? The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is, as students majoring in leather purchase tools for crafting handbags, belts, and shoes, and numerous chefs who frequent Westpfal to have their personal knives sharpened.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s.” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!