A relic of a bygone era, this space, full of antiques, is an experience. In 1924, Arnold Morak’s father opened a store “downtown” to sell textile-manufacturing machinery, supplying what was then an enormous industry in Manhattan. This original location became a victim of the construction of Washington Square Park, and so the Moraks moved to their current location on 27th, in the heart of the textile district. When Arnold returned from a stint in the Korean War many decades ago, he took over the family business. Slowly, however, the businesses Arnold was selling to began to leave for cheaper rent, first in surrounding areas, and later overseas. Meanwhile, technology evolved, rendering machines with which Arnold specialized obsolete. The flow of customers slowed to a trickle and eventually dried up. “In the late 1980s, this type of machinery died,” he explained to us, pulling no punches.
Today, Arnold, well into his eighties, sits with his co-worker, Jonesy, lording over his kingdom of ancient artifacts and living life at his own pace. The inventory of memorabilia that Arnold has amassed over the years is intriguing. What struck a chord with me were the dozens of miniature Singer sewing machines used by milliners a century ago (my grandfather made ladies' hats when I was a little girl). As I strolled through the store, taking it all in, I felt like I was invited to peer into the long and winding history of this city. Nothing has a price tag on it, but I encourage anyone fascinated by the fashion industry and the materials used in this bygone era to stop by and have a peek.
Asked what he does here, Arnold replied: “nothing.” Asked why he comes in, he said: “I don’t want to stay at home. I love my wife of over sixty years, but sometimes you just have to get away.” Having invested in property in New York when it was not astronomically expensive, Arnold actually owns this building and has the luxury of using it as a “day home.” He is holding out against selling to developers bent on transforming the space. “I’ll let my kids make that mistake,” he says. “You can walk with a straight backbone knowing you own property in New York. It’s a marvelous feeling.” Someday, inevitably, this store will be torn down and reborn as an expensive and expansive apartment house, but for now, it is a reminder of the great history our city has experienced, and it has been a hell of a ride for our new friend, Arnold Morak.
“By accident,” answered Olga Blanco when I asked her how she got her start in the printing business. Her husband started Nobel Printing in 1979, and Olga took over a short while later when he became ill. “I learned and I kept going,” she smiled, remembering a time when the business was new to her. She, in turn, has taught her son, who works for a printing company in Florida. Olga shared with me that when her son's business decided to use the traditional printing press in an effort to distinguish themselves from others, his knowledge of the machine lead to a promotion. “No one else knows how to use these,” she gushed, “so they increased his pay.”Originally from Columbia, Olga journeyed to the States in 1969 at the age of seventeen. Since living here, she has seen a lot of changes, many of which have had an negative impact on her custom printing company. “Everything is digital these days,” she rationalized, "And everyone thinks they are a designer.” With so many people in possession of a computer and the means to make their own digital copies, her fears are not unwarranted. Topped off with rising rents, Olga is not sure her business will operate for longer than a few more years. Indeed, she has seen many others pushed out of the neighborhood for similar reasons. “The real estate business is hungry for money,” she said, shaking her head.Despite the obstacles, Olga remains quite confident in the product, itself. She happily deals solely in custom printing, taking on any job no matter the size and “creating something beautiful.” When I visited in the summer of 2016, Olga was working on a wedding order of 2000 invites and could not conceal her passion for the project. She showed me her early drafts, pulling out the quality card stock and brushing her fingertips over a soft design that depicted a tree just in bloom. There is no replacement for “that human touch.”
Co-founded in 1994 by former number one middleweight boxer, Michael Olajide, and Leila Fazel, a former ballerina, Aerospace claims to offer “a revolutionary new fitness that engages body, mind, and spirit.” Leila explained that the Aerospace workout is “revolutionary” in two ways: first, it does not involve any machines, and second, it has its foundation in athlete-level boxing to engage cardio, muscle endurance, and core strength. The company has its own boxing ring and jump rope line.We had the pleasure of seeing Michael, who lost vision in one of his eyes in the early 1990s, guide a student through some boxing combinations as part of the Aerospace workout. Although Michael and Leila intend to maintain the “authenticity of boxing” in their program, Aerospace is open to everyone, with or without boxing experience. While some learn to hit bags on the second floor, others in a more advanced program spar in the boxing ring on the first floor. Leila also runs a workout that combines shadow boxing with ballet.
Jon Eisen is not only one of the partners of Between the Bread and its director of strategic growth, but he is also heir to one of the pioneers of the venture, which has delivered sandwiches to office workers since 1979. Ricky Eisen, Jon’s mother and the company’s president - who was born on the outskirts of Tel Aviv - decided to use large-scale catering to bring healthy meals to her clients in a more efficient way. Jon claims that the result was the first catering company in New York City. Ricky’s idea to use only healthy and local ingredients proved to be a pivotal moment in the way catering to corporate clients is done today.In 2013, Ricky put her son in charge of the retail and café side of the business, which up until that point had been secondary to catering. Recognizing the recent popular trend of eating healthy and local, Jon quickly began streamlining the production process, including installing digital cash registers to track customer orders. This lead to a doubling of revenue. His success prompted Ricky to name him partner in 2015. Despite these changes, the core of the business is still the same: using organic, fresh, and seasonal to serve “high quality meals.” And to hear it from Jon and the head of brand strategy, Victoria Rolandelli, this core seems to resonate well with customers. Between the Bread opened two more locations in October 2015 and has plans to have a total of twelve locations throughout the city.Located in the Chelsea Terminal Warehouse, the 27th Street Between the Bread is in a massive space that was previously an unloading station for trains. In the not-too-distant future, once Hudson Yards is complete, it is Jon's hope that they will become the "new Chelsea Market."
Originally constructed in 1905, this building became the home of the beloved Gershwin Hotel in 1992. In 2014, Triumph Hotels took over the space and invested a good deal in renovations, renaming it The Evelyn. As an homage to building’s artful and musical past, the guest rooms feature music note-tiled bathrooms, trombone-shaped chandeliers, and decorations inspired by the Art Nouveau style of the 1900s.