Known as “The Best Little Guitar Store in New York City,” Rivington has a gallery that is filled with rows and rows of vintage and new guitars. There are over one hundred in stock at all times – Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Martin, Rickenbacker, Silvertone, Harmony and more. Rivington also buys, sells, trades and repairs vintage guitars, keyboards and other instruments. Customers range from hobbyists to celebrities (including Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, and Mumford & Sons).
The store first opened in 1998 on Rivington Street, hence the name. During one visit, I spoke to the owner, Howie Statland, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1992. He is a true East Villager: “I don’t really go above 14th Street,” he told me, grinning. Howie is one of the founding members of Thin Lizard Dawn, a rock band that was signed to RCA records from 1995-2000. During that time, he bought and sold guitars while playing in the band. Music is in his blood: his mom was a concert pianist and he grew up playing the cello and piano before quickly turning to rock music.
Around the time when Thin Lizard Dawn was starting to break up, Howie found out that his friend, Tom Nastasi, was planning on closing his guitar shop, Rivington Guitars. Howie swept in and took over, eventually moving the store to 4th Street (though he admitted he still misses Rivington Street).
Though Howie offers a lot of services at Rivington Guitars, vintage guitar sales are his specialty. He is one of only twenty-five guitar dealers in the United States who determine the values in the Vintage Guitar Price Guide. He travels all over the country to find the guitars and knows people in the guitar world on both coasts and everywhere in between. He often gets to visit the houses of the owners who wish to sell their cherished instruments. While visiting the store, I witnessed him handle a guitar from a customer hoping to sell. Though Howie ended up turning the man away, the extreme care and skill with which he examined the instrument was evident. I asked Howie what guitar he plays. He answered that though he started on a Les Paul, he now swears by the 62 Jazzmaster. He still plays at different venues like Joe’s Pub and the Bowery Ballroom, but confessed, “I’m not performing as much as I’d like to be.”
Howie had a lot of good things to say about his staff. He praised Neal Winkowski, a very experienced guitar repairman. “He does repairs only a luthier could do.” He also complimented the guys from New York University (NYU) who teach guitar classes in the store. Despite wishing for more time as a performer, it is clear Howie loves his job. “I like the positivity of this business,” he said and went on to elaborate on the joy of selling the perfect guitar to someone. “I love providing a service to people who genuinely love music.”
As Hamlet would say, “This is one of the places you come to the village for. ” Walking through the door, a small white pooch runs up to greet you, then leads you back through the racks of coats, pants, hats, and other accessories. As the owner, Hamlet, emphasizes, the inventory here is vintage clothing (not a second-hand shop), that dates from the 1940s to the 80s. The selection is sourced through various vintage collectors from all over the world. Hamlet credits his eye for fashion to his mother, who, he says, was a fashion designer in his home country of Dominican Republic. He is very proud of his collection and iterates that the store is not for “80s party” accoutrement, rather it is a resource for historic elegance and style. And if you stop in, you may even get your picture taken, as Hamlet will often have his customers model his new acquisitions.
Every nook and cranny of this tiny storefront's space is full of an extensive and eclectic collection of musical instruments from around the world. Instruments hang from the ceiling just as haphazardly as they are stacked on top of one another from the floor. Located at this same address for over fifty years, Music Inn has an impressive sitar selection from the 1960's, a rare 100 year old sarinda from Afghanistan, as well as adorable little child guitars and mini pianos. I had a quick throwback moment when I spied an autoharp. Do you remember music class in elementary school back in the 60's?
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
After moving to her current location from East 7th Street, Lalita Kumut is pleased with her new address for selling aromatherapy products. On one of our recent visits, we stood by while a delighted group of girls were creating their own fragrances. From the variety of custom blends, soaps, oils and other smell-good body products, to the lovely women who have been in this business for over twenty years, the Fragrance Shop offers a memorable experience for the senses.