Since opening on 67th Street in 1928, this laundry and cleaners has seen a good deal of evolution, and has always stayed in the hands of the same family - none of which were ever named Jim. Though it was originally called Chin's Laundry after its initial owner, the shop became "Jim Lee Laundry and Cleaners" in response to the American mispronunciation of "Chin."
Before the Second World War, the Lees lived inside the store, but from 1948-1960 they resided upstairs at No. 206. Around 1957, the family decided to move the store a few doors down into a space twice as large. By this time, they had moved their residence to Queens, where the current owner, David Lee, was raised with his three older siblings.
A third generation owner, David took Jim Lee's over from his father, Eugene Lee. When I spoke to David in July of 2015, he told me, "This was supposed to be a temporary job for me, and now I have been at it for some twenty-five years." He is certainly not complaining, however. "It has served its purpose," he went on, "I raised a family and now my kids are lawyers."
In the laundry and cleaners' beginning years, East 67th street was frequented mainly by blue-collar workers - people who had immigrated from Ireland, Italy and Germany. But, with the rise of the luxurious Manhattan House on East 66th Street in the 1950s, the neighborhood took on an entirely different clientele, as well as a boost to property values. Jim Lee's has cleaned the clothes of police and fire commissioners, politicians, and a "bunch of characters" over the years.
"Whatever it is that we are doing," David explained, "I know for certain we have had a lot of satisfied customers." As I walk the side streets of Manhattan, stories such as this one never cease to amaze me. Sadly, they are becoming rarer as businesses are being forced to vacate their homes after so many decades due to rising rents and demolitions of their buildings. Still, reminding me of a favorite children's book, "The Little Engine That Could, this little side street business continues to puff along, repeating quietly, "I think I can, I think I can."
An inviting gourmet deli for both to-go bites and sit-down fare, Cafe Fresco offers a salad bar, an omelet station, sandwich fixings, "legendary bagels, " and many other options for all sorts of cravings. One of their featured dishes, the eggplant Milanese, is made with oven-roasted eggplants, pesto ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Open windows give each seat a full view of either First Avenue or St. Catherine's Park. When I stopped in with a fellow Sideways member on a brutally humid summer day, we watched the children swinging higher and higher outside at the park as we hid inside from the heat, refueled ourselves, and recharged our cell phones.
Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that opened in 1934, has not forgotten its origins as a home to the ewes and rams that grazed in Sheep Meadow. Images of sheep are everywhere - carved into the fireplace, decorating the menu, holding up the table in the lobby. In 2010, the building ceased to be a restaurant for a brief stint, serving instead as a visitor's center and gift shop. After being taken over by partners, Jim Caiola and David Salama, and a lengthy renovation, the Tavern made a culinary return with a rustic and seasonal menu. I have eaten here on a number of occasions since its debut in the spring of 2014, but strolling in and out of the various rooms with members of the Manhattan Sideways team was a whole different experience. None had ever been, and I was amused and pleased with their reactions to this iconic Central Park locale. The Tavern contains three main areas. In the front dining room, the vast space resembles a summer hunting lodge. A large, circular bar takes up the center with a rotating carousel of gilded horses above it, and mammoth roof beams run along the ceiling like an old mead hall. Separated from the outdoors by a large glass wall, the second dining area is far more modern with creams, ivories and a collection of glass chandeliers. And though it was a hot day, a few brave souls ate outside in the exterior dining space, under umbrellas and large, mid-century street-lamps. The other side of the building features a beer garden with its own menu of simple bar fare. Finally, for the thousands of people who jog, bike or are simply wandering in the park, there is now a delightful little take-away window called "Green-to-Go. " It offers both a breakfast and lunch menu, and tables to sit down, relax and enjoy either a cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, or a variety of wraps and salads in the afternoon. If nothing else, it is a terrific spot to watch both tourists and New Yorkers passing by.
Delle Celle features many respected brands of Italian-fabricated women's clothing, as well as its own line of garments. The pieces are full of color and pattern, with an abundance of styles - there are very few repeats. Walking in, one is greeted by a friendly salesperson, happy to answer any questions. Face-to-face shopping is a vital component of this business, void of an online site. And the integrity and authenticity of the pieces certainly warrants this tactile form of transaction.
"You are now in Bedford Falls, " a sign read in this 67th Street bar, named after a location referenced in the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life. " With a bounty of liquor, an arcade golf game, and sports on all the televisions, this bar is the ultimate man cave. A food menu is also offered, including the ever-popular Bedford burger and a nice brunch assortment for the weekend. When I ventured in on a Wednesday night, men in good spirits, many of whom were regulars, occupied the main bar. A more private room featured cushy leather for quieter comfort, and the backroom was complete with high-legged seating and a wooden-booth. Tables appeared to be repurposed beer boxes, and the place was otherwise furnished with whiskey barrels, brick walls, and light alternative music. And through an intriguing walkway, I found myself in the splendid beer garden.