When I first walked into Good Records, I was charmed by the store’s pleasant atmosphere. Incense and ambient background music helped relax me and the other customers in the store, making us feel truly at home.
When I was at Good Records, I spoke with Ben, who has worked in the store for five years. He spoke highly of the importance of a record shop in an era with increasingly digital music. He said that by listening to music on their phones, people are losing out on the physical sensations that come with music. Record stores like Good Records provide “an experience. It’s tangible. There’s something mechanical and tactile about picking up a record and listening to it.”
“Records sound better,” Ben added. They sound “warm” and produce better quality sounds. "It may be easier to load up millions of songs online, but there is something missing from the songs that people yearn for," he explained. Good Records also stands out from other record stores because it offers a neat and highly curated selection. "Other record stores are often messy, with records strewn about," Ben commented. Good Records, however, takes a lot of time to cull their wide range offerings, making sure that customers will have what they want when they come in. He described their collection as “vibes that are slightly more esoteric.” Because of those vibes, the shop has become “a bit of a boutique zone.”
Good Records is able to curate its selection so well because each of its employees are musicians or somehow involved in the music industry. Ben, a producer and singer himself, loves that he can work alongside other musicians. Together, they “help create a great vibe” in the store.
Washed in the warm lighting of this special shop, approximately 7,000 books rest on shelves, in drawers, and tucked away in little nooks. Open for more than twenty years, this store has focused on collecting scholarly books ranging from art books to philosophy and everything in between, with much of the prose coming from estate sales. The feeling of age is the first thing we sensed when we walked in through the front door: creaky wooden floors beneath our feet and the scent of old paper in the air conjure a comforting environment where anyone might stumble upon that rare book or record they have been searching for over the years. As a former bookstore owner, it warms my heart to see a bookstore such as this one still thriving.
Kristian Sorge should be everyone's new best friend. He has got a knack for knowing just what music people will like and an expansive knowledge derived from years of being a vinyl collector. He began working in film, and continues to spends time working on film projects, but as he celebrates his two year anniversary with Limited to One records, he has the perspective to realize music has been his true passion all along.The shop has a unique focus: contemporary and independent music; it leans early 90s and beyond, but even the classic rock or jazz fan has a spot inside this record store. Kristian spoke nostalgically about a 1977 rare jazz record someone brought in that ended up being worth about $2,000. With a past as a DJ, Kristian’s inventory does reflect a lot of his musical preferences. He grew up on Metallica and Public Enemy before really diving into punk and hardcore bands. Now, one will often hear punk, indie rock, or rap on rotation in the store, from Nirvana to N.W.A. On any given day, there are about two to three thousand records - a mere third of the size of Kristian’s personal collection.While we were there, a customer came up asking about a Ryan Adams “Prisoner” box set, and you could see Kristian’s eyes light up as he showed them the hidden record behind the stage and opened it up to display other quirky features. The customers were actually tourists from Louisiana, and found themselves questioning the best way to transport their new treasures home, referencing multiple previous stops to the shop. The man explained: “the only records we’ve bought here I’ve gotten from you.” Even though Kristian is easily able to cater to and excite customers from outside of the area, he emphasized that he saves new additions so regulars always “get the first crack at stuff.”Kristian also pairs with artists to design prints, t-shirts, and bags. He will coordinate with labels to do store-exclusive pressings, such as a specifically colored-vinyl or alternative artwork, allowing customers to really get a Limited to One experience. The name itself is two-pronged: the shop mostly carries limited-edition records, but when he was only a collector, Kristian and his friends would always pay acute attention to the pressing info, asking “what’s it limited to?”
How nice to see birch trees, weeping willows and turtles sunning themselves in the pond in this garden of paradise. In El Jardin del Paraiso, a great big willow tree shades this space. While this tree is magnificent on its own, it is highlighted by an octagonal tree house that encircles its trunk. The wooden structure's design was donated by tree house architect Roderick Romero, who resides in the East Village. His work for this 4th street garden, in 2003, was his first community project and we were delighted to see him featured in a July 15, 2012 segment of the CBS Morning Show. We learned that he is known for his tree houses both in the US and abroad including those that he designed for Julianne Moore, Val Klimer, Donna Karan and Sting. Climb a few rungs of the ladder and you will be several feet above the ground, taking in the lush greenery and appreciating the talents of this esteemed architect.
Strolling along 5th Street, I was immediately drawn to a row of old-fashioned light bulbs hanging in the window of a small hair salon. Alexandra, the owner, invited me in while announcing that today, June 3, 2015, was Filament’s first day open!As I admired the salon’s hardwood floors and simple, appealing interior design, Alexandra told me that she and her co-owner, Seiji, had recently decided to leave the nearby hair salon where they both worked. A native Puerto Rican, Alexandra specializes in curly hair, while Seiji, originally from Japan, mostly works with straight hair and extensions. The pairing is perfect, Alexandra explained, because “there’s something for everyone here.” And while she and Seiji have different styles, they both believe in a natural approach to hairdressing: instead of trying to change their clients’ hair, they embrace and enhance its natural beauty. The salon’s name reflects this philosophy. Alexandra and Seiji spent hours trying to decide what to call their new endeavor, but it did not click until they bought their signature light bulbs. When they saw the glowing filaments inside the shop, Filament Hair Salon was born - a place where "the light inside you shines through the strands of your hair.”
Having started on the corner of Lafayette and Bleecker, Love Thy Beast moved to 5th Street in 2017. When I first walked into the shop, I was struck by its wonderful array of colorful dog accessories. While speaking with owner Tiziana Agnello, her genuine passion about all things dog-related became immediately apparent. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about Love Thy Beast’s line of products. There is no doubt that she has carefully curated the store’s collection. Tiziana has a strong love for dogs and was even holding a cute black pug while we spoke. She told me that Love Thy Beast sells everything from toys to tote bags and purposefully has a playful atmosphere, complete with pictures of dogs using items purchased in the store and puppy wall paper.When designing the store and the brand, Tiziana wanted to create a “happy place to make things for loved ones.” She has stayed true to her mission, giving the shop a light atmosphere and livening up the space with colorful accessories. Tiziana mentioned that Love Thy Beast sells products exclusively from the tristate area and has designed its own line of dog bags, bamboo-knit cloth (which is catered towards dogs with allergies or other health complications), and unisex coats.
By the time I arrived at Fish Bar on a Friday afternoon, a few regulars had already settled in. They chatted quietly as I explored the bar, which - true to its name - is decorated with fish and undersea creatures of all kinds. As I checked out Fish Bar’s reasonably priced drinks, which attract a diverse group of young people and locals, I wondered why the owner had decided on a nautical theme… and why there were so many dollar bills stuck to the ceiling.Fortunately, John, the owner, was happy to answer my questions. In the mid-nineties, he said, he frequented a bar called the Castro Lounge, which was unofficially known as “Fish Bar.” When the owner put the bar on the market, John bought it and made the unofficial name official. Fish Bar opened on January 1st, 2000, and regulars immediately began bringing fish back from vacations to decorate the ocean-blue walls. “It escalated quickly,” John said with a sigh.That explained Fish Bar’s origins, but not the money on the ceiling. According to John, it is a game invented by the regulars, who have a special technique to get the dollar bills to stick. But he refused to tell me anything else. “I guess you’ll just have to come by and check it out,” he said, and I assured him that I would visit Fish Bar soon - with a wallet full of dollar bills.
When I first walked into Doggie Dearest, I had no idea that it was one of the oldest businesses on 5th Street. The reception area was decorated with leafy green plants and painted a cheerful shade of “dog’s ear pink,” and the owner, Evelyn, took a break from grooming to share her story.Now a fixture on 5th, Doggie Dearest started out as a hobby. “I was bartending and working as a personal assistant,” Evelyn said, “and I decided to take a grooming class.” She discovered that she had a talent for the work and in 1993, Doggie Dearest was born. Though the business has grown over the years, Evelyn has not hired a large staff. She and her assistant do all of the grooming work, and she prides herself on the individualized care she gives to each pet. While other groomers often keep cats and dogs waiting for hours, Doggie Dearest is structured like a human hair salon, so that each animal gets a personal appointment. Evelyn also describes herself as the “first line of defense” against diseases: she has often alerted pet owners to symptoms they would never have noticed themselves.Between rising rents and her own battle with cancer, it has been difficult for Evelyn to keep the business afloat, but she keeps going, because she loves the work. “I even love the crazy dog people,” she added, laughing.