Three friends and self-proclaimed theater kids — John Soroka, Michael Quinn, and Gary Alaimo — were searching for something to do in between jobs and auditions. They started a flower shop, Everlastings, out of their shared apartment and began making arrangements for street fairs, offices, and homes. Upon realizing that the business had taken over their living space — “There were flower petals everywhere,” John recalled — the trio rented a place in Hell’s Kitchen and decided to sell gifts and cards along with the bouquets.
With time, these additions became the central focus of the shop, which was later renamed Delphinium Card & Gift. Though some thought the men were “insane” for opening in Hell’s Kitchen, they have remained a fixture in the area for over two decades and counting. “We had taste, we knew what we wanted, and we always had a knack for knowing what the neighborhood needed,” John mused. Buoyed by their initial accomplishments, the trio started a second store, Delphinium Home, that stocked home goods and accessories, followed by a men’s clothing store, Wear Me Out, in 2003.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and with the cost of rent skyrocketing, the friends closed the boutique and consolidated the two Delphinium shops into one location in 2011. Today, they sell decorations, home furnishings, works by local artists, and clever greeting cards that are handpicked by John. “Now that I’m not doing theater anymore, it’s my creative outlet. "Delphinium Home is my theater,” he joked.
Overall, John appreciates how lucky they are to have surmounted so many obstacles thanks to the constant support from the people around them. “We are only here by the good graces of those who have known us for such a long time and love what we do.”
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Once upon a time, partners Nicki and Lisa were just a couple of ladies who loved to travel. As their roster of overseas adventures grew, they noticed that each time they visited the far-flung corners of the earth they returned with a host of goodies that had caught their collective eye. An idea was born, and they founded Domus as a home-goods focused store with a global inventory. The attitude here, according to Nicki, is that "if we like something, and we think other people might like it, we do it. " That makes for a flexible and open approach, which over the years has led to spillover past the home-goods genre into arts and crafts, toys and knick-knacks of all sorts.
One might think that they are walking into an upscale souvenir shop when first entering the Theatre Circle, as it is filled with I Love NY tee shirts, mugs, and other trinkets. Upon closer examination, however, there is a treasure trove of memorabilia waiting for the theater enthusiast. Back in 1978, the owners of this Broadway institution began peddling theater-related merchandise outside the nearby theaters on 44th. The business grew, and they were able to move into a space at One Shubert Alley, and later opened up this second shop in the 1990s. We stopped in and spoke with Craig, a self-proclaimed "great guy and general manager, " and were immediately struck by his passion for everything theatrical. He quickly ushered us into the back room where he proudly announced that it holds roughly ten thousand scripts of Broadway shows come and gone, as well as playbills, posters, music and so much more.
There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
Ezrath Israel was originally established as a Jewish Community Center in 1917 by the West Side Hebrew Relief Association, a group of Orthodox Jewish shop owners. The area was known for its busy steamship ports, however, the entertainment business eventually became one of the biggest industries in this part of town. As show business grew, so did the number of congregants, and it became the place of worship for many prominent actors and performers, including Sophie Tucker and Shelley Winters. The Actors' Temple continued to thrive until shortly after WWII when people in the industry began journeying across the country to Hollywood. The synagogue then found its membership slowly decreasing. By 2005, there were only twelve members left in the congregation. A year later, when Jill Hausman became the rabbi, she found herself resuscitating what had once been a proud shul. Rabbi Hausman was pleased to report to us that in the eight years that she has been there, membership has increased to about 150, a marked improvement. Still, she has hope that the Actors' Temple will continue to grow. "We are a well-kept secret, " she says, "but we don't need to be. " To help maintain the synagogue, the sanctuary is shared with an Off Broadway theater company that performs on their "stage, " just a few feet in front of their sacred arc and collection of eleven torahs. Today, Rabbi Hausman welcomes all denominations of Judaism, even those who are "on the fringes of society. " She is a warm, sweet, bright woman who not only has her door open to everyone, but her heart as well. She emphasizes the importance of love and acceptance in her sermons and is adamant that the Actors' Temple is a "no-guilt synagogue. " People should come if they feel compelled to pray – Rabbi Hausman's only goal is to have them leave with a desire to return.
For the first seven years, Phil Podemski had his shop on Park Row across from City Hall, but in 1973, with the help of his son, Sam, they came uptown and have resided on 47th Street ever since. "It was a good move on our part, " Sam admitted. "It has allowed us to weather each of the storms that have come our way. "Because Phil's Stationery is in the Jewelry District, there have always been customers in need of memorandum books, special jewelry bags for shipping, and other necessary items that Sam and his dad never allowed to run out of stock. "This has kept us alive. " That and the warm customer service that he strongly believes in. "Yes, I could close up shop and sell my goods solely on the internet, but I would miss the people — the human connection. " Sam's best connection, however, was with his dad. "We were together for forty years until he passed away in 1996. I have the best memories of him yelling at me throughout those years, always in the most loving way. "When Sam and his dad initially opened, they were not known as an office supply store. They carried an amalgam of health and beauty products, chocolate, and other novelty goods. As time progressed, they evolved into a full office supply shop carrying absolutely everything that one could want or need for their desk. In addition to having fun rummaging through the stacks of notebooks, journals, pens, markers, and an array of art supplies, it is the collection of Berol pencils made in the U. S. in the 1960s, the old Swingline staplers — and several other items that date back some fifty to sixty years — that will provide a noteworthy trip down memory lane for many.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven, ” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house. The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.