“My grandfather came here in the early 1950s,” shared David Ettinger, owner of Truemart Fabrics. A Holocaust survivor, Irving Ledereich first found work in a velvet company, but when the businesses decided to move out of New York, he remained here with his family. Soon after, Irving came across an advertisement about a fabric store for sale and decided to purchase it.
According to David, “His lawyer gave him a new name to call it, and it’s the name we still have here today: Truemart.” Irving was in his mid-fifties when he took over the shop. He ran it alongside his wife, Anna, until her death in 2004. That is when David and his mom, Freida, entered the picture, until Irving passed away in 2010.
Initially, Truemart was in a perfect location, in the heart of the Garment District and steps away from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). These days, not many people sew anymore, so the business has changed to keep up with the times. But they continue to have customers coming in to purchase materials for Broadway, movies, back-drops, and commercials.
And, of course, the FIT students are still learning to sew, frequenting the shop that is filled with rolls of cotton, wool, satin, and linen fabrics. “People come in for small projects, but once they step inside, their imaginations keep growing.”
Established in 1874, Westpfal continues to provide premium knives and tools for leatherwork, as well as to sharpen high-end knives for restaurants across New York City. The leather tools available are of the same ilk as the 1930s tools available oh-so-many years ago and are used by fashion designers from Coach to Dooney & Burke. On any given day, one can stop by and find a regular New Yorker, or even folks from out of town, coming in to have their own knives and scissors sharpened by the highly regarded team of workers.When the Manhattan Sideways stopped in for a visit during the summer of 2017, we had the pleasure of meeting Carmilla Wigman, who has been working at Henry Westpfal for over sixty-five years. She was kind enough to share some of the history of the shop. Carmilla pointed out a display board of vintage cutlery from 1931, which she referred to as “her pride and joy.” She also showed us a pair of scissors that was previously owned by John F. Kennedy Jr. and were used in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening of Grand Central Station in 1998. Westpfal now rents these scissors out for similar ceremonies.Unfortunately, one can no longer watch and wait as knives are put on the machines, as they have had to move their factory to New Jersey. It is an example of the age-old story: Rent became a factor on the side streets of Manhattan for Westpfal.Who are their biggest clients almost 150 years later? The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is, as students majoring in leather purchase tools for crafting handbags, belts, and shoes, and numerous chefs who frequent Westpfal to have their personal knives sharpened.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s.” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!