There is a dazzling and astonishingly large array of army and navy supplies available in the rather small space at Kaufman's - one can find everything from canteens to clothing to fallout shelter equipment. A staple in Manhattan since 1938, it is the oldest military surplus store in the city and one of the oldest in the country. The store was founded downtown in 1938 by Nathan Kaufman, but was later razed to make way for the World Trade Center. Kaufman's has been on 42nd street since 1940 and has had its iconic cannon outside the store since 1950 (although as of the summer of 2107, it has been removed for cleaning). The cannon is originally from the US Army and was used in 1898. In addition to its lengthy history as a military surplus shop, Kaufman's is also the longest continuously operated store on West 42nd street.
At times, living in Manhattan can become a bit chaotic – and it is at this moment when Muji feels like a breath of fresh air. So different from our busy and cluttered apartments, Muji is the epitome of minimalist class. There is no rhyme or reason to what items are carried and yet while there are a million trinkets to browse through, the atmosphere remains effortlessly crisp and clean. Everything is made in neutral colors and simple materials, and labeled with clear descriptions. After wandering around, I suddenly had the urge to go home and clean everything out of my closet and start fresh. The store has a calming and almost meditative effect on people. The vast variety of items includes furniture, clothing, home goods – and yet everything feels unified. Some of the hidden treasures can be found within the office supplies – pens that glide beautifully across the page and notebooks that rival moleskin for utility and sophistication, but at a fraction of the price. Even the clothes are in soft, soothing colors, but made from fine fabrics and sold at very reasonable prices. Step inside to escape the bustle of the city, and do not be surprised if you leave with a new toothbrush or a pair of slippers.
Despite being in the Garment District, we were pleasantly surprised to find Nepenthes. Unlike the surrounding storefronts that cater primarily to the trade and are full of women's dresses, ribbons, trims, and spandex, this hip boutique sells upscale, trendy men's clothing. While browsing through the racks of stunning attire, my eyes were also drawn upward where I discovered fascinating pieces of artwork. Named by GQ Magazine as of the best men's retailers in the country, Nepenthes originated in Japan. Their clothes reimagine traditional silhouettes, (think classic hunting or army gear), but with creative patterns and tremendous attention to detail. According to Abdul, the sales associate, their products are intentionally made to reflect the inaccuracies of old production, bringing the notion of "vintage-style" to a whole new level. Abdul went on to describe their unique style as "a nostalgic look at Americana from Japanese eyes. " Their most iconic item is their fatigue pant, a straight-legged and loose-fitting trouser that is made with a reverse sateen. It is as durable, washable, and wearable as denim, and available in seven or eight different colors. Takuya, the manager, who also joined in our conversation, told us that their location in the Garment District is no coincidence. It is part of the company's strategy for vertical integration, bringing their design, retail and manufacturing divisions into close proximity. In fact, most of their garments are made within a four-block radius.
Manuel Uzhca's story reads like a fairytale. He came to New York from Ecuador when he was seventeen with absolutely nothing to his name and spent time as a dishwasher in a number of restaurants. He met Jean-Claude Baker when both were working at Pronto, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. In 2011, Jean-Claude offered Manuel the position of manager at Chez Josephine — little did Manuel know that only four years later, the restaurant would belong to him. Manuel still recalls the day that Jean-Claude asked him to bring in his passport. Confused by his request, Manuel chose not to comply. Jean-Claude teased Manuel by saying, “If you don't bring your passport, that means you don't want my restaurant. ” The next day, still perplexed, Manuel presented his passport. Jean-Claude marched the two of them to the bank and added Manuel's name to his account, giving him permission to sign checks for the restaurant. Shortly after, Jean-Claude announced that he was retiring, but Manuel did not take him seriously. Jean-Claude then told him that he was leaving and insisted, “I won't be back. ” Jean-Claude proceeded to his attorney's office, changed his will, and went off to the Hamptons. He called Manuel to make sure that everything was in order at the restaurant, and then, very sadly, Jean-Claude took his own life. “I did not believe I owned the place, not even when they showed me the will, ” Manuel declared. Jean-Claude was the last of the children adopted into singer-dancer Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe, ” created with a mission of racial harmony. He lived and performed with her for a time before making his way to New York and eventually opening this restaurant. It quickly became a haven for Broadway clientele, known for its charming and colorful ambiance as much as its haute cuisine. Since taking over in 2015, Manuel has continued running this famed French restaurant exactly how Jean-Claude left it — paying homage to Josephine Baker, who captured the Parisian imagination in the 1920s and did not let go for decades.
Opened on May 23, 1911 on the site of a former reservoir, this main branch of the New York Public Library is a true wonder of the city. Upon its completion, it was the largest marble structure in the United States, and the classical design elements ensure that it remains as breathtaking now as it was then. In 1965, it became a National Historic Landmark. The Main Reading Room is an enormous hall, with murals and intricate relief work lording overhead and large, open windows allowing for bright sunlight to pour across the books being huddled over. Small exhibitions to art and cultural histories pepper the halls. The entire structure is truly a pleasure to explore, one of the grandest and most wonderful buildings in the entire city, and we spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the halls in a book-drunk daze trying to absorb it all.
Known as the "Center for Social Change, " the Ford Foundation has been committed to helping the world be a better place since 1936. They work diligently to "protect human rights, reform governments, provide education opportunities and create space for artistic creativity and expression. " Without a doubt, one of Manhattan's finest atriums greets visitors. Entering the glass structure from either 42nd or 43rd Street, a world of green awaits. There are trees, plants, a fountain and short paths to wander through. The atrium is a hidden oasis in the middle of the city.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.