“Third Street is a power house — a place where people can get affordable music lessons and have an opportunity to grow not just as a student but as an individual,” Executive Director Valerie Lewis said. Over a century after its founding, the Third Street Music Settlement has progressed from teaching piano and violin to offering classes in twenty-five instruments, as well as dance and composition in “every genre from hip-hop to oboe and rock bands to orchestras.”
Third Street was founded by Emily Wagner based on the idea that “music plays a critical role not only in the development of a child but in the advancement of society.” What began as a music school “expanded beautifully into a full settlement house.” At one point, Third Street was giving individual lessons and orchestra experiences while also providing temporary housing and even advanced medical procedures. Like many of the settlement houses at the time, it was responding to the needs of the expanding immigrant population of the Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century.
Third Street’s focus eventually shifted away from social services and back to music, keeping the word “settlement” in the name as an affirmation of music’s enormous social and cultural power.
While classes at Third Street may no longer cost twenty-five cents as they did in the time of Emily Wagner, there is still a place for everyone. Valerie said that Third Street “never turns away a student because of their inability to pay. At the core of what we do is ensuring access.” What all people at Third Street share is “the elation that comes from playing the simplest notes and the most complicated chords together.”
The ice cream at Alphabet Scoop is refreshing in more ways than one: Managed by Robbie Vedral, Alphabet Scoop is an extension of Father’s Heart Ministry, which has been focused on empowering the neighborhood youth in the Lower East Side since 2005. Robbie, for his part, has always believed that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of you—in this case, those employees just so happen to be high schoolers from the East Village. Under the wishes of his parents, who are still pastors of the church next door, Robbie has taken it upon himself to hold Alphabet Scoop to an uncompromising standard, always ensuring that things are done right. From a background of 25 years in retail, Robbie has found that he can learn from anyone’s mistakes - including his own. He has, in this vein, adjusted the shop’s schedule to keep it open all year; previously it was just a summer stop, but Robbie found that being a seasonal location made it more difficult for customers to anticipate when Alphabet Scoop would be in business. So, now, rather than seasonal hours, Alphabet Scoop boasts seasonal flavors. Pistachio flavor, a summer 2019 special, comes highly recommended by the Manhattan Sideways team. Alphabet Scoop is also constantly experimenting with new flavors suggested to them by customers, so if you’ve been saving up that million-dollar ice cream flavor idea, Alphabet Scoop might just be the place to make it a reality. The “sweet n’ salty” flavor is proof of the potential here, as it was suggested by one of the shop’s younger customers. While the spritely New Yorkers that work in the shop are paid for their work, Alphabet Scoop is also a non-profit. The mission, transparently, is as stated on the walls: “Justice & Sprinkles for all. ” The kids, typically between the ages of 14 and 16, learn all aspects of the business, from hands on skills such as making ice cream to managerial skills like taking inventory. The goal of Alphabet Scoop is to encourage maximum involvement from its employees, so they are invited to help make decisions about the business. Robbie told us a story of a young woman, for example, who has worked in the shop for close to two years, and who was initially quite difficult to work with - but with patience and persistence from Robbie and other employees, the young woman grew to better understand the mission of Alphabet Scoop, and now even has keys to the shop. Robbie’s work at Alphabet Scoop shows the importance of creating strong foundations for young people, as well as how truly influential small businesses can be in their communities. Stop by the shop - any time of year - to help Robbie make his impact.