What at first glance looks like a classy boutique is actually far more important to the progression of retail: the hybrid of a high-end department store and an old-fashioned marketplace (“Bene Rialto” means “good marketplace” in Italian). Bene Rialto has gathered the work of up-and-coming designers into small shops without boundaries, creating a display that is pleasing to the eye, especially when that eye is window-shopping on 38th Street.
The first featured work that I recognized upon entering was Kathleen Plate, a talented glass artist, whom I had recently met at the Bryant Park holiday market. Her beautiful chandelier was hanging in the center of the room.
Touring the space with David Teeter, one of Bene Rialto’s executives, allowed me to fully appreciate the breadth and depth of this fascinating concept. When I visited in the late fall of 2014, the store had only been open for two weeks. But due to the executive team's history and experience in retail and wholesale (with companies such as Saks, Macy’s, Fendi and Coach), the location already appeared well established and boasted 380 people at their grand opening.
David explained to me that the goal of Bene Rialto is to create a platform for new brands to connect with both users and retailers, and be, in his words, “Open to the public, but known to the industry.” Only three of the showcased brands have other distributors in New York City. David went on to tell me that he loves seeing the delighted shock produced when someone flips over a price tag and sees that an item is affordable. The goods on display are high fashion but also extremely approachable.
One of the best examples is the brand “Slightly Alabama” from the leather worker Dana Glaeser. Glaeser’s dream is to have his own store with a workshop in the back. Bene Rialto is helping to create a mini version of that dream: David showed me a leather-working table on the first floor where Glaeser can sit and toil while shoppers mill about. He will be able to design custom-made items on-site and also experiment with how the shopper-craftsman relationship can function in such an unconventional setup.
I was impressed with how many of the designers seemed interested in the current environmental and technological climate: Rewilder, a two-woman team that makes accessories, build their trademark bags out of beer filters that were originally used to strain hops out of the brew. They also have a special arrangement with a local gym, in which they receive the rock climbing ropes that no longer pass safety inspections to use as bag handles.
On the second floor, which is dedicated to clothing, I met Elizabeth Roberts, one of the few designers who reside outside of New York. She had flown in from Seattle for a special wine and cheese event. We spoke about her practical designs - most of her clothes are made to withstand the elements, and many of her coats have special SmartShield pockets to guard against the electromagnetic frequencies of cell phones.
David and I continued to the third floor, which changes from month to month. Right now it is an art gallery featuring artists from New York, but in the New Year they would like to focus on wellness: The first two floors will dedicate more space to exercise clothes and accessories for an active lifestyle and the third floor will be used as a yoga studio. The fourth floor will be utilized for brand development, trunk shows, and marketing appointments. With a different experience on each floor, but a consistent feeling of approachability throughout, Bene Rialto could be the next step in retail.
Before discussing anything about Arno with the Manhattan Sideways team in the summer of 2017, the manager, Carlos Pereira, spoke like a true local. He lamented the state of New York’s transportation infrastructure, insurance, taxes, and cleanliness, only to then reveal that he commutes each day from his home in New Jersey. After receiving our education on the state of 38th Street, we learned a bit about this extraordinary man's career. Born in Portugal, where he was a bartender at age sixteen, he traveled to New York in 1989. He scored a position at the legendary Le Cirque (in its original location) - ”I received the best culinary education in America by owner Sirio Maccioni" - before becoming the manager of Arno in 2007. Carlos had plenty to share with us about Arno, which he did over meticulously prepared dishes, including a rare treat of risotto with shaved truffles. It was like a bowl of diamonds being set down before us. As we savored every single bite, Carlos gave us a lesson on the world of black and white truffles. The story of Arno traces back to Florence, near the Arno River from which the restaurant draws its name. There, the two founders met and discovered a mutual ambition. Managing partners Milan Licul and Branko Turcinovic emigrated to the U. S. as waiters, but soon opened a restaurant called Morano in 1984. Morano was later renamed Delmonico’s Kitchen, and was followed only a year later by Arno. While Delmonico’s Kitchen specializes in meats and steaks, Arno is known for its old-school, classic Italian cuisine. There were many challenges in the years between 1984 and the present that could not be shrugged off by restaurants in the Garment District. Carlos related that this particular swath of New York has seen countless restaurants come and go, and yet the owners held fast to Arno. Even in the 1980s, when the area was bad enough that Arno often had to close by 7pm, the restaurant remained "a true testament to who they were, " Carlos proudly stated. The staff wear the neighborhood as a badge of honor, subtly adorning the restaurant with buttons and thread inset into tables, a wall of colorful fabrics, fashion photos - "This is what keeps us sexy, " according to Carlos - and various other garment motifs. So how has Arno endured the trials of time? Carlos believes it is “because we treat clients like family. ” This approach certainly cultivates a comfortable atmosphere, as Carlos claimed that ninety percent of their dedicated clientele are regular customers. In addition to the lengthy list of fashion designers and celebrities that Carlos recited, he told us that many come into the city for Knicks games and other events at Madison Square Garden, and stop by Arno for a familiar meal of traditional homemade pastas, eggplant rollatini, grilled zucchini, tomato, mozzarella and peppers, veal parmigiana, numerous seafood options, and, of course, the Delmonico classic steak. Carlos even shared that they have over 150 "house accounts, " a rarity in the present day. What struck a particular chord with me was the dessert cart that strolls through the restaurant at every meal, as I have fond memories of this practice from when I dined out as a child. It is filled with some of the best classic desserts prepared by their French pastry chef and, like the restaurant itself, is animated by the spirit of the old country, but seasoned with the flavor of New York.
Having a personal guided tour by sales manager, Jason Sturtevant, made me aware of many details I might otherwise have never learned, as well as making my experience at The Archer a superb one. Since the hotel is located in what was once the thriving, garment district, the interior of the lobby is designed to be reminiscent of the 1940s, with large steel structures stylishly cutting through the room. The entrance features a small bar, Bugatti, named after the brand of restauranteur, David Burke’s beloved car. With a garage-style door that opens to the street in warmer weather, and a bright yellow decor, the atmosphere of the bar is charming and laid back. Viewing several different rooms, Jason explained that each one displays slight variations of beautiful designs and color schemes. Averaging 200 square feet, the rooms, as Jason put it, are “intimate in size, in true New York fashion. ” The use of the space has been done in an elegant fashion with the floor-to-ceiling windows working wonders to open up the rooms. Many have hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, creating a tasteful and stylish atmosphere throughout. While guests will not meet the eponymous Archer, who functions as “the personification of gracious hospitality, ” they are certain to feel his presence during their stay. Each room is made ready for arrival with a personalized note, bottled New York City water, his and her robes and slippers, and a selection of books, including Archer favorites Gift From The Sea and The Little Prince. There is a well-stocked minibar with one side of the fridge allowing for personal storage, and complimentary espresso and grab-and-go coffee are available in the lobby. Encouraging their guests to work out “with New Yorkers, like New Yorkers, ” Archer also offers passes to a nearby gym. Additionally, the Archer is environmentally conscious with sensors and efficient solutions for saving energy implemented throughout the building. The selection of art found in the hotel is remarkable. Curated by art consultant Deborah Davis Goodman, almost every piece on display in the Archer was created by New York artists. This commitment to supporting local artists and businesses is further established in the curated retail section at the front of the hotel where jewelry, trays, sea salt caramels, and pocket squares, all made by New York City artisans, are proudly on display. From the captivating art to the jar of homemade peanut brittle, it is the impressive attention to detail that makes the Archer stand out. The New York City Archer opened at the end of May 2014, and two more hotels are expected to open in Napa, California and Austin, Texas by 2016. Filled with personal touches, the hotel certainly comes across as welcoming, detail-oriented, and cohesively designed. Having gained four diamonds by AAA and in the process of getting its four star rating from TripAdvisor, the Archer seems to have already established itself amongst the favored New York City boutique hotels.
New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Named after nonviolence, Ahimsa is kosher, vegan, and gluten free. The restaurant, whose first location opened in 2016, fulfils a teenage dream of Frank Shah, who owns Ahimsa along with his wife Maya. Growing up poor in Mumbai, Shah’s family could not even afford a biryani. Now, he serves biryani and more authentic North and South Indian dishes made fresh every day. Delicious Indian street-side dishes from Shah’s childhood like vada pav and bhel puri make Ahimsa unique among other Indian restaurants in the city. Being in New York is an important part of Ahimsa’s mission. Shah hopes to use the restaurant to expand non-Indian New Yorkers’ ideas about what Indian food is and to show non-vegan New Yorkers how many delicious meals can be made without meat or dairy.
Do not be fooled by the curiosities and vintage artifacts that cover the windows and walls of Hecht. Besides repairing industrial sewing machines, this company is in the business of buying and selling plants (the manufacturing kind). The vintage pieces scattered throughout the small space are absolutely not for sale, but rather a part of the owner’s personal collection. As I walked around and examined the curiosities, he insisted that he uses "every single one of them. "The owner bristled when I described the fascinating space as "small" and proceeded to show me that there was much more to Hecht than meets the eye. He opened a door in back, which gave way to a much larger, warehouse-like room, which was similarly jam-packed with vintage artifacts. He immediately walked over to a Howe sewing machine, which he proudly disclosed was the first of its kind in the world. He had just gotten it back from the Smithsonian, he said, showing me the official museum tags. While so much is continuously changing around them, the Hecht family is determined to remain a Garment District institution, having opened their doors between 1910 and 1920. The ambiguous establishment date is not because the owner does not care to remember, but rather because Hecht opened its doors as the building in which it still stands was being constructed. "They built around us as we worked, " the owner explained. They are the very definition of a neighborhood institution; As the owner says, "In the garment industry, we're a legend. "
At Gallery 35, we were charmed, entertained and educated on the staff's commitment to their own work and the art community as a whole. Sharing space, one flight up, with others affiliated with the Community Church next door, Gallery 35 is only open on Saturday evenings. Each week they showcase the work of a collective of artists, using media and styles across the board – water colors, digital media, glass painting, quilts, wood cuts. Once a year, the gallery hosts shows featuring artists from around the world. The most recent rendition featured paintings and quilts from Cuban and Brazilian artists. I was particularly taken by the story behind the art that was exhibited in the winter of 2013. Vidho Lorville, a native of Haiti, who had been painting for over twenty years before the earthquake struck his country, was chosen to be the guest artist. His commitment to the people and the celebration of the rebirth of Haiti were not only displayed in his work, but he also chose to donate a portion of the proceeds from Gallery 35 towards programs in Haiti.
In 1902, many major companies in Manhattan - such as JP Morgan and Tiffany – had collections of exotic plants and intricate gardens. They formed the Horticultural Society of New York as a forum to exchange information and trade practices in the science of horticulture and the care of these botanical treasures. By 1914, the organization began hosting what might be considered the equivalent of today’s film festivals or fashion weeks: flower shows, where the most modern and extravagant plants could be displayed. “Every state had a flower show at their horticultural society, ” explained Executive Director Sara Hobel. “There were competitions at the shows and all the ladies in the suburbs led their own flower clubs. ” In addition to the flower exhibitions, the society took on bigger projects, namely the reforestation of French land after World War I. With time, the original aims of horticultural societies lost their appeal; flower shows became less popular, and as people farmed or gardened less and less on their own, their need for information declined too. The times were changing, but the HSNY was determined to change with them. In the 1990s the organization began centering its efforts around social service and urban issues. Their employees work in the field as teachers, therapists and builders – some visit schools to educate the younger generations on urban blight and the role plants and gardens play in society, others use therapeutic gardens to help inmates at Rikers Island or struggling ex-offenders, and some build gardens for places that cannot afford it themselves. Although the Horticultural Society operates mostly in the field, the headquarters on 37th Street still houses a library and organizes workshops and lectures to educate the public on the imperative role of nature and gardens to the community. “Especially for the less well off, who may not be able to afford to plant or eat greens, it is important for us to bridge that gap. We all need to help heal nature, ” Hobel says.