Now old enough to be as vintage as the items they peddle, Brigandi began as an antique coin vendor in 1959. Since moving to their current location in '82, they've expanded to include autographed items and other memorabilia. Coins still rule the day: dating from the late 1700s onward. I, actually, found a silver dollar from 1799, one of the first ever minted, being sold for roughly $6,000. I marveled at the $20 pieces and the late eighteenth century half pennies. Foreign coins, from Chinese to Seychellois to Danish and beyond add a bit of exoticism. There are signed sport posters and Green Bay Packers signed footballs from their 1960s Superbowls. Hanging on the walls were old college pennants paying homage to the alumni clubs lined up on 44th Street. There were many signed baseballs, but the one that Chris Brigandi, the grandson of the original owner, pulled out from the vault, impressed me most. It was signed by both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and had a price tag of $40,000. I also learned a bit of history from Chris when I noticed the collection of baseball cards. In the early 1900s, cards were sold in packs of tobacco or cigarettes, thus called "tobacco cards." It was not until the 1930s that baseball cards were inserted into packs of gum. If I had not been speechless before, I certainly was when Chris brought out a signed check by Joe Jackson dated 1919 with a price tag of $100,000. He explained that Shoeless Joe had been illiterate so the only way he could sign his name was by someone showing him a "pattern" that he could copy. There is no doubt that collectors of every age will be fascinated by the selection of archives gathered under this one roof.
Stepping inside Jim's Shoe Repair is like walking into a time capsule. At first glance, it appears that nothing has changed since the store opened in 1932. Wooden saloon-style booths line the wall opposite shoeshine chairs equipped with golden footrests and leather backrests, while the original cash register still stands proudly in the front of the shop. Jim's is the place for the customer who wants "the best shoe shine" with a bit of small talk or a glance through the daily newspapers. It is simple and unpretentious, which explains its long history of celebrity customers. Vito Rocco came to New York by way of Italy in the 1920s and opened up his shop in 1932, across the street from where it stands today. He called it Jim’s as an ode to America — short, simple, and recognizable. His son, Joseph, began working in the shop in 1940 and did not retire until 2019. “At age ninety, he still wants to come in, but I won’t let him anymore, ” his son, Joe, said lovingly. He and his son, Andrew, are now “honored” to be continuing this family business. Although Jim's has largely stayed the same since its inception, Joe noted that they no longer clean hats, as this was deemed a fire hazard in the 1940s. Joe emphasized, however, that their shoe repair is performed the traditional way, with most of it being done by hand. There are no nailing guns used and machine work is kept to a minimum — only for stitching and sanding. Walking through the back is like being granted a tour of Santa’s workshop. Joe strolls through the various departments of the repair services, patting his employees on the back and exchanging laughs along the way. There are rickety ladders to go up and down where one finds every nook and cranny converted into a cozy but busy workspace. “Even if we wanted to change up the place, our customers would never allow us. They appreciate it the way it is after four generations. ”
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests a theory in which, to become an expert in any particular area, one must first accumulate 10, 000 working hours in that specific field. Naturally, it is faster to achieve expert status when focusing on only one topic. This concept must have crossed the minds of the Just Bulbs store owners in the early 2000s, when despite selling lighting fixtures for over forty years, the owners decided to focus exclusively on "just bulbs. " The idea for the shop originated with David’s grandfather, who started by selling light bulbs door-to-door during World War II. He later opened a brick-and-mortar shop that was taken over by David's mother. David is now the third generation to run the store, having left behind a career in management consulting in St. Louis to devote himself to the family business in the 1980s. Since then, his expertise in the field has only grown, along with his vast inventory. Today, the entire staff is an expert in their field, claiming to have over 30, 000 bulbs in the store. With shelves and bins piled high with colorful bulbs in dozens of shapes and sizes and creative varieties of string lights hanging overhead, the shop is most likely going to be able to accommodate almost anyone's needs. And, if somehow amidst the impressive stock they do not have what someone is looking for, they proudly boasted to me that anything a customer requests when it comes to a light bulb, they can produce. The crew at Just Bulbs has no problem making custom pieces and even dispatching for consultations, deliveries, and installation.
Chola takes its name from the powerful South Indian dynasty that ruled for over 1, 500 years — an appropriate title given that its founder, Indian entrepreneur Shiva Natarajan, built a culinary empire of his own. In addition to Chola, Shiva established twenty-three restaurants in New York, all inspired by his abiding passion for his home country’s cuisine. With such a vast domain, it is little wonder that he sought a partner to keep his businesses running. Fortunately, Min Bhujel, who left Nepal in 2006 to find new opportunities in the States, proved the ideal companion to ensure Chola’s success and serve as general manager for ten of Shiva’s establishments. Though Min, his wife, and their son, Nischul Bhujel, now run Chola as a family business, Shiva’s contribution remains essential. “Mr. Shiva guides us through all the spices and reminds us that the focus must always be on the food, ” said Nischul. Shiva traveled throughout India to educate himself on the authentic preparation methods and ingredients used in different regions. He then funneled his extensive knowledge and recipes directly into Chola. Specializing in cuisine from both northern and southern India, Chola places a strong emphasis on its seafood-rich coastal dishes, with various delectable fish fries, curries, and roasts. Equally as important, the restaurant is recognized for its hospitality. “We take care of this place like it’s our home and treat our guests like dear friends. "
It is a thrill to be able to be writing about the Argosy Bookstore. As a former owner of a children's book shop, I could not wait to get to 59th Street so that I could delve deeply into this family history, which began in 1925, and share the story of the three extraordinary sisters that have carried on their father's legacy. Despite being on 59th Street since the 1930s, the bookstore remains a 'hidden gem' to many New Yorkers who will regularly walk by and miss its presence amidst the ever-growing retail buildings. Naomi, one of the sisters, who maintains her post at a desk by the door, says, "About fifteen times a day, I have someone walk in the store, stop in their tracks and say, 'Oh my goodness, I never knew that this existed. '" And what a wonderful discovery this six-story curiosity is. Argosy feels as much like a museum as it does a bookstore. With its specialty being rare and out-of-print books, along with a score of historic maps, prints and autographs, it is a treasure trove with a vast selection that has something for everyone. It brought me great pleasure to introduce members of the Manhattan Sideways team to this remarkable shop that I had been scouring for decades. From the moment we walked through their doors, and they commented at the "book smell" that invaded their senses, I knew that I had them hooked. But then their eyes wandered across the shelves of books that dominated the room, catching the paintings hung above them and the green library lamps suspended at every interval, they simply stood in amazement. And then Naomi greeted us and took us on what would become a remarkable tour of the entire building. We began on the main level, where some of the store's most beautiful books are showcased, in genres from historical fiction to children's books. We were amused as Naomi pointed out her special shelves appropriately named "the oh-I-should-have-read-this" - a sort of "un-Barnes and Noble section" that does not necessarily include Hemingway or Faulkner, but certainly exhibits a great awareness and taste in fine literature. From there, we ventured down to the basement, a general browsing room, and then up to the sixth floor, which Naomi calls the 'oh my God room, ' as it is filled with autographs from Teddy Roosevelt to Elton John. As one of three sisters who inherited the bookstore from their father, Lou, Naomi explained that each of the siblings maintains an individual pride in a certain collection in the store. For Naomi, it is the autograph collection. As we continued down, we stopped on a floor dedicated to American History, where there was a fascinating collection of rare books on topics that included American Architecture, the Cold War, and the American Revolution. I was particularly attracted, however, to the map room. As I was wandering through, I discovered an actual first edition map of Manhattan - drawn sideways in 1865. Argosy Bookstore remains one of the largest, family-run independent bookstores in New York City. Despite impressive offers for its real estate, the store has continued its business through generations and maintains a genuine character matched by only a handful of other businesses in Manhattan.
New Yorkers craving a luxury cinema experience need search no further than LOOK Dine-In Cinemas on W57th Street. The new state-of-the-art theater, located in the award-winning Bjarke Ingels-designed VIA 57 building, offers laser-projected movies on eight screens with surround sound and heated leather reclining seats. Additionally, moviegoers can enjoy a full menu of snacks, cocktails, and meals, from crispy flatbread pizzas to beef and Impossible cheese burgers, all served by "Ninja Servers" who wear all black and pop in quietly to bring whatever you need. LOOK Dine-In Cinemas also has seasonal menu items, including street tacos and signature cocktails, to appeal to local palates. LOOK Dine-In Cinemas aims to create an all-in-one entertainment spot easily accessible to Manhattanites, and it is the only one of its kind near Midtown. The dine-in cinema is one of just a handful of similarly structured movie houses in the city. However, LOOK stands out with its innovative technology, which allows customers to order and pay from a QR code on their phones, ensuring a seamless and uninterrupted movie experience. LOOK Dine-In Cinemas has plans to become the next New York venue for many of the city's annual festivals and will regularly host filmmaker talkback sessions. The theater shows a wide range of titles, from action to horror to independent films, to ensure there is something for everyone. With the summer movie season now underway, LOOK Dine-In Cinemas is poised to become a go-to destination for New Yorkers seeking a night out at the cinema.
The legendary Neary’s has been a staple of New York City dining since its opening on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967. Its founder, Jim Neary, continues to grace his customers with the same, unique dining experience - in 2019 - that they have enjoyed since the beginning. The classy dress code, classic red booth seats, walls filled with an assortment of beautiful and often historically significant pictures, and knickknacks around the restaurant such as two Super Bowl rings, are only a small part of why Neary’s is so special. Neary’s is embodied and defined by its founder, Jimmy Neary, whose compassion and famous “Jimmy Neary smile” has made Neary’s the kind of place where there are “no strangers... no matter if it’s their first time walking in, everyone talks to everyone. ”Jimmy was born on a farm in Ireland, and his first job coming into America was at a swimming pool. He eventually moved on to become a bar tender at P. J. Moriarity’s, another Irish-American restaurant, where he met his eventual business partner Brian Mulligan. When Jimmy found his 57th street location - 57th street being the two-way street in the city that runs river to river - he “knew it was the place for him and never looked back. ” Over the years he has slowly added to the décor, and stated that “every picture has a story behind it. ” With the care that Jimmy has put into every aspect of Neary’s - along with the presence of Jimmy himself - he has managed to make his restaurant an important fixture in the lives of many for generations. Offered the opportunity to expand over the years, it is no surprise that Jimmy has refused, for in his words “it would never be the same. ”Jimmy considers Neary’s a family-oriented place, with many of his staff having worked with him for over forty years. Essentially, they have all grown up together. His daughter Una, who works on Wall Street during the day, has worked at Neary’s part time for close to forty years and ascertained that “the food is wonderful, the staff is amazing, but people come for my father. ”Jimmy works seven days a week, and in Una’s words, “to get him to take a day off is a major, major feat. ” While every day at Neary’s is a special day, its devoted following especially looks forward to St. Patrick’s Day, which for fifty plus years was counted down to by a special clock, and the celebration of Jimmy’s annual surprise birthday party. As a place where everyone is not just welcomed, but also family, it is no surprise that when asked what he liked to do to relax, Jimmy responded that he is “relaxed right here. I come through the door and I’m at home and I walk out happy. ”
There are many reasons to dine at BLT Steak, tucked discreetly between The Dorchester and an antique jeweler. Having dined here on varied occasions over the years, I knew visiting with Manhattan Sideways, that we were headed towards something special. As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted warmly by the affable staff and took a seat at one of the dark wood tables. We spoke with John, the Venezuelan maître d', who told us about BLT's secrets for success. "The company feels like family, " he said by way of opening, "I've been here for nine years, which is an eternity in the restaurant business. " BLT has built a following of regulars who come back repeatedly because they are "infallibly made to feel like they're the only ones in the restaurant. " In addition to this impeccable service, the food at BLT is consistently top notch. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand why people keep returning for more. While chatting, the chef prepared a succulent variety of meats, perhaps most famously the enormous Porterhouse steak – a dry-aged masterpiece served with maître d'hOtel butter and a side of roasted garlic. Although meat certainly takes center stage, the restaurant also offers a "sublime" Dover Sole and a Tuna Tartar that, according to John, is the best in the city; "I dare someone to find me a better one, " he said. My favorite moment, however, was when the chef presented Yelena, from our team, her first popover. Hailing from Swaziland, she had never encountered this doughy puff of goodness before. I, on the other hand, have had popovers on the top of my list of favorites since I first tried them as a little girl on Long Island. And I can attest to the fact that the ones served at BLT are perfectly prepared.