Our visit to Engine 69/Ladder 28 only confirmed what I have known since I began walking the side streets of Manhattan: Firemen are some of the friendliest people in the city. When we knocked on the door to the station, we were immediately welcomed in and invited to join the firemen in their air-conditioned break room. We were happy to escape the heat outside and enjoyed the chance to learn about what makes their station unique.
The station was nicknamed the “Harlem Hilton,” we were told, shortly after the gas crisis that hit the city in the 1970s. To avoid wasting extra gas by making too many trips between their houses and the station, many men chose to sleep over, hence earning the firehouse its name and their reputation as “a hospitable bunch.” The men were kind enough to let us visit their kitchen and dining room, where they proudly showed off the long table where they eat. It is made out of the floor of an old bowling alley. No one was sure about the origins of the table or the reasons behind its placement in their kitchen, but we all agreed that it added another quirky, albeit mysterious, element in the firehouse’s hundred-year history.
Andrea's Natural Styles is home to Unique Gifts & Things. While visiting with Andrea, she revealed to me that over the years, during special occasions, she has enjoyed putting together gift baskets for her friends and family. These baskets are customized using her knowledge of her loved ones’ preferences, including the items they contain, the colors they are wrapped in, and the style of the basket itself. It is her way of personalizing presents and going the extra mile to make the recipients feel special.After years of receiving praise and requests from friends and clients at her salon, she decided that she could incorporate these baskets into an additional venture. Andrea was pleased to tell me that Unique Gifts has quickly taken off since she began promoting them during the summer of 2017, because people love her idea of giving “an ordinary gift in an extraordinary way.” Each basket she assembles can contain anything from socks shaped to look like rose bouquets to an assortment of the recipient’s favorite candies - she tailor makes every one to the specific requests of her customer, and does her best to deliver them within twenty-four hours. The beauty of this type of gift, Andrea explained, is that it is far more meaningful than a typical store-bought gift, but still falls within the client's budget. She hopes to continue giving others the opportunity to express this more intimate and individualized affection through her selection of unique possibilities.