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Harlem Underground 1 Mens Clothing Womens Clothing East Harlem

Harlem Underground

“People gravitate towards Harlem,” said Leon Ellis, the accomplished entrepreneur behind Harlem Underground.Leon Ellis grew up on the island of Jamaica and went to college in Alabama. He would often stay in New York over the summers as he sold Black history books door to door to pay for his education. Upon graduating, he chose to remain in Harlem permanently and embark on a bevy of intriguing business ventures throughout the 1990s, including a gaming store, Emily’s — a restaurant named after his mother — and a barbecue joint named for his father. Today, his clothing shop is surrounded by two newer ventures: Chocolat, a full-service restaurant, and Ganache Cafe, a coffee shop.His projects as a restaurateur aside, Leon felt that he wanted to “spread the word about Harlem all over the world.” With the neighborhood already a recognizable name, when Leon would travel outside the city dressed in Harlem gear, many people wanted to know where he purchased his clothing. Thus, Harlem Underground began with a mission: “We look to create an image or projection of what Harlem is — its music, its culture, its people.”The shop hires local designers to create merchandise that revolves around the “raw theme of Harlem NYC.” To Leon, this is the essence of his success. “Our resources are developed here, and we expend those resources here. We embrace the Harlem community, and we believe it embraces us.”(Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after years of operating on 125th Street, Harlem Underground consolidated its locations and now remains open on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.)

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Demolition Depot 1 Vintage Furniture Antiques East Harlem

The Demolition Depot and Irreplaceable Artifacts

Evan Blum, owner of Demolition Depot, has been in the business of salvaging and renovating architectural art for forty-two years. He grew up “entrenched in the arts,” as he put it, since his father was an architect, his uncle was a well-known illustrator, and his grandfather was a craftsman, to name a few of the multiple examples he cited of artistic genes in the family. Evan had always had an interest in architectural artifacts, and upon seeing the beautiful and historic buildings around the city being torn down, he was motivated to save as much of them as he could by collecting worthwhile pieces, repairing them, and then selling them to new owners.“What we do is create art out of the construction waste stream,” he explained. Sixty percent of what is in landfills comes from demolition, and by saving and re-selling the valuable parts of these buildings, he said he is able to minimize the amount that would otherwise be laid to waste, as well as keep the objects’ history alive. It is his attempt to “‘un-tragedy’ the tragedy of demolition,” and to find interesting things buried within the mundane. Evan tries to repurpose as many things as he can, hence the eclectic and wide-ranging nature of his merchandise.While walking through the space on 125th Street, we were amazed by the sheer volume of fascinating and beautifully preserved items that we came across - and Evan pointed out that this is only one of his many facilities, so it is difficult to fathom the real scope of his collection. Each of the four floors of the shop housed a labyrinthine assortment of doors, stained glass windows, crucifixes, plumbing fixtures, mirrors, candlesticks, and more.When asked, Evan told us that there is not necessarily a single architectural style or period preferred by his clients. He shared the story of the rise in popularity of Gothic pieces after Cher started her Gothic furniture catalog in the 1990s. It used to be that no one wanted to buy anything salvaged from churches, he remarked, but after the catalog was released, the demand for the previously unpopular Gothic artifacts he had collected over the years surged. This is part of why he stores and saves everything he has found - as it is likely that at some point what was unwanted will become trendy and appealing again.When asked how he selects his pieces, Evan told us that his combined background in architecture, sculpting, manufacturing, and craftsmanship helps him envision which antiques would work well as focal pieces in modern spaces. In fact, a unique and integral aspect of his service is that he acts as “a designer’s designer and architect’s architect,” giving clients his input on how to improve their projects and best utilize their spaces. While many of his clients are hotels and restaurants looking for distinctive additions to their décor, he also does work with set designers in search of elements for their latest film and TV projects, or celebrities who want to incorporate antiques into their homes. He has also outfitted some pieces in well-known museums, including the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.While discussing his plans for the future, Evan mentioned that he will be starting an auction business, Harlem Country Auctions, behind the shop toward the end of the summer of 2017. Doing so will allow him to preserve even more artifacts, since he will be auctioning any art (e.g. paintings, sculptures, lamps, decorations) that are not "architectural," and therefore do not fall under the purview of Demolition Depot. In the more distant future, he hopes to create his own museum where he will be able to display his salvaged art for the appreciation of the general public.

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Daniel's Music Foundation 1 Music Schools Childrens Classes Non Profit Organizations East Harlem Spanish Harlem Harlem El Barrio

Daniel's Music Foundation

Through the power of music, Daniel's Music Foundation (DMF) has been helping individuals with disabilities to learn, socialize, and, simply, have a great time. In the words of Daniel Trush, the brave inspiration and force behind the foundation, DMF is all about music and "letting people shine." In 1997, when Daniel was twelve years old, he experienced a brain aneurism that left him in a coma for 30 days, and then in a wheelchair for two years. Prior to the incident, Daniel was a music enthusiast having played both the guitar and the trumpet. Daniel's parents, Ken and Nancy Trush, said that while Daniel was in a coma they would play him his favorite artists as a form of communication. Thankfully, he eventually recovered. While in college as a non-matriculated student, he took a music history class and began to experiment with music as a form of therapy. Inspired by this concept and noticing the lack of music programs available to people with disabilities, Daniel and his parents founded DMF. Their hope was to use music as a means of empowerment bonding between people with disabilities. DMF had humble beginnings. The Trush family started by offering a keyboard class with five members in a basement that they would rent by the hour. Gradually, though, their purpose began to resonate with others, and their membership and funding grew. In 2011, DMF was chosen by the New York Yankees as the honored organization in their annual Hope Week - DMF members were invited to sing the national anthem in Yankee Stadium. This momentous event provided DMF with the coverage they were seeking. Within three weeks, the number of students in their programs increased from 150 to 200.Fast forward a few years later to 2013 when DMF was able to move into a state-of-the-art 8,700-square-foot facility that is entirely wheelchair accessible and "barrier free." Equipped with five studios and a plethora of instruments including keyboards, percussion, and guitars, DMF also offers private lessons. Members have gone on to perform at Giants Stadium and Madison Square Garden. In addition, they host some of their own special events including an annual festival with forty performances, dinner dances, and the "DMF underground" composed of artist performances and an open mic.Today, thanks to the dedication of everyone involved, DMF boasts over 300 students and 10,000 annual visits to its facilities from members of other organizations that support people with disabilities. The foundation gauges its success based on a metric created by Daniel that it takes very seriously: "the smile-o-meter," meant to measure the "changes in attitudes and outlook" reported by its members. For the Trush family, however, it is equally important to build a bridge between the students and the greater community. "We're about music, but also about awareness."

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El Kallejon Botana Lounge 1 Mexican East Harlem

El Kallejon Botana Lounge

"It has not been easy being hidden on East 117th Street, but I am trying hard to spread the word," Nestor Leon revealed to me as soon as we sat down together. I could sense the intensity emanating from deep within Nestor as he spoke passionately about his "home country," and his strong desire to share the Mexican flavors, art, culture, spirits and wine with his guests.Nestor had worked in hospitality before coming to New York in 2001. He had a "big dream" to learn English, and chose to work in other restaurants before taking on the challenge of running his own. Because he was unable to return to Mexico for several years, in 2012, he decided that he needed to bring his personal experience to East Harlem. His brother had also opened a restaurant in Manhattan, but Nestor said that he really learned to cook from his mom. "I always loved food, and I liked experimenting and coming up with different combinations."The fare is authentic at El Kallejon, but as Nestor describes it, "with a twist." When I peeked inside the tiny kitchen area, I met Bertha Torres who grew up in a little village in Mexico. She also enjoys "putting interesting ingredients together," and watching the reaction of the customers. It was great fun standing there as Bertha cut and chopped preparing an outstanding guacamole, served in a cocktail glass with ceviche on top. Next up she quickly made a "tamalex" - a corn cake with cheese, roasted tomato sauce, and finished with some watercress. With very little space to maneuver, within minutes Bertha was presenting us with dish after dish. Everything was uncomplicated allowing the intensity of the chilies, garlic and their own infused olive oils to explode in each bite.While Bertha was busy in the kitchen, Nestor was making the drinks. As I sipped on the Hibiscus Flower that was made with a rose pedal infused tequila and lime, I was given a lesson about the difference between the restaurant's vast selection of artisanal mezcales and tequila, as well as the extensive Latin American wines.Everything at El Kallejon reflects a piece of Nestor's life in Mexico. The entire space is brightly painted with turquoise, orange, yellow and fuschia, and each piece of art and other decorations have a personal story. Even the bathroom is filled with memorabilia and history. I was particularly taken by an interesting looking instrument that Nestor explained was made from the jaw of a donkey.It was the middle of the winter when I visited, so it came as a great surprise when Nestor said that before I left, he had to show me something special. How fortunate he is to have a very colorful backyard garden, complete with a mural painted by his brother. In the warmer months, the food is grilled outdoors and there is live music. This restaurant is not just a business to Nestor, it was so clear to me that he has poured his heart and soul into it. "I have a positive attitude towards life, and I understand that owning a restaurant is difficult, but as long as you love it, you can survive - everything is possible."

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