This tiny shop tucked away in Kips Bay has been the go-to spot for any and all of one’s footwear-related troubles since it opened in 2014. Manuel Muicela, the owner, came to New York from Nicaragua in 1987 and quickly joined the trade of shoe repair, enduring grueling six-day workweeks. After gaining thirty years of experience in the field, he was finally able to open his own business. “I learned how to repair shoes, and now I work for me, ” he remarked proudly. In this residential area, most of his regulars live in the neighborhood. On the loyalty of his customers, Manuel noted, “If you do a good job, people come back. ”A few things about Manuel’s shop set him apart from the rest. One of the first things that grabs the eye upon entering is the set of old-fashioned shoeshine chairs, where one can get a shoeshine for $5, cash only. He also has a unique machine in the back of the shop that stitches both the inside and the outside of the shoe. With a chuckle, Manuel warned our team, “You can stitch your finger if you’re not careful. ” This machine is so rare that many other shoe repair shop owners throughout the city come to Manuel to use it.
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.
With construction starting in 1958 and finishing ten years later, Saint Vartan Cathedral represents the first Armenian Apostolic cathedral built in North America. Named after a saint who was martyred a millennium and a half ago defending Armenian Christianity, Saint Vartan Cathedral had a memorable beginning. During its construction and immediately following its completion, the building was visited by the highest authority within the Church, His Holiness Vasken I, marking the first such visit by a Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians in the United States. For a people so persecuted throughout history, and especially by the recent Armenian genocide, the building and consecration of this holy house was a monumental event in the community. His Holiness Vasken I, looking out at an assembled audience soon after Saint Vartan's completion, spoke of "an admirable picture of spiritual grace - a rare moment of spiritual bliss - to which we are all witnesses. " But far from being a relic, the church continues to thrive with the energy of the community it houses. I encourage any visitors to the church to walk through the intricately decorated doors and take some time to absorb the sheer size and depth of the church. Narrow strips of stained glass depicting biblical scenes and significant events in the history of the Armenian Church rise up to the impressive dome, which depicts Christian symbols in paint and stained glass, such as a human eye within a triangle (representing the omniscient Triune God), the wooden ship (representing the Church), and the white dove (representing the Holy Spirit). Closer to the altar, the “Head of Christ” is chiseled on a slate of stone in high relief. Silver and gold crosses decorate the distinctly Armenian altar. On the sides of the altar are paintings of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob, the two men credited with inventing the Armenian Alphabet, and a painting that seeks to honor the victims of the dreadful Armenian genocide.
For ten years, Apel worked in a tailor shop located where he grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. As he tells it, a man from the Turkish embassy came to him and told him that New York needed tailors. “It was empty of good tailors, ” Apel stated, “So I came to New York. ” And, since 1995, he has stayed in New York in his little shop on East 27th. Specializing in trousers and jackets, Apel takes pride in his honesty as a tailor who knows what he can do and does it well.
Holographic Studios is, in the words of its owner Jason Sapan, “a conundrum. ” Walking by the East 26th Street store, one would never realize they are passing a house of holograms that has been there for decades. What is a hologram? “It’s sort of like a muffin pan, ” Jason explained. “Although what we are pouring in isn’t batter, but light, and it is taking the shape down to the size of a light wave, which is half of a millionth of a meter across — that’s our pixel. So a hologram is not only three dimensional, but incredibly powerful in the data it is recording. ” Jason’s career began as a child. His dad “designed the displays of technology for the phone system, ” and when AT& T built the pavilion at the World’s Fair, he helped solder some of the wires. “I had lasers in my house from the early 1960s. I grew up with holograms, never thinking it would become my life’s work. ” During the summer of 1968, Jason had his first paid job showing off his own holograms, and then made the decision to go professional in 1975. His original upstairs space was in Chelsea, but after a few years, he realized that a streetfront connection would be beneficial and made the move to his present location. Every year Jason tries to evolve “a little bit. ” Rather than doing the same things over and over, he changes with the marketplace. “People are interested in different things, and it is incumbent upon me to recognize where the trend is going and to play to that. ” Clients have included Andy Warhol, Bill Clinton, Isaac Asimov, the New York City Ballet, Mayor Ed Koch, sheiks, and countless other celebrities, as well as many Fortune 500 companies. Jason certainly had the clientele and ability to have grown into the corporate world, but when asked why he never chose to “go big, ” his immediate response was, “I would lose the relationships that I have developed over the years. I am a big business, just in a small space. I love this lifestyle. ”
Engine 16 and Ladder 7 were both organized in 1865, the former on East 25th Street and the latter on East 28th. Since 1968, the two have resided together in a double firehouse on East 29th. One of the firemen, James, took on the job with a desire to help others and loves the constant change of pace. Serving since 1990, James also takes to heart the tragedy that occurred on 9/11. “We lost a lot of great men that day, ” he explained, pointing to an inspiring memorial dedicated to the brave souls. The triumph of these several sacrificial men is certainly not forgotten.