Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market. ” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7, 000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City. In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely. This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret, ” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage. ”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd. The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city, ” she said, “so I decided to test the waters. ” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train, ” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything. ” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret, ” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape. ”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses. When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married, ” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides. ” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty, ” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides. ”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2, 000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress. ”
The third time was the charm for Mohamed Jamal, who cycled through several business ventures before settling on the perfect one. He first opened a candy store on 17th Street in 1989, which he then transformed into a juice bar, before finally arriving at the space’s current iteration: Rainbow Falafel. Mohamed used the recipes he learned at his grandmother’s knee during his childhood in Syria to create a healthy, Middle Eastern menu. “We stick to all of the old-fashioned, classic foods and never change them, ” Mohamed affirmed, adding that the freshness and preservative-free nature of everything he serves is key to his philosophy. Offerings include the eponymous falafels served in veggie-filled sandwiches and platters, as well as stuffed vine leaves, spanakopita, hummus and other spreads. Impressively, most of the spices and special ingredients are imported, such as tahini from Lebanon, olives from Greece and mango juice from Egypt. To Mohamed, who runs Rainbow Falafel alongside his wife and son, the restaurant’s prosperity is easy to explain — “We are always here and we are always happy. ”
This little urban oasis provides families and individuals acupuncture treatment for a wide range of ailments – infertility, stress, and muscular and skeletal pain. Husband and wife founding team Jill Blakeway and Noah Rubinstein have been a functional medical and media presence in the world of acupuncture for years, publishing a number of books, appearing on Bravo, CBS, The Today Show, and lecturing on the benefits of Chinese medicine.
Since 1901, when Ginsberg and Levy, Inc. began, the Levy family has garnered a distinct reputation specializing in American antiques primarily from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Though the art world lost a great man in early 2016 when Bernard Levy passed away at the age of ninety-eight, his son and grandson, Dean and Frank, are successfully carrying on the family business that changed its name to Bernard and S. Dean Levy in 1973. Frank, who appeared quite enthusiastic to be continuing the gallery as its fourth generation owner, explained that while the gallery contains a few pieces of English furniture that once lived in American homes, everything else was made right here. This is rare in the antique business, where European works usually have the strongest showing. I was interested to learn that some of Frank's favorite pieces are the framed needlework that decorate the corners of the first floor. He told me that the surviving needlework was mainly done by girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. The nice thing about needlework, Frank pointed out, is that collectors often know who made it, since their names are worked into it, and after a while it is easy to start to recognize different schools and teachers of needlepoint. Frank spoke to me about growing up in the family business. "As a kid, you learn that these things are heavy, " he said with a smile as we walked by a seventeenth century wardrobe. From a young age, Frank found the history of each antique fascinating. "I've always liked American history, " he admitted. He then went on to reflect that as a boy, he and his brother would play football with an antique highboy in his parents' room, which provided "a perfect goal post. " When he was in his twenties, however, he began working for the family business and started to become more interested in the clues that told him when and where something came from. Most of the pieces are from the eastern seaboard - Frank told me that the taller ones usually come from the South, where inhabitants wanted heat to be able to rise, and the shorter furniture comes from the North, where lower ceilings helped keep the heat inside. As for where the impressive collection is found, "Things show up everywhere. " Frank found one piece at an estate three blocks away, whereas a chair from Rhode Island was discovered at an auction in California. In addition to my conversation with Frank, I also had the pleasure of speaking with Melanie, a gallery employee, who shared with me that despite being on a side street, the gallery gets a fair amount of walk-ins. Recently, a man stopped in who commented that he was "taken with the portrait of the sheriff" in the window. Most of the gallery's customers, however, are collectors and frequent visitors. Bernard and S. Dean Levy has helped to build not only private collections, but countless public ones, including those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The company is also proud to have helped to furnish a few historical house museums or help them to recover original furniture that was lost over the years. Touring the gallery with Frank, which is vaguely arranged chronologically, we began on the top floor. It is here that I discovered that many of the newest pieces from the nineteenth century are from New York, and made by three primary cabinetmakers - Duncan Phyfe, Michael Allison, and Charles-Honore Lannuier. Frank showed me how he "looks for little clues to find out where something is from and when, " showing me a drum on the leg of a table made by Duncan Phyfe that indicated that it came from a specific phase of his career. He then pointed out an elaborately decorated knife box. When Tom, the Manhattan Sideways photographer, commented that it looked like it could have come from the Art Deco period, Frank agreed, saying, "styles come back. "The fourth floor has furniture from the same period and a bit earlier, but with an emphasis on the country. Much of the furniture came from Connecticut and New Hampshire and was made from birch and maple trees. Frank indicated a dower chest that had a hidden signature from its maker, John Saltzer, etched into a painted urn on the side. We also saw an old lead-lined wine cooler with a stopper at the bottom which let out water. On the third floor, there were even earlier pieces, including one with a completely fictitious historic plaque claiming that it had once belonged to Martha Washington. Laughing, Frank said that if everything attributed to Martha Washington actually belonged to her, she would have needed far more houses to store her collection. The second floor had an impressive array of grandfather clocks as well as a desk with an extraordinary removable hidden compartment that allowed the owner to keep important documents in a safe space that could be removed from the desk in case of fire. When we returned to the first floor, we had traipsed through one hundred years of history, told in the language of furniture. It reminded me that Bernard and S. Dean Levy can boast a more-than-hundred year history of its own. "I'm proud we've been around this long, " Frank concluded.
Chloe Epstein has always had a sweet tooth, but when her children were born, she began to question the artificial ingredients used in her favorite treat: frozen yogurt. Michael Sloan, a childhood friend of her husband, had a similar problem: a triathlete, he ate frozen bananas because he could not find any other healthy dessert options. Together, they decided to invent their own frozen treat, and after a bit of experimenting, Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit was born. When I first visited Chloe’s, I was amazed to learn that their soft serve fruit is made with only three ingredients: fruit, water, and cane sugar. In fact, the soft serve fruit was so smooth and creamy that I could not believe it was vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Some of Chloe’s soft serve fruit varieties - including my favorites, mango and dark chocolate - are available year-round, and one can taste the fresh fruit in every bite. Others, like the tart and refreshing summer plum, change seasonally. Chloe and Michael wanted to foster an environment where parents could feel comfortable letting their children order anything on the menu, and as a result, the toppings at Chloe’s - fresh fruit from the Union Square Greenmarket, gluten-free cookies, and many more - are healthy, safe and non-GMO. But in spite of Chloe’s emphasis on clean and simple food, soft serve fruit can also be an indulgence - take the Crunchy Salty Sundae, for instance. This delightful swirl of banana and dark chocolate soft serve is topped with bananas, dark chocolate chips, natural peanut butter, warm dark chocolate sauce, and pretzels. I was told that it continues to be one of Chloe’s best-selling menu items. On my most recent walk on 17th Street, I was excited to learn that Chloe’s had recently expanded their menu to include slushies, smoothies, and even breakfast. The Green Machine smoothie, a healthy mixture of mango and banana soft serve fruit, spinach, kale, pineapple, and almond milk, is perfect for athletes; another staple is the PBJC smoothie, made with banana soft serve fruit, strawberries, warm natural peanut butter, and chocolate chips. While I did not get to sample the acai bowl, which looked delicious, I very much enjoyed the waffle breakfast - a hot, vegan waffle made in-house and topped with a swirl of soft serve fruit, fresh fruit, and other goodies. While speaking with Michael during the summer of 2015, I learned that in addition to Chloe’s soft serve fruit truck in Montauk, the company is now expanding throughout the country. Their soft serve fruit pops, which are sixty calories each, are sold nationwide in a variety of grocery stores. And, in place of traditional soft serve machines, Chloe’s machines and branded freezers can now be found in colleges, entertainment centers, and retail locations throughout the United States. Because it is free of all eight major allergens, Chloe’s has been life-changing for people with dietary restrictions. But soft serve fruit also appeals to people from all walks of life, from athletes looking for post-workout protein to moms like Chloe, who want to avoid the additives and preservatives found in so many desserts. Young professionals and tourists also make up a large part of Chloe’s customer base, and now that the business is expanding, its reputation is growing. As Michael likes to say, “Soft serve fruit is amazing and delicious… and also healthy. ”
There are two separate-but-connected shops offering visitors a brief trip to another era. The jewelry shop is the only one visible from the street and draws walkers in with its promise of antique sparkly gems. The real hidden gem, however, is the home furnishings shop in back. To enter, it required us to exit the first store and walk through a tunnel lined with antique mirrors, which made us feel a bit like we were in Alice in Wonderland. We then found ourselves in a cozy backyard leading into the second storefront. Once inside, the warbling old music and thick vanilla scent instantly drew us even further away from the bustle of Manhattan. Every corner of the shop was lined with antique knick-knacks - from black and white photos to intricately decorated piggy banks, music boxes, and glasses galore. We adored chatting with the gentleman working there. For those of us who appreciate kitsch, this store may just be the Holy Grail.
How happy were my husband and I when we came to the end of 17th Street, this particular day on our bikes, and there was Artichoke Pizza waiting for us (the entrance is on the side street)? We went in and ordered individual slices of whatever we could fit in one box, put it on the back of our bike, and headed home quickly so that we could savor every bite. Read about the original 14th Street location.