“By accident, ” answered Olga Blanco when I asked her how she got her start in the printing business. Her husband started Nobel Printing in 1979, and Olga took over a short while later when he became ill. “I learned and I kept going, ” she smiled, remembering a time when the business was new to her. She, in turn, has taught her son, who works for a printing company in Florida. Olga shared with me that when her son's business decided to use the traditional printing press in an effort to distinguish themselves from others, his knowledge of the machine lead to a promotion. “No one else knows how to use these, ” she gushed, “so they increased his pay. ”Originally from Columbia, Olga journeyed to the States in 1969 at the age of seventeen. Since living here, she has seen a lot of changes, many of which have had an negative impact on her custom printing company. “Everything is digital these days, ” she rationalized, "And everyone thinks they are a designer. ” With so many people in possession of a computer and the means to make their own digital copies, her fears are not unwarranted. Topped off with rising rents, Olga is not sure her business will operate for longer than a few more years. Indeed, she has seen many others pushed out of the neighborhood for similar reasons. “The real estate business is hungry for money, ” she said, shaking her head. Despite the obstacles, Olga remains quite confident in the product, itself. She happily deals solely in custom printing, taking on any job no matter the size and “creating something beautiful. ” When I visited in the summer of 2016, Olga was working on a wedding order of 2000 invites and could not conceal her passion for the project. She showed me her early drafts, pulling out the quality card stock and brushing her fingertips over a soft design that depicted a tree just in bloom. There is no replacement for “that human touch. ”
Co-founded in 1994 by former number one middleweight boxer, Michael Olajide, and Leila Fazel, a former ballerina, Aerospace claims to offer “a revolutionary new fitness that engages body, mind, and spirit. ” Leila explained that the Aerospace workout is “revolutionary” in two ways: first, it does not involve any machines, and second, it has its foundation in athlete-level boxing to engage cardio, muscle endurance, and core strength. The company has its own boxing ring and jump rope line. We had the pleasure of seeing Michael, who lost vision in one of his eyes in the early 1990s, guide a student through some boxing combinations as part of the Aerospace workout. Although Michael and Leila intend to maintain the “authenticity of boxing” in their program, Aerospace is open to everyone, with or without boxing experience. While some learn to hit bags on the second floor, others in a more advanced program spar in the boxing ring on the first floor. Leila also runs a workout that combines shadow boxing with ballet.
Jon Eisen is not only one of the partners of Between the Bread and its director of strategic growth, but he is also heir to one of the pioneers of the venture, which has delivered sandwiches to office workers since 1979. Ricky Eisen, Jon’s mother and the company’s president - who was born on the outskirts of Tel Aviv - decided to use large-scale catering to bring healthy meals to her clients in a more efficient way. Jon claims that the result was the first catering company in New York City. Ricky’s idea to use only healthy and local ingredients proved to be a pivotal moment in the way catering to corporate clients is done today. In 2013, Ricky put her son in charge of the retail and café side of the business, which up until that point had been secondary to catering. Recognizing the recent popular trend of eating healthy and local, Jon quickly began streamlining the production process, including installing digital cash registers to track customer orders. This lead to a doubling of revenue. His success prompted Ricky to name him partner in 2015. Despite these changes, the core of the business is still the same: using organic, fresh, and seasonal to serve “high quality meals. ” And to hear it from Jon and the head of brand strategy, Victoria Rolandelli, this core seems to resonate well with customers. Between the Bread opened two more locations in October 2015 and has plans to have a total of twelve locations throughout the city. Located in the Chelsea Terminal Warehouse, the 27th Street Between the Bread is in a massive space that was previously an unloading station for trains. In the not-too-distant future, once Hudson Yards is complete, it is Jon's hope that they will become the "new Chelsea Market. "
Originally constructed in 1905, this building became the home of the beloved Gershwin Hotel in 1992. In 2014, Triumph Hotels took over the space and invested a good deal in renovations, renaming it The Evelyn. As an homage to building’s artful and musical past, the guest rooms feature music note-tiled bathrooms, trombone-shaped chandeliers, and decorations inspired by the Art Nouveau style of the 1900s.
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.
There are no frills at Turnmill. The space is designed to look like the interior of an old mill, serving good, hearty drinks. Following the success of their bar, The Globe, on 23rd Street, the owners opened this watering hole in summer 2013 to round out what’s becoming a very nice strip of 27th. The interior is lined with steel and big wooden beams made from reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania, which lends it a yeoman’s atmosphere, enhanced by the bar’s emphasis on whiskey and bourbon, but the high ceiling and openness keep it very comfortable. A full kitchen serves traditional pub fare, with imported and domestic beers on tap to wash it all down. In the back, an additional private bar plays host to events from birthday parties to wedding receptions - and to at least one bris afterparty.
Educational and fun, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) focuses on the exploration and exhibition of the history and art of fashion. There is a permanent collection of works from the eighteenth century through the present which houses historically relevant garments and focuses on avant-garde works. Exhibition galleries house rotating shows on the history of fashion, student and faculty works, and special exhibitions. Two fascinating shows that we stopped in to see were the RetroSpective exhibit, examining fashion’s re-appropriation of the past to inform present and future styles and "A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk. "
Jam aficionados across the country will instantly recognize the award-winning glass jars lining the walls of Sarabeth Levine's eponymous restaurant. These scrumptious jars are filled with a variety of fruits – peach apricot and mixed berries are two favorites. Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, grew up eating in their UES restaurant and told me that there has always been a jar of jam in his fridge since he was in grade school. I, too, remember coming here since Sarabeth’s first opened some twenty years ago. They were serving brunch long before brunch was a weekend habit for so many New Yorkers. No matter what the time of day is for me, whenever I eat at one of their restaurants, my go-to is the consistently delicious velvety cream of tomato soup - hands down, one of the best in the city. Today, there are Sarabeth's spread throughout Manhattan, each one in an elegant space, offering a more refined, though unfussy, dining experience.
I know how difficult it is for a family business to stay afloat in Midtown, and so I was deeply impressed and pleased to find Henry Cowit, Inc., a full-service furrier that has been owned by the same family for three generations. I met brothers Larry and Steve, the grandsons of the original owner, who gave me a tour of the whole space. Not only are the brothers very good at what they do, but they are also amazing New York characters who are experts on the pulse of the neighborhood. Their father moved into a building on 29th Street on 1973, where the company stayed until July of 2015, when the brothers relocated to 27th Street. From their new home, the brothers have continued serving the neighborhood by selling, finishing, lining, storing, and cleaning fur coats. Along with caring for skins and selling second-hand furs, Henry Cowit recycles fur coats, which I found fascinating. Larry and Steve showed me a set of throw pillows that they had made for a girl who wanted to keep her grandmother’s coat for sentimental reasons, but who had no cause to wear the coat herself. Larry and Steve told me that they get many similar requests, especially in the past two years. More and more young girls are getting fur items on Ebay or at flea markets, and bring them to Henry Cowit to be altered into new garments. The brothers love the new demographic and the fun recycling projects that it brings to their business. When a family works in the fur industry as long as the Cowits have, it is bound to encounter some interesting clients. When I asked Larry and Steve about their most interesting project, they said that one customer asked for the swish logo on his Nike sneakers to be covered in mink to match his blue-grey mink jacket. “We get a lot of musical artists, ” Larry and Steve explained. They also get clients from the film industry. For example, Cate Blanchett is wearing a Cowit coat in the movie Carol, which made the brothers very excited, since the costume designer is an Oscar winner. The coats are also featured in many TV shows. Their fur rentals are not only for the performing arts - the brothers also rent furs for special events, especially weddings. The furriers get their customers via word of mouth. “They know they can come to us, ” Larry proudly said. Larry also described to me a couple of the latest ideas that he is developing. One is a men’s line of normal-sized coats made of all types of fur. He explained that many masculine fur coats are enormous, to cater to the music and sports industries, but that he wants to reach a new demographic with this unique line. Larry is enthusiastic about an additional project that he is working on with an up-and-coming designer to turn old, used coats into new garments. “We take a used coat and make it look hip, ” he explained. “After all, I want to make sure my daughters still think their dad is fun! ”