As Hamlet would say, “This is one of the places you come to the village for. ” Walking through the door, a small white pooch runs up to greet you, then leads you back through the racks of coats, pants, hats, and other accessories. As the owner, Hamlet, emphasizes, the inventory here is vintage clothing (not a second-hand shop), that dates from the 1940s to the 80s. The selection is sourced through various vintage collectors from all over the world. Hamlet credits his eye for fashion to his mother, who, he says, was a fashion designer in his home country of Dominican Republic. He is very proud of his collection and iterates that the store is not for “80s party” accoutrement, rather it is a resource for historic elegance and style. And if you stop in, you may even get your picture taken, as Hamlet will often have his customers model his new acquisitions.
Every nook and cranny of this tiny storefront's space is full of an extensive and eclectic collection of musical instruments from around the world. Instruments hang from the ceiling just as haphazardly as they are stacked on top of one another from the floor. Located at this same address for over fifty years, Music Inn has an impressive sitar selection from the 1960's, a rare 100 year old sarinda from Afghanistan, as well as adorable little child guitars and mini pianos. I had a quick throwback moment when I spied an autoharp. Do you remember music class in elementary school back in the 60's?
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
After moving to her current location from East 7th Street, Lalita Kumut is pleased with her new address for selling aromatherapy products. On one of our recent visits, we stood by while a delighted group of girls were creating their own fragrances. From the variety of custom blends, soaps, oils and other smell-good body products, to the lovely women who have been in this business for over twenty years, the Fragrance Shop offers a memorable experience for the senses.
Part of FAB, this prominent off Broadway theater encourages artists to express themselves freely and to create contemporary, original productions. The musical, Once, gained recognition after its debut performance here at the New York Theatre Workshop before it won eight Tony Awards on Broadway. My husband and I thought that this was one of the best musicals we have seen in a long time. We highly recommend that you see it too!
We decided to grab a quick bite in this historic site while walking one day. Needless to say, the menu was your typical diner fare, the people were all very nice and it was fascinating to hear more about the urban legend surrounding this property. The Mad Hatter, a tea salon, is said to have actually been at this same address frequented by many a scholar and artist. It is believed that this is where the West Village began to adopt its bohemian character. In the mid-1800's the land surrounding the diner, which is now The Golden Swan Garden, was the Golden Swan Cafe, run by Irish prizefighter Thomas Wallace. Among the writers and artists who frequented the saloon was playwright Eugene O'Neill. It is thought that his Iceman Cometh was influenced by those he met at this legendary bar that he and other patrons later coined the "Hell Hole. " Of course, as tales often go, we were unable to get a firm confirmation or denial of any of the fine details. And so, it shall remain the stuff of legends.
The history of the Village's favorite park involves an attack on Native Americans, slave land ownership and a burial ground for the city's destitute. It sounds like an urban legend, but Washington Square Park, adored for its arch monument, towering water fountain, chess games, live performances, children's playground and lively dog run, was originally Native American marshland given to slaves and later developed as a public park that now sits on top of a 19th-century cemetery. Tumultuous history aside, this park, named in honor of George Washington, has played an important role in the neighborhood's bohemian culture since folk singers staged the first protest here in the late 1940s. To this day, Washington Square Park continues to serve as the backdrop of counterculture demonstrations — and live music and theater performances enjoyed by all.
When Bienvenido Alvarez and his wife left the city of Ourense in 1973, they did not know when they would see their children again. Looking for a better life in Manhattan, where Bienvenido’s brother worked at Sevilla, the couple arrived to the sight of the Twin Towers being built. Bienvenido’s American life grew in tandem with the skyscrapers: He worked as a waiter in the mornings and learned English in the afternoons. After months of this hard work he and his brother, Jose, bought Sevilla, which remains open seven days a week, just as it did years ago. It was not until 1976 that Bienvenido and his wife were able to bring their children to New York. During the summer of 2017, Bienvenido sat with the Manhattan Sideways team at Sevilla, the light illuminating the left side of his face through the massive window that faces West 4th Street. His granddaughter Andrea joined us, kindly translating our interview between Spanish and English. The relatives do not look alike, yet both emanate the same brand of warmth. We arrived at the restaurant while Bienvenido was in the middle of paperwork, but he still took the time to do an interview on the spot - it is befitting that his name translates to “Welcome. ” Before it was established as a Spanish restaurant in 1941, the corner of West 4th and Charles Street was an Irish tavern that sold burgers and beer. The remnants of that earlier establishment can still be seen in Sevilla's decor. Although Bienvenido and his brother are the second set of owners of Sevilla, Bienvenido pointed out that there are no noticeable differences between the restaurant today and the original that opened so many decades ago. Insuring a seamless change of ownership, the brothers chose to leave the restaurant as they inherited it, except for the menu and the alarm system. “We did better, everything, ” said Bienvenido about the menu. It is identical to the 1940s menu, except for a few new dishes and revamped editions of the original items. The alarm system at Sevilla is an homage to the character of the West Village in the 1970s. An eclectic prequel to the upper-class neighborhood it is today, the Village was once home to many thieves, artists, “Bohemians, ” and a significant Spanish community. The restaurant “used to get robbed a lot, ” but is now protected by alarms and its proximity to well to do neighbors. This safety came at the cost of the area’s gentrification, which pushed most of the Spanish population out of the neighborhood. The West Village’s blocks were once so packed with Spanish restaurants it used to be known as “Little Spain. ” Andrea proudly stated that Sevilla is a “pillar for the Spanish community” that remains today. One unwavering Spanish value that the business upholds is the importance of family. Sevilla is not just a restaurant, but the venue where Bienvenido's large Spanish family gathers to celebrate Easter, Mother’s Day, baptisms, and communions. Andrea estimates that three to four generations attend these gatherings and then added that their immediate family tries to have a meal together once a day. Bienvenido bought the building in which Sevilla resides in 1982 so that his family would have a place to live. In general, the family is very close: Bienvenido said that his relationship with his brother is “muy bueno” and that on the rare occasion the pair does argue, Bienvenido can never stay mad at his partner for long. Andrea has been living in New York for the past three years while she finishes culinary school, but before that, she visited the restaurant at least once every year from her home in Spain. When asked what she has learned from her time spent here, Andrea began her response with a one-word statement: "sacrifice". While the restaurant’s enduring success can be credited to its authentic food, it is also fueled by something less concrete: Bienvenido’s genuine, enviable love for what he does. He describes his customers as “marvelous, ” and, at the age of eighty-five, continues to come in every other day to do paperwork and mingle with guests. “He’s a very loving person, ” Andrea gushed, “And he doesn’t understand retirement. ” Bienvenido started working when he was fourteen in Spain, but still keeps a sense of humor about his life’s obstacles. “The worst part was the idioms, ” Bienvenido reminisced about learning English forty-five years ago (His grasp of English has sadly since slipped away). Laughing, he imparted a truism: “A day without work is a day without money. ” Towards the end of our interview, Andrea distilled her grandfather’s character into two words - “proud” and “fun” - and revealed that he wakes up singing every morning. While the brothers used to work hard out of necessity, they do it now for joy. “They work not because they need it, but because they love it. ”
East 4th Street has two of Manhattan's most talented leather craftswomen working here. Jutta Neumann has been designing and producing leather goods that are so soft and buttery since the 1980's when she traveled here from Europe. Before opening her own shop, she spent several years working with Barbara Shaum in her store further up the block. Men and women can select from an array of items that are all crafted here. There are bags, belts, wristbands, sandals, wallets and more. When Jutta is not creating her leather pieces here, you can find her nearby hard at work in the community garden across the street.
Since its opening in the summer of 2011, Empellon has been welcomed by just about every food critic in the New York area - and all to rave reviews. We finally had to try this for ourselves... and we were not disappointed. The team of highly regarded young chefs and the renowned head chef/owner produce a truly outstanding Mexican-inspired menu and pay homage to the taco and tortilla. The mezcal margarita with a tincture of seranno pepper was a great way to start the meal. Then we moved on to guacamole, several different tasty salsas, and a refreshing watercress salad with apples, pineapples and a mole dressing. Next up were shishito peppers and melted cheese served on warm tortillas, a healthy chicken taco, yucca fries and sweet plantains. Empellon definitely lived up to our expectations.