When I visited Tip Top Shoes in the summer of 2015, the store was celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary. Danny Wasserman proudly showed me the most recent edition of Footwear News, which was essentially dedicated to Tip Top. There were messages from countless sponsors in the shoe world, congratulating the Wasserman family for their longevity. Sitting down with Danny and his children, Lester and Margot, who are in charge of West NYC and Tip Top Kids respectively was an absolute pleasure. Having grown up just a block away, Lester and Margot were immersed in the business even as toddlers. In high school, both began working at the store with their dad. Lester was immediately drawn into the world of shoes, learning as much as he could with the ultimate goal of opening his own sneaker shop, West NYC, a few doors down. Lester explained to me that Tip Top already sold sporty designer men's shoes, but that he expanded this concept into a trendier store in 2007. Margot, on the other hand, knew that she wanted to work in retail, but began her career with Ralph Lauren. She stayed there through the dot-com revolution and then returned to work for her father. Included in the copy of Footwear News was a picture of how the store looked decades ago. Display cases took up the first few feet on either side of the door. Danny's grandfather originally opened the store after coming to the United States from Israel. He chose to buy the little shoe shop, which had been uptown in Riverdale, from an elderly German couple. The family then moved the store to 72nd Street. "Things were very different, " Danny explained to me. "People were less affluent, there were fewer options, and every shoe in the store was in the window. " He told me that at one point there were two black shoes and two brown shoes for men, and that was what customers had to choose from. Expanding on the neighborhood's history, Danny said that the street was frequented by pimps. "We had white boots with fur at the time that we couldn't keep in stock. "Later, the store was expanded both forward (eliminating the window displays) and back. Today, Tip Top continues to have a loyal following, many from the next generation of shoppers. Having walked so many streets in Manhattan, Tip Top has been a wonderful reminder to me that the old world concept of customer service, with a warm staff who have been working with the Wassermans for years, still exists. This thinking was solidified when I asked the family why they never considered expanding to another location. The response from Danny simply stated that they never wanted to spread themselves too thin. "The reason for our success is because we're all here. "It was really touching to see how strong the glue is that holds the Wasserman family together. I was not surprised when I learned that Lester, Margot and their parents live in the same building, a block over on 72nd Street - but on different floors. Yes, Tip Top has been an incredible success story in the world of mom and pop stores, but not everyone has had the great fortune of such a beautiful family relationship. When I expressed this sentiment to Danny, he replied, "Everyone says how fortunate I am to have my kids, and they're right. " He then went on to say with a warm smile, "I mean, my son chooses to work with me six days a week. " Lester shook his head in agreement and responded, "And I am lucky to have the best possible teacher to educate me. "
“We are beer nerds, not beer snobs. ” That is how Bo Bogle, the general manager of Gebhard’s Beer Culture, and Peter Malfatti, its beverage director, would describe the wood-furnished, cozy bar and restaurant that they opened in the summer of 2016, featuring various local and foreign artisanal beers on tap. The people behind Gebhard’s Beer Culture - the sister restaurant to Beer Culture on 45th Street - are as enthusiastic about beer as they are about educating customers. Because many of the beers that they offer are unknown to the general public, Gebhard’s will always work to find the draught that best suits each customer’s palate. If one feels like tasting several selections, the beer flight - a tray of four small glasses - is a good choice. Along with the continuously changing list of beers, the kitchen offers an ample menu of munchies, many from Belgium, as this is where owner Matt Gebhard spent time as a foreign exchange student. I was enchanted to discover how playful the space is: Upstairs, there is a games room, complete with a dartboard, shuffleboard, Hacky Sacks, and BulziBucket. The decorations throughout the bar and restaurant are eclectic, with various beer signs and novelty items covering the walls. At the front, I discovered a nook full of records, as well as a well-loved bicycle helmet. Bo and Ryan, the bartenders on duty, matched the vibe of the restaurant with their jovial nature as they poured beers for the Manhattan Sideways team. They set out glasses of citrusy TarTan Ale, a Central Waters Brewing Co beer, and a fresh, hoppy Southern Tier 2x Tangier. The two men knew exactly what to select for a hot day in the city and enjoyed tag-teaming descriptions of each beer and brand. Bo explained to us that the motivation behind Gebhard's Beer Culture is essentially a “passion for the local beer market. ” With the recent proliferation of local breweries around the city and in the rest of the country, Bo feels that “individuals are making great beers and that should be acknowledged. ” However, he believes it is not enough to simply have them on tap, but rather, the bartenders should teach customers about the local beer scene. Beer Culture’s objective is as much educational as it is to host many good nights with friends. When asked about the one thing that he would like customers to know about their new bar, Bo grinned and said: “the second beer always tastes better than the first. ”
With its prime 72nd Street location, I have passed by Malachy's Donegal Inn almost daily, but had never stepped inside. I was always waiting for the day when I would be working on this street, so that I could go in with the Manhattan Sideways team and have a good time. And that is exactly what happened. "Looks can be deceiving, believe me, " owner Bill Raftery immediately said when we popped in during the lunch hour in the middle of the week. He continued to speak lovingly and confidently of his pub, which has been in business since 1989. "This bar has the best pub food of any like it in the area, " Bill stated. Looking around, we were pleased to find the old wooden bar packed from end to end. According to Bill, most of his lunch customers are crew guys from local theaters like The Beacon and Lincoln Center, and "they are loyal. " Engaging in conversation with more than a dozen men and women, we learned a lot about Bill, and the warm environment that he has built. As Bill continued to serve people from behind the bar, he spoke of how much the neighborhood has changed since he purchased Malachy's. On Saint Patrick's Day, the area used to be blanketed in green bar-goers. "You could not move in this neighborhood the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There's nothing like seeing them blow up those balloons. " Hikes in parking and travel costs have drastically reduced business on both of those days, he lamented. Still, he brightened up when pointing to the crowded bar, and said how his regulars are certainly devoted customers. Quite busy, he told us to stop by for a drink sometime soon, and headed into the kitchen.
Though the main location for Westsider Books, which opened in the 1980s, is on Broadway, the Westsider "record store" on 72nd Street did not come about until 2007. Every corner of the store is packed to the rafters with interesting finds in different genres of music and literature. In a world that is quickly becoming digital, Westsider prides itself on selling records, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, sheet music, postcards, and countless paperbacks. Westsider's adherence to older practices also means that customers can make trades and sell used books (though mainly at the Broadway location). Having lived on this street for a number of years now, and having owned my own bookstore, I continuously lose myself in the shelves full of rare, fascinating items, and can easily spend hours in the eclectic shop. Dorian Thornley and Bryan Gonzalez, the owners, believe that they may sadly be the last used bookstore on the Upper West Side, a neighborhood that was full of used-book stores at one time. For now, there appears to be enough bibliophiles in the area to keep the quirky shop in business. I am certainly someone who appreciates their commitment and wishes them well for many more years to come.
Yoko Hasegawa, the owner of this Upper West Side sushi bar, went to a temple in Japan to discover the best name for her new restaurant in Manhattan. She came back with Kaito, which means "Sea Breeze. "When I visited the twelve-seat restaurant shortly after it opened in the summer of 2017, Jorge Dionicio, one of the talented members of the team at Sushi Kaito, told me that he began making sushi in Peru. He explained to me that there is a large Japanese population in his country. "Everything started there for me a long time ago, " he said. He went to school for electrical engineering and worked at a sushi bar while attending university. "The more I know, I know nothing, " he admitted. After spending several years in New York, working at different restaurants, he realized that he needed to spend time in Japan to learn the "real" technique. In 2009, he spent one year there "to be trained, " but he continues to go back to learn more and more as often as possible. Part of the schooling, he admitted with a chuckle, is to eat in as many sushi bars as possible. Although he has been making sushi for fifteen years, Jorge has no desire to work in any other type of cuisine. Jorge chose to come to Kaito because he appreciated the philosophy of engaging with the customers and developing personal relationships with people. When I inquired whether or not the restaurant already had returning diners, Jorge enthusiastically replied, "Oh yeah - over and over. "Jorge was proud to tell me that on the evening after the first little, local write up on the restaurant was published, sixty-two people stood outside, hoping to get in. Unfortunately, there were not enough seats, and the employees had to turn dozens of people away. In a small, intimate setting that is decorated simply, so as not to take away from what is going on behind the counter, guests can pull up a chair, engage in conversation with the staff who are preparing the sushi, and savor the fresh fish that arrives on a daily basis straight from Japan. When I asked Jorge what makes the place special, he quickly responded, "Everything we do, we do with our heart, " all from scratch. "We pick our own ginger, make our own soy sauce and put an emphasis on purity. " He added that the restaurant aims for perfection. "Maybe we never get it but we are always looking for it. " He said that the employees enjoy making the people smile and giving them a memorable meal. "It's not just about food, it is a life experience. " Jorge believes that Sushi Kaito is different from other sushi bars - "We enjoy speaking with guests, answering their questions. " While the atmosphere does not feel overly serious, he emphasized, "We are, though, very serious about our product. " He continued, "Here, we are very different. We take care of everything. " The other men preparing the food side by side with Jorge all nodded in agreement. "Although it is a lot of work, it never feels like work, " one of them explained. Jorge told us, "I leave at midnight, go home, take a shower, climb into bed, and wake up eager to do it all over again the next day. I love what I do, so I never mind. "
Up a set of unassuming stairs on W 72nd Street is a place where you can paint your troubles away — don’t miss out on the The Paint Place, an Upper West Side art studio where everyone from local kids to Broadway stars bliss out at the canvas. The cheery, colorful second floor studio has been proudly serving the neighborhood for nine years, said owner and Upper West Sider Marci Feede, who first became inspired to open after studying art history in college. “I myself am not an artist, but I have some incredibly talented artists who teach here, ” she said. Hoping to jump on the “paint and sip” trend of the early 2010s, Marci told us that she wanted to bring the fun and interactive social activity to the neighborhood. “We had no idea what we were doing, ” laughed Marci. “We went to IKEA, bought some furniture and just decided that we were going to fake it ‘til we made it! ”Nearly a decade later, The Paint Place has proven to have staying power. Offering everything from children’s after-school classes to corporate retreats, to the classic paint and sip social hour where New Yorkers can tackle the masterworks, pop art, and everything in between, “we have had some incredible artists teach here over the years, ” said Marci. “We’re really lucky that there’s such an incredible talent pool here in New York City. ”They’ve also connected with the wider arts community, including New York’s immersive arts exhibits like the recent Monet’s Garden as well as several Broadway shows. “We hosted an event with Beetlejuice here and we had so many diehard fans! ” said Marci. “We love working with local partners and we’re always looking for more. ”Most of all, Marci takes pride in seeing preternaturally stressed-out New Yorkers get to take a breather at The Paint Place. “The best thing for me has always been how many people walk through that front door and comment on the positive energy of the space, ” said Marci. “It happens all the time. Life is hard, and we just want people to have fun. ”
One of the first things children are taught to say at Silver Music is "I like chocolate ice cream. " While this may seem like a way to enhance a kid's sweet tooth, it is actually a clever method of teaching one of the primary rhythms of the Suzuki method. "We used to have ice cream parties at the end of the year, " the founder, Ellen Silver, told me. "We didn't want to torture the children by just talking about ice cream all year – but now there are just too many students. "Ellen, a cellist who has worked as a teacher with the internationally recognized "Music Together" program, has always been fascinated by the way very young children approach instruments. Every child is different, but she noticed patterns of learning that she believed would help her better prepare toddlers for music lessons. She started out in 2005 with a class of five students in her Upper West Side apartment and began teaching them the beginning stages of piano, cello and violin. This involved singing, holding a bow, improvisation exercises, and learning how to take directions. "Those children are now fourteen or fifteen, and they still come to Silver Music! " Ellen said proudly. Though Silver Music has since expanded by offering programs for all ages, that beginner's class, called "Ready, Set, Play, " is still a major component of the school. There are at most four kids in the class, generally from two to four years old. "Over time they want to learn how to play an instrument the right way, " Ellen explained to me. "And that means they are ready for lessons. " Though the classes still focus on violin, cello, and piano, she is thinking of possibly adding guitar into the mix. With a strong core of instructors, Silver Music is able to offer lessons to well over one hundred students, as well as another seventy who come specifically for "Ready, Set, Play. ""All of our teachers are amazing performers, but they are passionate about teaching, " Ellen shared. She then went on to tell me that she moved the school to 72nd street in 2014 with the help of her husband, who is an architect. Because of what we do at Manhattan Sideways, it was interesting to hear that the two of them walked the side streets in this neighborhood in order to find the perfect location. When they found their home on 72nd street, they redesigned the space and sound-proofed it. Ellen assured me that the residents of the building love them, especially since many of them are musicians, themselves. In addition to the main center, Silver Music has a one-room location on Tiemann Place in Harlem and does outreach programs at two different preschools. I looked in through the window, grinning from ear to ear, at the young children holding their tiny instruments. Ellen told me that kids can be taught to hold a bow at the age of two. "It's just so amazing to see them develop these skills that you may not have known they could have, " she said, and showed me a video of one of her youngest students sliding a small bow along the strings of a Lilliputian violin. I was pleased to discover that many of their small instruments come from David Segal, whom I had met a few weeks prior. Ellen uses a variety of methods to teach the children. She encourages them to love and respect their instruments (often through song – she sang a snippet of the "I love my cello" song for me), but she also inspires them to explore. She lets them see what new sounds they can make, asking them fun questions like, "How do you make a slippery slide on the cello? " She urges them to discover their own way of playing, and then gently introduces a new way. Ellen also uses elements of the Dalcroze method, an approach to music that incorporates movement. It was fascinating to learn that by showing them to how to explore music with their bodies, Ellen can better teach small children how to read and write music. Using strokes for long beats and connected strokes for short beats, she creates a physical and literary code that children can understand. Each long beat is a stomp, whereas the quick beats are running in place. Children often learn to write this beat notation by the age of four, and some even learn it before they know how to write letters. There is no doubt in my mind that Ellen and her team are having a remarkable impact on many little ones who will inevitably grow up with a deep appreciation for music. Silver Music has taken into consideration every aspect of reaching people through music. Their classes continue through the summer, when each week ends in a small concert with the campers. They present concerts throughout the year, either held in a family's home or at the American Academy of Arts and Letters on West 155th Street - a place that Ellen describes as a "hidden Carnegie Hall. " Ellen also offers classes to families who want to learn to play an instrument together, and Chamber Music sessions for adults who are eager to be a part of an ensemble. Although, initially, Silver Music's adult clients were the parents of the children, today Ellen is pleased that her grown-up students are coming from various parts of the city - and some young students come to camp from as far away as Massachusetts and Vermont. Ellen's true devotion will always be with respect to her youngest pupils. "Every kid can benefit from our classes.... and we nurture each little avenue. " Students learn to follow directions, concentrate, and develop language skills. She finds great joy in the children who sing and dance almost before they can walk and talk. Her tireless goal is to foster an environment where these children can continue to receive personal attention to allow their particular skill set to grow.
When Hui-Man Chow was studying Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition at NYU, she was intrigued by the amount of information she was obtaining on food and diet. However, as someone who had grown up with the knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, at a certain point she thought, “Can we talk a little more about herbs? ” Though she admits that the universal acknowledgement of the benefit of vitamins and supplements is a move in the right direction, she still believes that medical communities would do far better if they considered the use of alternative, holistic medicine. She is always excited whenever traditional remedies catch on. For example, she has noticed that more and more vets are buying Yunnan Baiyao to stop internal bleeding in “very ill fur balls. ”After getting her degree, Chow worked in a hospital and a pharmacy before joining forces with her friend, a registered nurse, homeopath, and acupuncturist. When her friend moved away from New York, Chow opened her own store, but she has since looked for an acupuncturist to join her, since she and the nurse made such a great team. As it stands, she has a masseuse and a crystal light therapist who work in the treatment rooms at the back of the store. Chow worked on the East Side for fifteen years but decided to make the move to the West Side when she realized that there were no supplement and nutrition stores in the neighborhood, aside from the Vitamin Peddler. In 2012, she set up shop across 72nd Street in the Bikram Yoga center. The store moved in 2015 and again in 2020, and it is currently at its third location on 72nd Street. She feels that the neighborhood embraced her because she gave them guidance. “Here’s where you get your questions answered, ” she humbly stated. Chow pointed out that though supplements are becoming available at more and more stores, it is rare to find the knowledge, quality, and guidance that Zen Medica provides. She often hears people who say “supplements don’t work, ” but she knows that many brands are made cheaply, contain heavy metals, or have already expired by the time they reach customers. Chow, on the other hand, knows the details of every company from whom she buys. She also makes sure to find out the medical background of each customer, including health issues, allergies, and any current prescriptions, so that she can guide them in the right direction. After all, supplements and herbs should be used “as part of a healthy lifestyle, ” so the more Chow knows, the more she can direct customers towards a holistic approach. Because of her in-depth interactions with customers, she is often able to greet them on a first-name basis. Overall, the quality of service is entirely different from a store that just happens to sell supplements. Zen Medica, however, stocks far more than simple supplements and herbs. It also carries essential oils, including Chow's own series (Bug Shield and Sleep Dreams are particularly popular). In addition, there is organic henna hair color, Japanese incense, and cold drinks. Lectures and community-based education events are held in the store on a regular basis. Chow mentioned that she is especially proud of the store’s original multivitamin, which is part of Zen Medica’s personal brand of vitamins. The multivitamin comes already divvied up into daily use packets, which make them convenient for travel. When I visited, Zen Medica had just come out with a prostate health supplement called ProstaZen and was working on a hot flash formula. As Chow asserted, “When people come in here, they get something resolved. ”
In 1893, a group of motivated Jewish women banded together in Chicago with the aim of providing more intellectual and creative outlets for themselves and others. A year later, the New York Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was formed and the first meeting was held at Temple Emanu-El. Today, the NCJW remains a place where women can find a safe haven from isolation, stagnation, and hunger. The institution runs myriad programs devoted to education, support, outreach, and philanthropy.