Friday, March 6, 2009

Store Front:The Disappearing Face of New York

Last night I saw:
Photographers James and Karla Murray showing slides from their new book - Storefront: The Disappearing Face of New York - at the Tenement Museum on March 5 at 6:30 p.m. Niki Russ Federman, from Russ and Daughters (quite adorable) and Alice Goldberg, from Mendel Fabrics (quite Jappy) joined the authors for the panel discussion at the Tenement Museum.

The Murrays took these photos over a ten year period starting in the mid 1990's. About half of the stores they photographed are gone. I wonder how, historically, small store owners survived around Knickerbocker Village. There wasn't the competition from big box or department stores, but after reading archival news articles of shakedowns and threats it couldn't have been easy. One ex-KVer recalled about the Normandie Pharmacy
I remember the Normandie well. Sometimes in the early 70's someone set off a home-made bomb inside. It didn't do much damage, but it gave the owner a heart attack. Not too long later it was sold.
Back in the late 50's there was also a similar explosion at S. Scalogna and Sons.
about the book, from amazon
This is a visual tour so saturated with realism you can smell the knishes neatly displayed in the window of the Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, a visual tour comprised of hundreds of images of unique 19th and 20th century retail graphics and neon signs still in use and inspiring us to purchase to this very day. But for how long?
Are New York City s local merchants a dying breed or an enduring group of diehards hell bent on retaining the traditions of a glorious past? According to Jim and Karla Murray the influx of big box retailers and chain stores pose a serious threat to these humble institutions, and neighborhood modernization and the anonymity it brings are replacing the unique appearance and character of what were once incredibly colourful streets.
Store Front:The Disappearing Face of New York is a visual guide to New York City s timeworn storefronts, a collection of powerful images that capture the neighborhood spirit, familiarity, comfort and warmth that these shops once embodied. Almost all of these businesses are a reflection of New York s early immigrant population, a wild mix of Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Eastern Europeans and later Hispanics and Chinese.
The variety is immense from Manhattan s Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery and Katz s Delicatessen to the Jackson Heights Florist in Queens, Court Street Pastry in Brooklyn, D. D'Auria and Sons Pork Store in the Bronx and the De Luca General Store on Staten Island. And as the Murray s stunning, large format photographs make patently clear, the face of New York is etched in their facades.

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