The commercial strips of the neighborhoods of New York City are the lifeblood of the community and city at large. It is where the action is. People shop, stroll, and mingle on the street. In warm weather men often pull up chairs, to discuss the day’s events in front of their local barbershop, with the twirling barbershop poll acting as a beacon in the background. While bodegas with their blinking colored signs often seem to host a never ending domino game in front of their storefronts. And corner candy stores are magnates for youngsters, tossing balls or cruising on skateboards. Teenage hoods hang out too but at curbside with cigarettes in their mouths. The commercial strips of the neighborhood of the city are a microcosm of the city itself. You can feel the life and energy in front of many storefronts. The social community that is organized around the business district help gauge the health of the neighborhood. Commercial strips are fluid entities and change like a river. In one generation the street may be lined with mom and pop businesses: a bread store, dry cleaner and an Italian deli with meats hanging in the window, while in latter generations the street may change many times over. In Park Slope, where I live, I have witnessed one storefront after another close, because the next generation did not want to continue in the family business.
In the time that I have lived in my neighborhood, I have seen the closing of many storefronts. Some close up shop because storeowners want to make a big buck as developers greedily eye the strip and think of tearing down and building anew, while others can’t bear the thought of having an outsider running their business, choosing instead to shut down their business that was instrumental in supporting their family. Remnants of the old sign of the business are often buried under the new signage, sometimes it is visible: a shadow on the wall where the letters were once placed or painted words that peak out from under the new sign and sometimes you can even see hints of where the neon tubing was attached. Or in the case of Garry Jewelers on 5th Ave, in my neighborhood, it is the name Garry in a smooth mosaic tile on the ground, at the entryway. The neon of Garry Jewelers is still there, but now it is always dark and it is only a matter of time until this beautiful sign, established in 1951, finds its way to the junk heap.
Please join the authors of Store Front James T & Karla L. Murray as they present a slide lecture on the Disappearing Store Fronts of New York City on Monday, Oct 26th at 6:30 PM on the 6th floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library.
Images from: http://www.jamesandkarlamurray.com/JamesandKarlaMurraySTOREFRONT.html