Walking south from 14th Street…
First up is Jade Mountain which closed in 2007. When it closed the beautiful neon sign was stored on the deck above the space until it was carted away and destroyed. The tagged up door on the right was studied by fans of our graffiti photography.
Here is our interview from our book STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face Of New York:
JADE MOUNTAIN located on Second Avenue between E. 12th and E. 13th Streets was in business from 1931-2007. The third-generation owner, Reginald Chan took over the store from his grandfather, “Old man Chan” who emigrated from Guangdong, China.
“We serve the old style food here, like chop suey, chow mein, and egg foo young. We are the last traditional chop suey restaurant in New York City. The restaurant has been in my family for many years and we continue to use the same recipes. The menu has stayed the same and only the prices have changed. In 1931 we had 38-cent lunches. Around 75% of my weekend customers are middle-aged or elderly Italians and Jews who live nearby or can’t find their old favorites in their neighborhood. The neon sign outside is from the 1940’s. I want to keep it lit all the time but it takes so much effort to maintain it because every time rain hits it, a letter will go out and it costs me a few hundred dollars to replace it. The pagoda-style roof on the façade is newer. I put that up around twenty years ago because I thought it was nice and would make the restaurant have a very authentic Chinese-style.”
Reginald Chan, third-generation owner of Jade Mountain
Reginald Chan was killed on 9/15/2006 while bicycling on Third Avenue @ E17th Street. He was delivering an order of food and was struck by a truck. His wife and son kept the business open until January 2007.
Next up heading south was Second Avenue Deli.
This is a somewhat uncommon corner shot for us, but the overhanging neon had to get in the book.
2nd Ave Deli was located on 2nd Avenue at E.10th Street. It was opened in 1954 by Abe Lebewohl, a Jewish immigrant from Russia. Abe Lebewohl was murdered in 1996 during a robbery after the restaurant had closed for the night. Abe’s brother Jack took over the deli after Abe’s death, but was forced to close in January 2006 because the rent on the 2,800 square foot space was raised from $24,000 a month to $33,000 a month. Jeremy Lebewohl, Abe’s nephew, re-opened the business in 2007, on East 33rd Street at Third Avenue. The original location is now occupied by a Chase bank.
East Village Meat Market is next up along Second Avenue and is still open for business today. However, the business is no longer allowed by the City of New York to hang and display their smoked and cure meats on hooks in their window display. That is why this photo is one of our favorites.
Here is the text and interview from our book:
East Village Meat Market located on Second Avenue between St. Marks Place and E. 9th Streets has been in business for over 48 years. Julian Baczynsky, the owner, came to New York from Ukraine in 1949 and went to work for a butcher in the area. He later opened his own butcher shop on Avenue B and in 1970, moved into a larger space on Second Avenue. Mr. Bazynsky is now in his 80’s and has no children of his own who want to take over the business, so the store is currently being managed by Andrew Ilnicki.
“I came to New York from Poland when I was a teenager to visit some relatives and I never left. I started working for Mr. Baczynsky in September 1980 and he taught me everything about the meat business. The most popular item we sell is the Eastern European Kielbasa. The recipe we use to make our homemade sausages is from Ukraine. We make them all by hand in the back of the store and we even have a smoker for the meat. We first select and trim the pork, then we marinate it for a week, grind it, spice it, and stuff it into casings. Finally, the sausages go into the smoker where they slow-cook over hardwood for 4-6 hours. What a lot of people don’t know is that we are smoking and baking the sausages at the same time. All you have to do is heat the sausage up when you go home or you can even eat it cold. Our busiest times of the year are Orthodox Easter and Christmas. Many of our customers who have moved out of the neighborhood still come back to get their items for the holidays.”
Andrew Ilnicki, manager of Baczynsky Meats
We shot the entire block between St. Marks Place and 7th street as a long composite panorama. This shot is comprised of over 25 film photos which were then scanned. We have always felt this composite really personified the East Village at the time.
(Click on image for larger view)
Gem Spa located on Second Avenue at the corner of St. Mark’s Place has been in business since the 1940’s. It is famous for its egg creams, a quintessential New York beverage originally served in candy stores throughout the Lower East Side beginning in the 1920’s. The egg cream does not contain eggs or cream but is a mixture of very cold milk, seltzer, and flavored syrup. The Gem Spa owners have always kept their milk in the ice cream freezer because one of the keys to making a great egg cream is to use extremely cold milk. It’s also “all in the way you stir it.” Because most of the original soda fountain locations have closed, true egg creams are rapidly disappearing. To this day, Gem Spa continues to make their egg creams using the same recipe and original soda fountain machine from the 1940’s. The countermen learned to make egg creams from the previous owner who learned from the previous owner before him. The chocolate, vanilla, and coffee-flavored syrups were once made in the basement by the store’s original owner. On a typical weekend night, Gem Spa sells about 70 egg creams.
We recently posted this ten year comparison image of Gem Spa, highlighted by The “Your Face on a Sticker” machine vs today’s fortune telling Zoltar :
Love Saves The Day located on Second Avenue @ E. 7th Street was in business from 1966-2009.
“This store was originally located down the street on East 7th Street and I moved to this Second Avenue location in 1983. An employee painted the sign and the storefront with a colorful pattern in 1990. When I first opened Love saves The Day it was more of a vintage clothing store but now I also sell vintage jewelry, bric-a-brac, and toys and collectibles, both old and new. This store is really an institution and many of my customers who don’t live in the neighborhood anymore still come back because I carry very unique items. We are also pretty well known because the store was featured in the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan,” starring Madonna. This East Village neighborhood has changed so much over the years and is not really a neighborhood anymore as far as the people are concerned. There used to be lots of mom and pop stores in the area and neighborhood people would shop in them but most of the shops have been forced to close because rents have gotten really high. Now the East Village is more upscale and larger chain stores have opened. New people are constantly moving into the neighborhood and it’s even become a tourist destination.”
Richard Herson, owner of Love Saves The Day
Stage Restaurant, with it’s original sign in this photo, is across the street from Gem Spa and is also still open today. We spot it on TV and in movies and is called Stage Restaurant because it is located next door to the Orpheum Theater. The entire neighborhood was, at one time, a center for Yiddish theater.
Moishe’s Bake Shop, still open today, is one of the only surviving Jewish bakeries in the East Village and has been in business since 1948. We were always in love with the dangling “Second Avenue” sign (under the “S” in Moishe’s) which disappeared after one of New York’s nor’easters.
Here’s an excerpt from our interview:
“My father started this business on Suffolk Street by Grand Street on the Lower East Side in 1948. In 1977 he finally moved the bakery to this location in the East Village. The storefront and sign are all original from 1977. We still bake the same items we did back in 1948, using old family recipes from Romania. Everything is baked right here on the premises fresh every day. We don’t use any preservatives of any kind.”
Moishe, owner of Moishe’s Bakery
Block Drugs and it’s beautiful neon sign is on the next corner. We recently re-shot this store for our upcoming book of NYC businesses shot entirely at night entitled NEW YORK NIGHTS and is one of a few stores that appear in both publications. We love it THAT much.
Here’s our text and interview:
Block Drug Store is a second-generation family-owned pharmacy located at Second Avenue at the corner of East 6th Street. Carmine Jr. Palermo is the owner and pharmacist along with his wife Beth.
“This pharmacy originally opened in 1885 but the business was bought by the Block Drug Store chain in the 1920’s and that is when the neon sign was installed as well as the cabinetry that we still use today. The Block Drug Store chain went independent in 1942 and my father, Carmine Sr. began working here as a pharmacist in 1962 and later bought the store. I started working behind the counter in 1975 as a 17-year old clerk. I became a licensed pharmacist and worked with my father until he physically retired from here in 2002.
This neighborhood has undergone a dramatic change since I’ve been working here. In the 1970’s it used to be a neighborhood with lots of artists and poets and musicians. There were also a lot of Hispanics in the area. There were definitely more minorities living here than now. Our customer base is vast and many of them have been coming here for years. We even have customers that we mail prescriptions to in Florida. They don’t want to leave us…it’s so funny. I also have customers that regularly come here from every borough in New York. Even though they’ve moved away from the East Village, they come back because there’s not too many independently owned drug stores anymore. The pharmacy business has changed a lot. Chain stores are in abundance and sometimes that improves the business of independent stores like mine because of the chain store’s lack of ability to help customers personally. It’s confusing for the customers at a chain store because there are so many different pharmacists working there all the time. If someone comes back into my store with a problem or complication, it’s just me or my wife or even my father. We can talk amongst ourselves and find out what is going on with the customer and their medications. We are more familiar with the patient’s background and history. But with chain stores, communication is probably scarce. So it’s that attention to the customer that brings them back and also brings in new customers who have gotten fed up with the chain store’s service and lack of personal attention.”
Carmine Jr. Palermo, second-generation owner and pharmacist at Block Drug Store
2nd Ave. Launderette didn’t make it into any of our books, but being that we are obsessed with signage, were were happy to find it in our archives because it currently displays a less impact-ful vinyl awning. The cool font on it’s original sign is what led us to photograph it.
A empty lot where graffiti artists painted at one time existed at 2nd Avenue and East 2nd Street. Here’s some examples of art painted in the lot. The long wall appeared in our graffiti book Burning New York and was painted by (from left to right) CHINO, KEO, WANE COD and DASH FC. The X-MEN in the middle refers to the legendary NYC graffiti crew.
(click on image for larger view)
Compiling the book, we interviewed the artist KEO at the time and here is an excerpt:
“I did a lot of pieces in the early 80’s but I always used different names. I never really stuck to one name. Some people’s motivation is fame. Everybody wants fame. They want their name known. That wasn’t my motivation. My motivation was to burn. I didn’t care if somebody knew it was me that did the piece. I cared about this piece being better than the last piece I had done. I was challenging myself, not anyone else. But I got off into drugs pretty badly. I had always been getting high but once I started smoking dust and then found free-basing and all that, I was off to the races. That became like a full-time job. I hear about some of these kids that were getting high like that and bombing at the same time and I don’t know how they did it because to me graffiti is a full-time job and getting high is a full-time job. So I had to pick one, you know what I mean? And I started using my racking skills and everything I learned in graffiti to get money and I was gone. By ‘85 I did my last piece on the lines with AXIS. And I had a long period where I was out of it. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was institutionalized a lot. I was going back and forth to Riker’s Island and court-ordered rehabs and shit like that. I spent a good ten years in the system. When I got my shit back together, it was really graffiti that brought me back to life. Because every time I would be in one of those places, bored out of my skull, I’d start sketching and you got older cats…you know derelicts, hardened criminals, dudes who liked, I mean loved jails, coming up to you going, “Whoa, you got talent. What are you doing in here? You don’t belong in here.” And it kind of helped me to see that graffiti was kind of my key to sanity. When I was doing my artwork, I wasn’t getting into all that other shit. When I got off, lost in petty crime and drugs and trying to scramble in the streets, I wasn’t doing graffiti. And plus, I still felt like I had something to prove. I always wanted to burn and I never did that. I never got to live up to my potential. I knew I still had something in me that I had never reached. So once I got back to New York, I started painting again. And that was about six years now. And you know it’s something I never thought I’d be doing in my 30’s. I thought that was something you give up when you are 16. But it helps keep me sane and I still haven’t reached the point that I want to reach. I have something in me that I need to accomplish. When I can paint whatever I can do on paper, when I can get that on the wall or a train exactly the way I envision it…then I’ll be done.” KEO
Here’s also an outtake from that book by the artist SIGNL and a character by Faust that was painted in the lot:
The famous dive MARS Bar, next up, is gone. The bar ’s demise struck a nerve with a great many long time residents as it became a kind of symbol of the death of the neighborhood, or at least how the EV once was. Mars Bar was located on Second Avenue at First Street and closed in 2011 when the building it was located in was demolished to make way for a new condo building. Owner Hank Penza plans to re-open the bar once construction is completed on the ground-level retail space. Roy, who appears seated in our photo, opened up the Mars Bar in the morning, but sadly passed away in June 2010. This photo holds special significance to us as a memory of both Roy and the bar.
Here’s some other, older shots of the bar showing a few of the different slogans that appeared above the door.
“Characters R Us!”
“Daycare For Drunks”
Other casualties from the demolition of the block included Joe’s Locksmith and other stores. The first photo has a glimpse of an old sign of a closed business and some more graffiti including the bomber YEAR on the right, who was up all over NYC.
Joe’s Locksmith Auto House’s “keys” sign on the left stuck out into the sidewalk and was visible from blocks away:
And finally an old film shot nearing the end of Second Avenue, by Houston Street.
Leave any of your memories or comments about 2nd Ave here: