Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Hooray For Mom And Pop Shops

Mom and Pop shops add so much character and charm to a neighborhood ... in New York City and elsewhere. They make an area a neighborhood, giving a block its uniqueness. When I first arrived in Manhattan, I spent my weekends mainly downtown to get to know the East and West Village, Soho and Tribeca. Unsurprisingly, each area had its own feel, its own food, its own soul. I wonder what's become of an East Village street vendor, The Sockman, a sandy-haired fellow on St. Mark's Place, who for years always greeted me with a sweet hug and kiss on the cheek. 

As opportunities presented themselves, I ventured into Little Italy, Chinatown and also traveled to the Upper West Side and further up to Arthur's Avenue in the Bronx. (Thank you, friend with a car!) Columbia University friends occasionally invited me up for dinner, as well as, amusements like the summer Jazz Festival (held in August). And, I explored parts of Harlem with my friend, a young energetic gay man from Atlanta, who was also my theatre and brunch buddy. [He took me to a Sunday service at The Abyssinian Baptist Church, where I met his paster, Calvin Butts III and afterwards treated me to brunch at Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too on West 110th Street.] 

But alas, like so many other towns in the USA, beloved mom and pop shops are fast disappearing here in New York City unable to pay sky high rents or compete with big box stores, and what a tremendous loss of culture this is! City halls of America, can't both types of businesses succeed with your ingenuity and tax incentives?

Today I am featuring a fun, spirited mom and pop shop which opened during our pandemic in November, 2020 on the Upper East Side called Brothers Guitar Shop NYC (located at 316 East 84th Street). Meanwhile several big box stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, Williams Sonoma, the Container Store, GAP, Banana Republic and American Eagle shut their doors permanently during the pandemic.

I do not play guitar, yet am still drawn into the accessible and friendly Brothers Guitar Shop. I'm impressed with how lovely and creatively the proprietors display their inventory making the best use of their narrow, railroad-car-shaped space. There are tons of guitars and accessories prominently hanging off walls throughout the place without erecting a messy, claustrophobic feel. Instead, you are surrounded by heart and charm! These shopkeepers love music and talking shop! The employees buy, sell, repair and maintain guitars, and will teach novice or experienced guitar players chords and licks. Chances are you'll hear a jam session while in the store.

As the weather heats up and permits are obtained, the owners plan several exciting musical events. Check their website for updates, or to order merchandize online. Better yet! Come to the neighborhood to support small businesses including these enterprising brothers. Let's experience the milieu of Yorkville, a real residential neighborhood in-person ... and step foot into a special neighborhood music shop!

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  1. What a cute shop, and fun to visit. It is sad to read that many businesses are not surviving the pandemic, even well known ones like Banana Republic and GAP which I have visited now and then. One thing I remember from visiting NYC is the unusual little shops as we walked the streets, looking in windows. We happened on the Garment district once, and I loved all the button shops. Time moves on, and many small businesses in Australia have not survived either. So sad. Have a great week.

    1. Although New York will bounce back with new businesses renting the spots of the ones that couldn't survive the pandemic, it makes one sad for the effected businesses thinking about their years of hard work and the loss of their dreams and livelihoods.

      I love all these button and fabric shops, too, in the Garment district. It reminds me of a bygone era when families worked as tradespeople. We also have shops that only sell lamp shades (not the lamps, only the shades); or only bulbs in every shape and size -- and I always assume the shops are carryovers from when merchants had specialties --businesses their children worked in then took over.

      Trish, I'm sorry to hear the shops in Australia have similar hardships. How could they not? Thankfully the vaccines will turn this pandemic around for our world!