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Mr. Throwback Brings Nintendo, Acid-Wash Jeans to Ninth Street

IMG_1371Suzanne Rozdeba Michael Spitz

Yes, that’s Michael Jordan posting up on East Ninth Street.

He’s part of the display window at Mr. Throwback, a “funky little crazy store in the East Village” that may soft-open tomorrow, according to its owner.

Michael Spitz, a 30-year-old Murray Hill resident with a background in sports management, said his shop at 428 East Ninth Street is inspired by his childhood in Bellmore, Long Island.

In January, he began peddling some of his old clothing, which he had been selling online, at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market, and then at the Dekalb Market in Brooklyn.

At the storefront, between First Avenue and Avenue A, he’ll sell vintage Starter jackets, acid-wash Levis jeans, concert tees, army jackets, and vintage toys and video games. Read more…

Tomorrow: Fashion’s Night Out Takes the East Village

Fashion Week might cater to the magazine editors, power bloggers and models but Fashion’s Night Out is all about the hoi polloi. Tomorrow night, anyone can enjoy free drinks and nibbles as well as discounted merchandise while rubbing shoulders with designers. Of course the coolest events are happening in and around the East Village.


232 Elizabeth Street, (212) 431-4411
Aesop is collaborating with Wilder Quarterly, a publication for nature lovers, to create a sensory installation: plants and flowers will appear to be growing out of the walls to highlight the plant-derived ingredients in the antipodean skincare company’s products.



Barbara Feinman Millinery
66 East 7th Street, (212) 358-7092
Sneak a peek at the workshop where Barbara Feinman makes one-of-a-kind hats using traditional methods and materials. Enjoy champagne and cookies while browsing the new fall-winter collection and receive a free pair of sunglasses with purchase of a full-price hat. Read more…

Debate Continues: How Best to Stave Off Chains, Bars?

EconomicDevelopmentSbcmteeNatalie Rinn

Could new zoning help bring mom-and-pop businesses to the East Village and Lower East Side, and keep them there? Community Board 3’s Economic Development Subcommittee met last night to continue a discussion about retail diversity.

Mary DeStefano, the Urban Planning Fellow from Hunter College who has been working with the board, again raised the possibility of Special Purpose Districts, 20 of which have been created in Manhattan by the City Planning Commission in order to meet the specific needs of their neighborhoods. In Community Board 3, such a district would likely put a cap on chain stores and curb operating hours. Ms. DeStefano clarified that S.P.D.’s are “not banning anything, just seeking a way to preserve it, and it’s just giving the community some level of control.” Read more…

Need Umbrellas and Candy? Look No Further Than Ame Ame

IMG_3012Stephen Rex Brown The owner of Ame Ame, Teresa Soroka.

A new store on Ninth Street takes the term “specialty shop” to the next level.

Ame Ame caters to the stylish New Yorker caught in the rain who also happens to have a sweet tooth. The name for the store comes from the Japanese word “ame,” which means — that’s right — both “rain” and “candy.”

“I want to put an end to those disposable, cheap, ugly black umbrellas,” said owner Teresa Soroka, 30, who opened the store on Nov. 16. “They’re bad for the environment, and in a fashionable city they’re a disgrace.”

So, why all the candy? “What’s better on a rainy day than a bag of candy?” Ms. Soroka explained. “I wanted a colorful, cheerful experience when shopping.” Read more…

The Local’s Gift to You: Our Guide to Holiday Happenings

From zombies to yogis and from guitar orchestras to boom-box symphonies, the East Village has plenty to keep you (and the kids) in good cheer this holiday season. We’ll add more events as we hear about them feel free to tip us off.

Screen shot 2011-12-16 at 2.11.18 PMCourtesy of Merchants House Museum


“Tinsel Tunes by the Tinseltones”
Enjoy a century-worth of Christmas classics from the 1840s to the 1950s performed by members of the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society. 7:30 p.m. Merchant’s House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street near Bowery, 212-777-1089,; $30.

“Christmas in NickyLand 2011”
Nicky Pariso will host a weekend of performances at one of the neighborhood’s only holiday cabarets. Special performances by Poor Baby Bree, David Cale, Ellen Fisher, Jon Kinzel & Vicky Shick, John Heginbotham, and many more. Saturday, 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 p.m. The Club at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, Second Floor,; $15.

“KIDS! Holiday Foods from Around the World”
Children ages 2-14 can learn the stories of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa through food at this event at Whole Foods. Young chefs will learn how to make popular dishes like potato latkes, chocolate eggnog floats, and African coconut cake. 12 p.m., different age groups start at different times. Whole Foods Market, 95 East Houston Street at Bowery,; $30. Read more…

Dating Advice From the Shopping Basket

bomb shelter bro

People are judging you everywhere you go. Do you have visible panty lines? Are you paying for that in all pennies? Who actually wears those shoes with individual toes?

You’d think in a world full of judgment, that at least the supermarket would be a safe place, but it isn’t. People are peering into your basket left and right and scoffing at your Muscle Milk or chocolate-covered edamame. You can tell a lot about a person based on what is in their grocery basket. I’m not sure what it says about me, but sometimes I look down at my own basket and all I see is various cheese products. While my basket clearly communicates that I like coagulated milk, most baskets tell more of a story about those who carry them. Here’s some baskets and their owners to avoid:

Bomb Shelter Bro (see photo above) – It’s good to date a planner, but dating someone who is always preparing for the next apocalypse is just a bad plan. A good test to know if they’re for you, is to picture them eating canned baby corn. If you’re still attracted to them, then you’re on your own on this one. Read more…

The Day | Tags

Number 9Scott Lynch

Good morning, East Village.

Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July celebration last night.

The folks over at EV Grieve have two sets of vandalism photos this morning; in one series, someone has spray painted cars parked along East First Street. In the second photo, someone has spray painted the Subway restaurant that will be opening soon on Avenue B.

Grieve also reports that there will soon be a new bakery on St. Marks Place. The new bakery, which an on-site worker said will open in two weeks, will be located at a spot that previously held thrift store-boutique Junk. Junk closed in early March.

The Art of the Bookstore

Browsers at Mast BooksBrendan BernhardBrowsers at Mast Books.

On May 8, Mast Books, which takes up about 450 square feet at 66 Avenue A, sailed into its second year as a viable new business in the East Village. Why “Mast”? Is Bryan Leitgeb, who owns the store together with his wife, James McKee, a secret fan of Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forester, and other icons of nautical literature? Smiling at this idea, Mr. Leitgeb shakes his head but says he prefers not to reveal why his store should have such a singular name.

Mr. Leitgeb, 37, who came to New York from Flint, Mich., is already a veteran of the city’s used-books business. (He spent seven years at Mercer Books alone.) He is also confident that he has hit upon the right business formula in the right place at the right time. Unlike East Village Books, long a fixture at 99 St. Marks Place, Mast has the air of a used book store acutely aware it is in the midst of an intellectual revolution that has raised the image far above the word.

This knowledge is Mast’s secret. With its polished wood floors, white walls, track lighting, and eye-catching display tables, it doesn’t look “used” or “second-hand” in the slightest. On the contrary, it is designed to evoke a small art gallery and to attract similarly chic crowds, although its strong neighborhood ethos prevents it from feeling in any way exclusionary. Mr. Leitgeb, whose blue eyes are alternately melancholy and highly focused, does his part to make non-hipsters feel at home by going unshaven, wearing non-designer glasses, and a brown cap unlikely to be featured in the next edition of Vogue. More importantly, he’s also unsnobbish, helpful, and friendly.
Read more…

Locals | Manny the Peddler

Manny_HowardDan Glass
Emmanuel Howard.

“Hey, buddy, I got some tools for ya,” says Emmanuel Howard from his table full of goods on Avenue A between Second and Third Streets. While helping a neighborhood acquaintance, he was greeted continually by passersby — elderly people with dogs, leggy blondes, kids, and street folk. He says he’s been selling here for 32 years.

Mr. Howard — who is known as Manny the Peddler to almost everyone — is one of the last street peddlers on the Lower East Side, infamous in the 80’s and 90’s for blocks-long stretches of people selling everything from antique furniture to dead batteries. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani eliminated much of the street vending during his terms, but Mr. Howard remains. At 70, he still hauls second-hand merchandise by handtruck, virtually all of it set aside for him by neighborhood residents, with one recent score of metal garbage cans and push brooms from Stomp, courtesy of the Orpheum Theater.

“There used to be people everywhere at three, four o’clock in the morning,” says Mr. Howard, who rarely stands still, between arranging his inventory and giving a quick pitch to anyone eyeing an item. “Not like now.”
Read more…

A Few Healthy Shopping Tips

Despite the impending arrival of upscale Brooklyn chain Union Market, finding good quality food in East Village supermarkets can be difficult.

Health and nutrition coach Magdelena Wszelaki, who runs tours of supermarkets, offers some advice on what to look out for at Key Foods on Avenue A and East Fourth Street.

Clicking for Cupcakes

Butter Lane Exterior Ian Duncan

On a recent afternoon, Sumana Ramakrishnan, a 21-year-old student with her eye on a pink frosted cupcake, stepped up to a cash register inside Butter Lane and reached into her pocket. But instead of pulling out her wallet she tapped on her smart phone and showed it to the knowing cashier. There would be no charge, it turned out, for Ms. Ramakrishnan’s cupcake. Hers was one of more than 800 that had been given away in February by means of a promotional website.

The site, Tenka, is among the newest of a host of such sites seeking traction in the East Village. It was started in October by Nhon Ma, a former Google operations manager, who said he targeted the East Village because of its density of small businesses and population of Web savvy young people.

“The East Village is fiercely competitive relative to other areas,” said Mr. Ma. “Tenka deals really resonate with merchants because they are able to see the power of social recommendation.”

Tenka is a cell phone-based online service that lets customers redeem coupons for free items at participating stores. Tenka charges merchants to create a deal. The merchant chooses how many coupons they want to offer, and Tenka promotes it on its site and across its users’ Facebook pages.

Many of the small business owners who turn to deal sites, and other forms of social media, do so because they don’t want to spend money on other forms of advertising.

“From the beginning our strategy was, what kind of marketing can we get for free?” said Maria Baugh, co-owner of Butter Lane. “Having no marketing budget, a lot of social media opportunities were great for us.” Read more…

Sunny Blossoms on Second Avenue

Sunny's FloristSun Ja Hwong runs Sunny’s Florist shop on 2nd Avenue and 6th Street. Her unassuming nature and beautiful flowers have kept her in business in the East Village for 23 years. Rachel Ohm

To people worn out by the din of honking taxis, the manic bustle of sidewalk life and the seemingly endless effort required this winter to negotiate snow drifts and slush puddles, Sunny’s Florist on Sixth Street and Second Avenue may appear to be a verdant oasis, and a signal of the approaching spring.

Pedestrians pause at the counter on Second Avenue, surrounded by a display of tulips, hyacinths and hydrangeas that crowds the corner of the sidewalk. Sun Ja Hwong, 55, the shop’s owner, stands in the narrow vestibule behind the counter, where there is just enough room for a space heater in the winter.

She cuts and arranges the flowers and wraps the bouquets in purple tissue paper. Behind her stretch rows of longer-stemmed flowers in white buckets – roses, chrysanthemums, calendulas and orchids. Most nights the shop casts its warm light on the street until midnight, a later hour than most florists keep.

“People pass by and think, ‘Am I in Paris?’” Ms. Hwong said recently. “’Am I in England? Am I in Tokyo?’”

Although she has never been to any of these places, Ms. Hwong says her arrangements reflect the styles of Tokyo and Paris, or at least what she imagines those styles to be.

The tiny shop was opened 23 years ago by Ms. Hwong’s first husband, who at one point owned seven florists in the city. She worked as a paralegal for ten years before taking over the East Village store, the only one still in existence.

Maybe that is partly due to its location, on one of the more trafficked blocks in the neighborhood. “The people here know the flowers,” she said. “When I make an arrangement they know how to appreciate it.”

Only when weather is bad is business slow. “I try to close at nine, but it is the busiest time,” she said. “At ten, at eleven it is still busy.”

Ms. Hwong said she sees herself as a “mother of flowers” and that when she closes the shop each night she feels like they are calling her name and asking her not to leave.

It would be impossible for this mother to have a favorite flower. She brings different blooms home every week to see how long arrangements will last after she gets the flowers shipped from Europe and South America.

Once, a customer who had seen Sunny’s Florist reviewed with five stars on Yelp, told Ms. Hwong her shop deserved six stars. Ms. Hwong, who was not familiar with the site, did not know that five stars is the highest possible rating. She wondered what she could do to obtain that elusive sixth star and asked her son.

He laughed. “You are so humble,” he said. “That is why your shop has five stars. Don’t change anything.”

Five Questions With | Vera Balyura

Vera BalyuraAllison Hertzberg Vera Balyura at the ivories.

There’s no stopping Vera Balyura, the East Village designer and all around driving force behind the indie jewelry line VeraMeat. Vera graduated from high school at fourteen, becoming a model shortly thereafter, and then let the cosmos (and some stylist friends) steer her into becoming a jewelry designer.

The next time you’re looking for a gift, you might take a look at the VeraMeat collection, which its creator says has something for everyone: Want a Hatchet Loving Centaur Pirate pendant? Got it. Need a delicate bracelet with spinal detail? Done. But, if you’re not quite ready to dive into the whimsy, there are tons of other options. My favorite is part of the new collection, is this nautical two finger ring, which was made with recycled metals.

I visited Vera’s East Village studio on a brisk Saturday to discuss the future, inspiration, and how her brain works.


How do you come up with designs? For example, the dinosaur eating fried chicken ring, how does something like that pop into your head?


I just have that kind of brain. It’s something I would want for myself so I make it for others hoping they’ll appreciate it. The name VeraMeat, for example, came to me while walking under a bridge in Brooklyn. It made me laugh so I stuck with it.


Describe the VeraMeat style and consumer?


I’m happy to say that my customer can’t be so easily defined. We’ve had an old man buy VeraMeat, looking to add a good luck charm to his porch, super fashionable women looking to wear jewelry that says something about who they are, and men who aren’t afraid to stand out of the crowd. The diversity makes me thrilled.


How does the East Village inspire you?


I’m a big fan of graffiti and there’s a ton of it in the East Village. I love that NY allows the streets to be embellished by its people. Ten years ago, at 15 years old I moved to the East Village and really felt at home. I’ve never stopped feeling that way. There is so much magic here, it’s just consistent inspiration on every street corner and in every face you see.


What are your favorite spots in the East Village?


Well, I love Vera’s, the bar that is right next to my studio. It has amazing Italian food ,though not as good as my Italian boyfriend Paolo can make, hah. For a bit of dancing, St. Dymphna’s is fun, plus there’s a great chocolate shop right across the street. For boots, I like Cloak & Dagger, and they also happen to sell VeraMeat!


What does the future hold for VeraMeat?


We are looking to open a flagship store this year in Manhattan. We’re also reworking our website and facebook page, and as always, coming up with amazing new designs inspired by my bat dog Fred.

Allison Hertzberg is owner and head designer at Accessories by ASH.