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Holdup at Ghostly at Odin

Ghostly at OdinAnnie Fairman

Ghostly at Odin, the retail pop-up space at 330 East 11th Street, was robbed at approximately 5:30pm yesterday. The suspect, who a police source described to the Local as a white male, approximately 30 years old, robbed the proprietor of $500 before fleeing in an unknown direction.

An employee of Odin, the menswear store at 328 East 11th Street, who declined to give his name said that a coworker was working with police on a description of the suspect, and that such an incident had not occurred in his two and a half years at the store.

The employee stipulated that he was not at the store when the robbery took place. However he did confirm the general story received from police, including that the man browsed the store and brought a few items to the register to purchase. He added that, when the clerk handed the suspect change from the cash register, the suspect said that he was carrying a weapon and demanded cash. According to police a firearm was not displayed in the incident.

The Michigan-based Ghostly International record label opened a pop-up store on December 2nd in Odin’s next-door retail space. Their website described the collaboration with Odin as “A holiday affair featuring the art, design, and music of Ghostly International, co-curated by Odin.” The pop-up store is scheduled to close this Sunday, January 6th.

Making It | Pam Pier’s Dinosaur Hill

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Dinosaur Hill.

DSC02399Photo courtesy Pam PierPam Pier, owner of Dinosaur Hill, listens to a yodelling pickle.

You don’t have to be a kid to be dazzled by the shop-o-tainment that Dinosaur Hill provides; you just might want to be a little tiny bit careful. “We’re just 450 square feet,” says owner Pam Pier. “So we try to cool excited kids down but just showing them how things work first. There’s a lot of laughter coming out of this place.”

Those who enter Dinosaur Hill, a masterfully curated toyshop at 306 E.9th Street are seeking something thoughtfully amazing; not the made in China big box Toys R Us experience. “That’s a meaningless place to me,” says Ms. Pier. “Small toys stores are so few and most have come and gone. I’m sticking around until they have to carry me away in a box!” We spoke with the “purveyor of fun and wonderments” about how she’s managed to hang in there all these years and keep the neighborhood playful purchasing.


How did Dinosaur Hill come to be?


I started Dinosaur Hill in March of 1983. It’s going to be 30 years in March. I was working at the crafts and art store that was here on 9th Street. It was called Muddy’s and the owners were divorcing so I was able to take over their lease. There was only about $600 in inventory left so it was easy for me to take over and start over. I changed the name to Dinosaur Hill.


Where does that name come from?


It’s named after a place in Rapid City in South Dakota where I’m from. It’s a mountain and they created Dinosaur Park where there are like [seven] life-size dinosaurs they made for tourists to visit and kids to enjoy. I had gone there a lot as a kid. Kids love dinosaurs.


Why a specialty toy store?


I used to be a pre-school teacher, and I also was a freelance artist who was making things that fell somewhere between art and craft, that I sold in Washington Square.


Have you always been here?


We’ve moved twice within the building. It’s a big building we share with Veselka restaurant, and people move in and out, and Veslka has taken more space, and I have moved around that.


The early 1980s was a rough and gritty time for the East Village. Was there much demand for a whimsical toy store?


I have a real loyal neighborhood base. When it started becoming a destination tourist place, I got more and more interesting items for the store. I am a little ambivalent about the changes in the neighborhood though.


In what way do you feel ambivalent?


The changes have helped the store, but it means the neighborhood seems a little less open than it used to be. The infusion on N.Y.U. students makes it more of a bedroom neighborhood than one with local people living and working in the neighborhood. I miss the good old neighborhood camaraderie.


Why do you think Dinosaur Hill keeps making it all these years?


There is a book I read when I was a little girl where there was a quote that stated, ‘I never worked and I never will.’ It’s because I love what I am doing. My work combines art and people. I’m trying to make things available to kids that promote ability. I want kids to become doers and makers and active people. I contribute with these toys that engage them. I think it’s all about my philosophy and enjoying what I’m doing. Also, I never cared much about money, although, I care more now. Money never becomes important until you don’t have any. Occasionally, I think “why didn’t I stay with teaching?” I would have pension now!


How do you go about selecting your merchandise?


I buy things that I like; things that amused me and still amuse me. I try not to think too much about what I need for this or that. I guess and entertain myself. Lately, I have been fighting harder to keep kids from being totally passive receivers of information. I really try to find an alternative to flat screen toys. I want to enhance hand-eye coordination and the ability to build and manipulate things three-dimensionally. I want people to be involved with real people, real time, and real space. Read more…

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…

With Rent Hikes Looming, Cooper Square Tenants Worry They’ll Be Kicked While Down

cooper squareSarah Darville Postal and other businesses on East Fourth.

Store owners already struggling to get by are worried about a significant rent increase planned by their landlord, the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association.

The Local spoke to about a half dozen shopkeepers on Third and Fourth Streets, between Bowery and Second Avenue, who said they were grappling with a sluggish economy as well as challenges unique to their blocks. Some worried they would follow in the footsteps of La Sirena, which earlier this week announced that it would be closing, should they too face rent hikes of what is expected to be around 30 percent.

At Postal, a packing and shipping store on Fourth Street, owner Gary Patick said he alternates between busy days and days when “nothing happens,” and doubted he’d have any room to negotiate when his lease expires in two years. He described his profits, which in 2010 and 2011 were their lowest in a decade, as “a real roller coaster” and said that one-third of them go toward rent payments.  Read more…

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.

End is Nigh for EV Sidewalk ATMs

ATM 1Ian Duncan

Covered in graffiti and often looking distinctly unloved, sidewalk ATMs are a common sight in the East Village. In fact, the neighborhood has more of the machines than anywhere else in Manhattan. Ready access to cash fuels the neighborhood’s bar scene and the machines generate a steady stream of easy revenue for the property owners who host them.

But in December, the City Council made clear its view that the machines are a blight and voted to ban them from city streets. After some dithering, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the bill on Jan. 4. The law will come into effect in May.

The decision has elicited mixed responses.

Jessica Dickstein, 29, a brand manager at a toy company, said she has no particular allegience to sidewalk ATMs but will use one if she feels it is the most convenient option. Sometimes, she added, she prefers the sidewalk machines because they often have lower fees than those in banks. Asked if she thinks using a sidewalk machine is less safe than using one in a bodega or bank lobby, Ms. Dickstein said, “If you’re going to be getting cash at 3 a.m. that’s not a great idea.” Read more…