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Making It | Phil Hartman of Two Boots, Celebrating 25 Years Tonight

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

Two Boots owner PhilMelvin Felix

Tonight, Two Boots celebrates its 25th anniversary with an outdoor concert hosted by Luis Guzman and featuring performances by the Sierra Leone Refuge All-Stars, circus acts, live painters, poets from the Nuyorican and more. So we talked to the pizza and film chain’s maverick owner and community builder, Phil Hartman, about how he’s kept his Avenue A shop running while watching his other businesses open, close and relocate.


In the East Village and Lower East Side, you’ve endured some losses alongside your business triumphs.


We closed the Two Boots on Grand Street but that one was never supposed to stay open long. It was in a location too close to the East Village one. We also moved a location from Rock Center to Hells Kitchen. That was a cool move into a great funky environment. A big loss for me was when we closed down Mo Pitkins. The Pioneer Theater closing down was another one. Losing it was hard. We’d invested a lot into it. I used to say the Pioneer ate 40,000 slices of pizza a year at $2.50 a slice, so it was expensive to keep it going. I wish we could have kept it, but our lease ran out. Read more…

Mourn Mama’s at Heathers, Celebrate Two Boots With Luis Guzman


This week, mourn the closing of Mama’s Food Shop; next week, celebrate 25 years of Two Boots.

Jeremiah Clancy, the owner of Mama’s Food Shop, has sent out the flyer you see here, inviting friends of the shuttered restaurant to a party at Heathers. If you didn’t get a chance to visit Mama’s before its sudden closing a couple of weeks ago, this is your opportunity to say goodbye to the staff, and maybe snag one of the maternal portraits that graced the walls. Also, Mr. Clancy has told Facebook fans that he may print commemorative t-shirts.

In happier news, Two Boots will celebrate 25 years with a blowout in East River Park next Thursday. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Lower East Side fixture Luis Guzman will host an evening of live music from the Sierra Leone All-Stars, Odetta Hartman (the singing-songwriting daughter of Two Boots owner Phil Hartman), and others; poetry readings courtesy of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and performances from members of Lady Circus and the Magic Beans, the Free Art Society, and 4Heads Art Collective. As if all that weren’t enough, there’ll be free beer and pizza.

Conversation | On 34 Avenue A

photo.JPGTodd Olmstead The doorway of 34 Avenue A.

I felt very young last week, sitting at the Community Board 3 meeting at 200 East Fifth Street. Being 21 years old, there were surely other attendees my age, or younger. But I could not beat the feeling that our voices and spirits were being silenced. I say this mostly because, as the Community Board again refused to support the application for a new experimental music venue at 34 Avenue A (formerly Mo Pitkins), a project of the music promoter Todd Patrick and Two Boots owner Phil Hartman, I felt like one of the few attendees who genuinely understood the cultural significance of what their proposed space, The Piney Woods, could be.

Imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon, when, flicking through Gmail on my iPhone, I found a response from Richard Hell, musician, punk innovator, East Village resident,and one of the most influential musical figures to come out of the neighborhood, in support of the application. The board is scheduled to consider it again at its meeting tonight.

“The Lower East Side needs a specialized, non-pop music room for musicians who are in it for other things than head-banging or making it big,” Mr. Hell told me. “Headbanging and raw ambition are fine, but there are plenty of venues for that already, and the Lower East Side would do well to maintain or recover its tradition of cutting edge art.”
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