Kimberly is a Museum Shop and Tenement Talks associate. She writes about her experience at a recent Talk:
Barbers, bodegas, appetizer shops, locksmiths, and fabric suppliers all represent the entrepreneurial spirit of New York. These stores also provide a visual record of city life: their facades are recognizable in an instant to those who’ve lived here long enough. Some of their signs are missing letters or the neon has burned out, but they are too beloved to ever be changed. When Russ & Daughters had their neon sign repaired, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing as a flurry of customers feared they had gone out of business.
“Mom & Pop” stores become family. I’ve certainly grown up with a few. I’ve had one place cater a going-away party, another press a key for my first car, and another knows my absolute dependence on half and half for my coffee. Corporations tend to large masses of customers. You can go into a chain store and be ignored and some people like that. I don’t. If I go into my corner bodega someone will always say hello to me and want to talk some more.
Photographers James and Karla Murray joined us for a recent Tenement Talk. Their mission is to visually preserve the Mom & Pop, which they do in Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York. The Murrays’ prints are gorgeous, the film full of grain and naturally highlighting the worn patina of old metal signs and rusty hardware. Some of the featured stores have since closed, their signs removed and sold as scrap. While what comes next can also be a vital part of the community, there are those who will ache for the absence of a lost candy store. These photos at the very least preserve the memory of a closed business’s existence.
If you missed our Talk and would like to see the prints, you can check out the book at the Museum Shop or visit the Murrays’ website, http://www.jamesandkarlamurray.com/.