clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chronicling the Rise and Fall of New York City's Mom & Pop Shops

New, 28 comments

If James and Karla Murray's first collection of photos of New York City storefronts—aptly titled Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York—was about the loss of the city's mom-and-pop shops, then the duo's latest book, which was released earlier this month, is at least slightly more hopeful. The Murrays have continued photographing independent businesses throughout the five boroughs, but their second book, Store Front II: A History Preserved, features many spots that have, against all odds, thrived in NYC's increasingly difficult real-estate market. "A great many of them have not only survived but continue to play a vital role in their neighborhood as ad hoc community centers," reads the introduction. These include places like Economy Candy, Three Lives & Company, Caputo's Bake Shop—places that have transcended the label of a neighborhood joint—as well as smaller shops you've probably never heard of, but are no less important to their communities.

But for every store that has managed to survive, there are two others that have closed—and indeed, some of the businesses featured in the book (such as Village Chess Shop and Brooklyn's Eagle Provisions) have already shuttered. "The neighborhood stores throughout the city where we buy a cup of coffee, the morning newspaper, or a loaf of bread, get our shoes repaired, our hair cut, or basically purchase anything we could ever want or need are becoming increasingly threatened," the Murrays note in the introduction. "We hope that our project acts an artistic intervention to help draw attention to and preserve the small shops whose existence is essential to the unique and colorful atmosphere of the city's streets." Amen. Below, check out some of the unique businesses they captured for this go-round.

Caffe Dante, a Greenwich Village institution for a century, closed in March with the promise of returning to its former glory. And while the building it's in remains, the business isn't the same: A new cafe, named Dante, reopened this summer under the management of an Australian restaurant group.

↑ The city's once-ubiquitous hot-dog-and-fruit-smoothie joints have been reduced to a mere few: a single Gray's Papaya on the Upper West Side; a few Papaya Dog locations; and this neon-lit Papaya King, an East 86th Street staple for decades.

↑ Fun fact: the brightly-lit sign that marks J. Braun Liquors on the Upper West Side is done in the handwriting of its founder, Julius Braun, who opened the store in the 1940s. Though his family no longer owns the shop, Braun's daughter says the new owners have, thankfully, changed very little.

Katz Drugs opened on Williamsburg's Graham Avenue in 1956, but the business has been around much longer: It was initially founded by pharmacist Aaron Katz in 1895, but moved locations a few times before landing at its current spot. The "Farmacia" on the sign was a nod to the neighborhood's growing Puerto Rican population, who began moving to Williamsburg as the store was growing in popularity.
· Store Front II: A History Preserved [Gingko Press]
· Look At These NYC Storefronts Pre- and Post-Gentrification [Curbed]