Monday, March 24, 2008

Discovering neighborhood businesses

One of the best parts of the NYC experience is getting to know your neighborhood. I've lived in Manhattan for 7 months now but only recently started finding local businesses. I had no trouble finding a breakfast spot but have dilly dallied considerably on finding a laundromat or laundry service -- actually, I still go up to Norwalk to do my laundry. But eventually the time comes when you can't justify taking the train to Connecticut to get something done...or maybe Connecticut doesn't have what you're looking for.

Like every gal about town, I have a pair of boots (or 3) that I love. I wore them everywhere -- work, dates, shopping, you name it. Comfortable enough to spend a whole day in. I've never seen another pair like them. And like every gal's favorite pair of boots mine got to be in pretty bad shape. Stiletto heel pad entirely gone, revealing the metal underneath. Toe scuffed into discoloration. Brown leather, once so rich and chocolatey but now faded. Come spring cleaning time they were prime candidates for the trash. But how could I let these babies go? They'd done so much for me -- didn't I owe it to them to make them new again?

Puss in Boots...Roxy in boots...

There are businesses that are specialized for urban living. In the suburbs you've got your Costcos and your strip malls. In the city you've got your bodegas, your laundry services and your shoe repair shops on every block. Seriously, I have 10 shoe repair shops within a 5-block radius. It was a sign: repair those boots! So I picked one close by and took my beloved pair in for repair. When I opened the door to the shop I was immediately exposed to the smell of leather and polish. It reminded me a bit of when I was a little kid and my Dad would polish his work shoes. It was a familiar if a bit unpleasant smell. There were bags of completed projects everywhere, and lots of boots for the winter. It made me giggle that both men in front of me in line were there to pick up repairs for their wives. Someday my husband shall do the same.

When it was my turn the lady at the counter examined my boots with a frown. "These are in bad shape," she said. "I don't know if we can save them." More examining. More frowning. I fretted; I hadn't considered the possibility of my boots being beyond repair. Was she just doing it for effect? She took out a piece of chalk and made marks -- cut the heel off here for repair. Fix this part of the toe. Finally, the verdict: $50. Not too bad I suppose to bring boots back to life. Although only a deposit was required I paid in full.

A week later my boots were ready. I went back to Andrade and picked them up. And I must say I was quite impressed. My boots look as good as new if not better. They even reinforced the toe for me so I won't destroy them quite as quickly this time around. My main concern was whether they'd still feel good and if the heel would be even. Any doubts were erased the first time I wore them -- still great and still even.

Impressed by one good experience I decided to try another. I bought Pottery Barn's Subway Sign and though I love it I was disappointed when I received the canvas rolled up -- no backing. I initially considered stretching it myself but didn't want to lose any of the art around corners, so I took it to Big Apple Art Gallery to ask their advice. The guy behind the counter was thankfully patient as I struggled to explain what I wanted. I said I didn't want to stretch the canvas but I wanted the same effect. The guy examined the canvas and asked if I wanted to frame it. Nooo, not really. Then he seemed to understand what I was asking for, and came up with a good solution. He would staple it to a foam-core type backing and hide the staples. On the back he'd put wire for wall mounting. Total cost: $80. He warned me the board could warp over time but I was willing to chance it.

A week later my art was ready. I went back to Big Apple and picked it up. And I must say I was quite impressed -- again! As promised, the staples are not visible. The board is light yet strong and the canvas has the taut effect I wanted (and wish it had originally come with). It looks awesome on my wall in Pottery Barn corner.

Up next for neighborhood staples: a good sports bar (got a couple of contenders); a diner (likewise) and a good deli...

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