Disappearing Store Fronts

Claudia (The Paris Apartment) just told me about this amazing coffee table book called, "The Disappearing Face of New York." It's about New York's traditional mom-and-pop store fronts being replaced with chain stores or closing. It breaks my heart to see this happening in cities all over the world.

This fabulous book is compiled by photographers, James and Karla Murray, and beautifully captures the neon and hand-painted signs, old doors, peeling paint, aging steel, and the items hanging in the front windows of these shops and restaurants.

Richard's Barbershop, Brooklyn, closed 2006

Manhattan Furrier, Brooklyn 2004

Chain stores are posing a serious threat to these humble institutions and are replacing the unique appearance and character of the beautiful streets. I'm sure you see it in your cities as I see it here in San Francisco. It breaks my heart to see a beautiful Art Deco theatre turned into a gym, or a snazzy old cocktail lounge turned into a Starbucks.

Long Island Restaurant, Brooklyn, since 1951

Katy's Candy Store, in business from 1969-2007, Brooklyn

The text accompanying each image in the book mentions the year the store opened and often includes detailed remembrances of the stores' histories obtained through interviews with managers or owners.

Reynold's Bar, One of the last Irish bars in the neighborhood. Manhattan, 2004

Almost all of these businesses are a reflection of New York's early immigrant population, a wild mix of Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Eastern Europeans and later Hispanics and Chinese.

Ideal Dinettes, Brooklyn, in business 1953-2008

D. D'Auria and Sons Pork Store, Little Italy of the Bronx, in business from 1939-2006

We can get involved in preserving our ever-changing neighborhoods. The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America's diverse historic places and revitalize our communities. Or contact your local city. In San Francisco we have the San Francisco Preservation Society.

I'd love to hear about your neighborhoods. What changes have you seen?


Domestica said…
So amazing, that book.

Last week, we lost our neighborhood grocery. It opened in 1950 and featured an underground drive-up. We went and took pictures and it was sad, but there was a lot of good neighborly love. They're tearing it down and have opened a huge *new and improved* store. I posted pics on Flickr so my friends who've moved can see it one last time - ah, progress.
Anonymous said…
I'm conflicted here. As many, I love seeing and visiting these old shops and meeting the people who run them. The history is so rich and the products often of unparalleled quality. However, I think many of these shops close because the proprietors reach retirement and the younger generations don't want to follow their footsteps (often because their parent's urged them to "do better"). Also, we have a great grocery straight out of Mayberry in my town, but the prices are beyond outrageous! For instance, I like Amy's bean and cheese burritos. Our market charges $3.07 for one, Whole Foods charges $2.74, and at Costco you can get a box of 8 for $10 (making them $1.25 each). Seriously, even if they bought theirs at Costco and doubled the price they would only be $2.50. I went in to buy a 20oz. Diet Coke this morning and when the lady said $1.95 my eyes popped and I said "um wow, ok". I want my store to stay and I understand that they need to charge more than the chain stores, but that's ridiculous!
Christi, thanks for your post. So sad. The underground drive-up...how unique! Can you send me the link to the Flickr photos. I'd love to see them.

Anon 9:57 - I totally understand your conflict. I feel the same way. I think a lot of the overpricing is due to the increasing rents. These mom and pops just can't compete with the overhead they have, therefore having to charge so much more. That's why a lot of them are forced to close. I try and frequent neighborhood shops as much as possible, even if it means paying a little more once and awhile. Just don't want to see them go. Thanks for your comments!
Di Overton said…
Even in my neck of the woods, which is very remote, the big names come in and push out the old family businesses. My hope is that this global recession will bring back the small businesses as the big ones fall. If I see another Starbucks I think I will scream.
Crave said…
Classic! Hope that they can be saved a bit longer, they add so much character to a neighborhood.
Di & Crave, yes, hopefully we'll see more small businesses succeed after this recession is over! thanks for your comments! Lynn

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