I was on Canal Street one day ten days ago or so, before the big snowstorm, and came across a junk store:
There used to be dozens of these on Canal, before all of the handbag and perfume knock-off stores took over.
One of my favorites was a few blocks east of this one on Church Street, probably on Wooster. It was an actual hardware store where you could buy drills and other power tools as well as rummage through bins of dental drill accessories and dental picks.
In the ‘90s, when I was a rabid plastic model airplane builder I would spend hours rummaging through these bins for just the right bit to put on my rotating tool or the right pick to push or hold tiny plastic pieces into place. I even used the picks for actual tooth cleaning, scraping plaque off of my teeth wherever I could. Now that store is gone, along with all those other stores with used dishes, pots and pans, fans, motors, wire, and whatever other junk there was surplus of.
Canal Jeans started as an army surplus store.
I’ve been working on 25th Street in the Flatiron district since September, and have explored the area a bit owing to frequent trips to Whole Foods over on 7th Avenue and the FedEx store for my boss over on 7th also.
Whole Foods is housed in what used to be a Federal Building, I know that because I was on the V.A. methadone program in the ‘90s and it was on the 9th floor of that building.
On the block of 25th between 6th and 7th there are a bunch of specialty stores catering mostly to window display products, and for some reason a few cutlery and findings places.
The findings place reminds me of National Shoe Findings on the Bowery where I used to go to buy leather and shoe repair supplies when I was a half-assed self taught shoe repairman in the ‘90s. Rubber cement by the gallon, for all you glue huffers out there…
Seeing these stores made me nostalgic for the days when there were actual clothing factories near 7th Avenue in the ‘30s, the streets, not the decade.
There were sweatshops in Soho and Chinatown as well, where I would help myself to the scrap leather and fabric in the dumpsters to make stuff to sell on the street.
Old New York, it was a different world, more tactile, more vibrant than the slick steel and glass and digital displays of today.
Don’t get me wrong, I like slick technology, but sometimes I miss the feel of metal, leather, of fabric between my fingers, choosing which will fit in with whatever I was creating that day.