Photo by myself in the Lower East Side, on Orchard and East Houston Streets.
As I stood outside Zucco, a French restaurant, what must have been the owner opened the door to say hello and pose for a photo.
I was drawn to their cozy storefront and their logo, a Boston Terrier. He said the dog used to belong to a friend of his and was named Lulu.
I wish I'd stayed around to chat a little more, since this fellow was very friendly. The restaurant was reviewed a few years ago in the Times, here.
The Lower East Side is known for remaining authentic and informal, as you can see by the outside table and jumble of stuff inside. Most of the stores and restaurants are unique - no Starbucks, no McDonald's and no Barnes and Nobles. Some of the garment stores have been there for generations, and their signs have remained unchanged since the 1930s.
All of New York used to have the same vibe, but sadly the city has changed in recent years. When I first moved to New York over ten years ago, the Upper West side was similar. It was filled with small bookstores and one-off establishments. There were a few large stores around 86th Street, but that's it.
The city has changed. Chain stores and restaurants have become the norm. Large stores for housewares, clothing and groceries are all over the place. Only small pockets of the city, like the Lower East Side, have retained their character.
The reason? Escalating rents, I think. It is easier to attract an audience that is constantly changing when you're a large company with name recognition, than if you're a mom-and-pop establishment. Of course, there are still some stores that are unique, but generally speaking, the city is worlds different from what it used to be.
Related posts: Signs of Old Times, on the Lower East Side, "I'll Have What She's Having', at Katz's Deli and Making Off with the Lower East Side.