in Bay Ridge on 5th Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets
I haven’t been to Hisnch’s Confectionery (is that the best name or what?) since it changed hands, and the new owners are looking to sell at the end of the month (*sigh*), so I thought I’d pay visit.
I have to admit I have a bit of a grudge, just a small one, against the current owners for using my photos on the web site and Facebook page without asking, and the vinyl baner blocking the window neon didn’t help, but once I was safely ensconced inside away from the cold with a vanilla milk shake (there’s not much diner food I can eat these days, but happily my ability to digest dairy has not suffered), my mood improved tremendously. Their wasn’t exactly a crowd (maybe 5 people total in the booths in back, and I was the only one at the front counter), but the guys working in the kitchen and at the front counter were cheerfully bantering in Spanish. The two TVs installed in back (ugh) were tuned to the Super Bowl, but the one up front by me was showing a documentary about Grand Central Station, that the front-counter guy was engrossed in and turned up the volume briefly before returning to washing up.
Oddly, the sound system was playing Eye of the Tiger when I came in. Next up sounded suspiciously like Rush, and then “Wayward Son” by Kansas. A little incongruous, but original, I guess.
Of course I’ve written about Hinsch’s before (and photographed it, too), and the giant pink script sign is one of the most iconic of New York. Sadly the vertical sign was a mess, completely dark with broken tubes dangling.
What will happen here next? As I finished my frothy shake and headed back out into the night I turned around to look at the sign one more time. Will I ever see that pink glow again? I hope so…
(in Bay Ridge on 5th Avenue btwn 86th & 86th Streets)
As many of you have probably heard (and as I posted recently on Twitter & Facebook), it looks like Hinsch’s is in danger again — the new owners are leaving at the end of February. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
I haven’t made it out there since the new owners took over, and I have to admit being annoyed they used my photos without permission, but I do wish they could have made it work. I’ll definitely be heading out in the next month to bid farewell, again, to a New York institution.
Speaking of New York institutions, I’ve heard that the Lenox Lounge has reopened a few blocks away from the original location. No word yet on the fate of the signage. The picture of the old location with the sign & facade stripped away is heartbreaking.
Speaking of signs in jeopardy, I’m still working on getting a hold of the owner of Mitchell’s Wine & Liquor to verify the story that they’re ditching the historic sign. Anyone who wants to help with research or contacting them, let me know.
I still haven’t heard anything more about the Pearl Street Diner. Anyone downtown have any more info?
(In Red Hook on Conover Street btwn Reed & Beard Streets)
I’ve written about Sunny’s before, but I’m here now to tell you that Sunny’s needs your help. This wonderful bar is in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and as many of you know, Red Hook was hit hard by the storm. Sunny’s did not escape damage.
Head on over to Kickstarter to help reopen Sunny’s, or head to Hamilton Gallery Theater on Saturday for another fundraiser. Their Kickstarter project has some really great rewards, including a miniature version of their awesome neon sign. Help out if you can!
(in Williamsburg on Grand Street between Graham Ave & Humbolt Street)
Alas I am not doing any scuba diving these days (I’m strictly a warm-water diver and anyway not in any shape for athletic activities at the moment), so this isn’t a proper neon visit post, as there isn’t anything I need at Stingray Divers, but I was very much in need of a pick-me-up this evening, so I took a short walk up Grand Street in my neighborhood and took photos of a few local signs including this one. A short walk is all I’m up to for now, but the earlier evenings are getting me antsy for a longer neon expedition. Hopefully soon!
By the way, there are currently a total of 938 Project Neon Tumblr followers and RSS subscribers. When the total hits 1,000 I’ll have a big give away of items from the Project Neon shop, OK? OK!
Momofuku Milk Bar
(Williamsburg Location on Metropolitan Avenue between Havemeyer Avenue and Marcy Street)
The neon expedition I was wanting to undertake won’t work as well on weekends, which is probably all for the best as I should take it easy for another day or two. But I just remembered that I actually did stop in at a neon spot earlier this week — Momofuku Milk Bar. The photo above is from the East Village location, but I stopped in at the Williamsburg branch this week. Man, they have a LOT of outposts now! I gotta say, seeing the sign all over town lessens the neon appeal a bit. But still, dessert!
Somehow, I’d never been to Milk Bar. Crazy, I know, for a dairy queen like myself — I’ve even made Lucky Charms ice cream inspired by them. It was on my mind, too, because my friends are getting their wedding cake there. I’m looking forward to that! It’s hard to believe I resisted a giant MILK sign for so long.
Sadly, though, I was not really in love with the cereal milk soft serve I got the other day. The texture was great and the serving was generous, but the flavor was like the milk left over from bran flakes, not Froot Loops or Apple Jacks or something yummy. Next time I’ll go for cake truffles or an espresso shake, and I bet I’ll be happier.
The neon signs are the same in all locations — all milky white and gooily squashed like a delicious dessert. They’re medium-sized window signs, and a bit hard to photograph as the white neon isn’t terribly bright, but I think they’re pretty perfect for the shops. I usually hate sloppy-lettering in neon, but this is right in the sweet spot (so to speak) between precise and slapdash. Just right for carefully designed but slightly messy desserts.
RIP, Gonzalez y Gonzalez Neon
(on Broadway between Houston & Bleecker)
I have a proper neon visit to tell you about later, and I’m going to aim for another one tonight, but in the mean time some news from the neonosphere:
From the Merch Department:
I’ve added some new things to the Project Neon shop at Etsy: cuff links, rings, and Neon Alphablocks. All feature details from photos I’ve taken for Project Neon. Excellent gifts for your typographically hip friends, your favorite New Yorkophiles, or yourself. I’m working on pendants as well, and am happy to consider special orders. If you have any questions, please let me know.
From the Department of Mixed Emotions:
I am pissed that apparently Chipotle lied to me when they said they weren’t taking over the former Gonzalez y Gonzalez space. It’s now listed on their website as a current location. I’m happy Gonzalez y Gonzalez is still going strong, but I’m really sad that while the sombrero made the move to the interior of their new smaller space on Mercer (the back half of their old block-through space), the neon apparently did not (look at the slideshow here). You can see a daytime view of the neon in Google Street View (for now), but it was so wonderful and dynamic at night. A neon icon that will be missed. As always, I wonder what happened to the tubes?
From the Finance Department:
The New York Times has an interesting series of infographics about Kickstarter. Project Neon is in there somewhere! I wonder why Photography is such a small category, both by number of projects and amount per project. I’ve toyed with the idea of another Kickstarter to fund a better camera, a photo book, a trip to neonville, etc., but I just don’t think I can handle that amount of work again. I’ll have to figure out another way…
From the Department of Personnel:
An interview with neon artist Chris Bracey over at It’s Nice That.
From the Department of Fixer-Uppers:
I’m very excited to report that Circo’s Pastry Shop on Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn is looking into fixing their beautiful neon sign. Does anyone reading this repair neon signs in New York City or know someone who does? I get a lot of requests for referrals, and wish I had a list of people interested in such work…
I’m sure there were other things I meant to post, but I’ll have to catch up with them later.
(on Franklin Avenue @ Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
Terrible news from Brownstoner — the Maimain’s Pharmacy sign on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, and the business behind it, is completely gone. Does anyone know what became of it? I’m still holding out a wild hope that this is a late April Fool’s Photoshop prank or the sign is out for repair… very, very unlikely, I know.
I’m really heartbroken — it was such a great sign, and one of the early Project Neon visits. User Mhuntm commented on the original Project Neon post:
FYI… My father and uncle were the founders and owners of Maiman’s in the 1950’s. Up until a few years go, my brother owned and ran the store. When it was in the family, the sign was always maintained. Guess the new owners are not as committed.
I kept meaning to stop back again with my camera to see if I could catch the sign in better shape, but sadly never got around to it. I will miss that sign — Brooklyn is a darker place without it.
Gravesend, Midwood, and Homecrest Brooklyn
Hello, there, faithful neonauts. Here is another in the series of catchups, this time from deepest Brooklyn, namely Midwood, Gravesend, and environs. What a trove of beautiful signage! The subways & shuttle buses were going at a snails pace that night, so alas, nothing was open by the time I got there, but happily they left their signs on after closing. Three fantastic pharmacies are the highlight: M&M, with its almost robotic-looking lettering; Antelis (no apostrophe, apparently), with its red & aqua script; and Harold’s. Oh, Harold’s! Everything so perfect (except the white lettering around the corner which wasn’t all working). I really need to pay all three pharmacies a proper visit, but especially Harold’s. Look at that “for”! And the cerulean script of Harold’s. And I love that it says “Harold’s for Prescriptions” instead of just the name of the store. I’m a little in love.
I was also really pleased to discover another working funeral home neon sign, which I hadn’t known about: Sabatino Funeral Home. Very nice!
The other highlight of the trip was Coney Island Bialys & Bagels, recently saved from darkness. They had just closed when I got there (oh how I wanted a hot bialy!), so I’ll have to return there, too.
You can see all the photos from this expedition over on Flickr.
OK, so one more post (of a proper neon visit) and I’ll be all caught up. After that, I’ll be back on the street getting more photos before the nights get too much shorter…
RIP HInsch’s Confectionery
on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge
I am heartbroken to report that I learned this morning from the Coney Island History Project that Bay Ridge institution Hinsch’s Confectionery has gone dark. There was little warning, and I myself was planning to visit again soon to get some better photos (here’s the post from my visit last winter). Alas, unless an enlightened owner willing to pay top dollar for the rent and keep the beautiful sign lit is found, I fear the sign will end up in the scrapyard. Is there some neon angel who will save the day? I wish I had the funds to relight both signs and reopen this beautiful luncheonette myself. New York is a sadder, dimmer place.
(in Brooklyn Heights on Atlantic Avenue at Hicks Street)
Can you believe it—I had never been inside Montero’s until this evening. I can’t explain or excuse it, but that’s the truth. It’s been a rough week. A great week, but exhausting. After seeing my friend Jason’s show nearby, I walked over to Montero’s for a much needed drink.
It’s always a little sad to see caged neon, but Montero’s sign is wonderful enough I don’t mind. It’s all simple, single-stroke letters, but with a classic mid-century look. I especially love the taller second L in Grill and the curved capital N in Wines (is there a word for that?)
I apologize for using an old photo—the excellent second pair of blue stripes is now working—but the threat of rain and the daily commuting squash made it seem easier to use these photos from January. I’m missing the big photo walks, though. It’s been great getting the app together, putting the show up, and fielding all the emails and requests, but I haven’t had enough time for photographic wandering. Soon, I hope—my to do list of neon to photograph is long!
Thanks to everyone who came to the Project Neon show at the City Reliquary! If you didn’t make it yet, it will be up for a while (I’ll let you know when I find out the end date), and contrary to what you may have seen elsewhere, they are open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6p. The Reliquary is a volunteer-run place, so please give a donation if you can. And if you picked up a flyer, you may notice a few mistakes… revised flyers have been placed. There is still one small thing in the show I’ve yet to change. Did you spot it? It’s on the main wall.
Welcome to all the many new subscribers! You can also follow along on Flickr and Twitter. If you have an iPhone, download the free Project Neon app (and yes, I am looking into translating it to other platforms).
Important news: I’m going to wander Wisconsin’s Northwoods for the next week, looking at trees & waterfalls, visiting small taverns, and eating as much cheese as I can manage (believe me, I can manage a LOT of cheese). I will probably be largely out of cell phone range, and at the rate emails have been piling up it may be awhile before I am able to return messages. Please be patient! You may even see a few examples of Wisconsin neon showing up in the old Flickr stream…