Shop Rides Surfing Wave in Rockaway


Beaches along the Rockaway peninsula in Queens are popular surfing spots.

Podcast and photos by Miguel Machado


At Boarders, a board is prepped for the waves.

Boarders Surf Shop, on Beach 92nd Street, opened in 2004, when the city’s surfing community was a small, tight-knit group. Since then, owner Steven Stathis said he had witnessed the scene grow in popularity. His shop sells and rents boards, offers surfing lessons and is a center for all of those — newcomers and old-timers — who ride the waves on the edge of Queens.

Finding a Path in Yoga

Video by Starr Bowenbank

Cobi Konadu, a Seattle native who studied graphic design and fashion at Western Washington University, moved to New York but after four years decided that work in those fields was unsatisfying. Konadu, 29, decided to devote herself to yoga, her passion. She divides her time between Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn.


The Bushwick Collective’s Street Art


Photo Essay by Richard Ng

The Bushwick Collective, an explosion of graffiti and street art that has brought color to Bushwick’s sidewalks, begins at the intersection of St. Nicholas and Flushing avenues. It’s been called the new 5 Pointz, after the graffiti center in Long Island City that was demolished in 2014 to make way for condominiums.

Bushwick, enjoying a revival as a haven for artists and hipsters alike, was once a violent, crime-afflicted neighborhood.

The curator of the collective, Joseph Ficalora knows all too well the brutality of Bushwick; in 1991, his father, Ignazio, was murdered on the same streets now decorated by the work of hundreds of local artists. Ficalora decided to use art to transform the dirty streets into a safe and welcoming environment.

Tours are held on a regular basis and, on the first weekend of June 2016, the Bushwick Collective celebrates its fifth anniversary with block parties, pop-up exhibitions and open studios.


Old warehouses in Bushwick are being demolished and transformed into modern high-rise buildings. Look up.


Street artists draw on cultures around the world for inspiration. This piece was inspired by Mexican culture.


Christopher Wallace, famously known as The Notorious B.I.G., is remembered through street art in the borough of his birth. He began his career rapping on the streets of Brooklyn as a teenager, before he was arrested in 1989 and 1990 for drugs and weapon possession, respectively.


“I’ve lived in Bushwick for two years now and I don’t even notice the works of art that are graffitied on the walls anymore,” said Peter Kruzowski, a local resident.


Graffuturism is a relatively new movement in street art that uses geometric graffiti to create a lively blend of shapes and color.


“This piece is powerful, I think the artist is describing the direction of art that popular culture forces us to create,” said Kumar Pasram, a photographer from Queens.


Can street art be used as a form of security? Keep Out.


Using art to raise awareness of political issues around the world.


Or as a political statement: “Don’t shoot.”


Novelties from around the world can also be celebrated through street art.


Street art can be a peaceful expression of human emotions, vibrant artwork in public view.

Flushing Bakery Customizes Its Asian Pastries

Article and photo by Liyan Zhang

A 100-layer sweet glutinous rice cake, colored yellow with turmeric, is decorated with an egg and a tortoise to honor the birth of twins. Jerry Chen, the manager of the Iris bakery in Flushing, Queens, is dressed as Mickey Mouse as she wheels the customized cake for a lavish 100-day celebration, a traditional Chinese family event akin to a birthday, at the Grand Restaurant in Queens.

Jerry Chen, manager of the Iris bakery in Flushing, displays bread fresh from the oven.

Jerry Chen, manager of the Iris bakery in Flushing, displays bread fresh from the oven.

Chen, an intrepid baker who recently failed in her plans to expand to Manhattan, where costs are increasing sharply, said she’d hit on a new idea to help her Asian bakery survive in a notoriously crowed field: baking customized pastries for luxury restaurants and high-end clients.

Iris, owned by Sam Lin, a Taiwanese native who graduated from New York University with a business degree, produces more than 50 varieties of customized pastries every day. It has long-term contracts with 12 high-level restaurants, including ones that offer Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mongolian and Thai food, to offer customized desserts for large parties dining there. The customized pastries have developed a strong following at both restaurants and among walk-in customers. Behind the brisk business however, lies a tale of trial and error.

In 2010, Lin got $150,000 bank loan and leased a two-floor commercial studio on a corner one block away from the subway station in Flushing, where more than 55,000 Asians make up nearly 64 percent of the total population, according to Statistical Atlas.  (   Iris, which focuses on a fusion of Japanese-styled and Chinese-styled bakery, was started with $180,000, including Lin’s personal savings of $30,000.

As an accounting major, Lin had done the accurate cost and profit calculations before the business started. “I was ever so confident with my business plan,” he said. “The fixed expense, which includes salary, insurance, interest, rent and utilities, was $12,000 per month, and the average pastries materials such as flour, sugar and other ingredients were estimated $1.10 for each. I made the average price $2.20. If only more than 300 pastries were sold each day, the shop would make profits.”

The performance, with a 46 percent gross profit for the first six months, proved Lin was right. On his best day to date, 3,000 pastries were sold. But problems arose.

Five bakery shops opened within two blocks and produce very similar Asian-styled pastries. The market share of Iris is getting smaller and smaller. Mr. Lin introduces that the 20 tables on the two floors were full at least one hour every day in 2011, however the 10 tables are never full even in the rush hours since 2012.  In order to keep the profit Lin had to sub-lease the second floor to reduce the rent expense, removing the 10 customers he kept on the second floor (another 10 are on the ground floor). Recognizing the limited market in Flushing, Lin expanded to Manhattan, opening the second Iris in 2012 in the East Village. It lasted only 30 months. The store manager, Jerry Chen said, “Bread and pastry is ethnic food. The East Village is a diverse community; some groups of people don’t like Asian bakery. There are Corner café, Bagel stores and Greek bakery. Iris could only attract a small part of people who want to get new experience. It is hard to get loyalty customers.”

View Baking It in Flushing in a full screen map

One customer, Yokota Woong, a senior at New York University, which is two blocks away from Iris, said: “I had got an egg tart for breakfast in the new open bakery a year ago. The reason I went there is just to try something new. It is heavy sweet. I would like more bagels with vegetable spread for breakfast than Iris creamy bread.”

Lin acknowledged the Manhattan venture was a bad strategy. “Cost is too high, rent is double of Flushing, and I have to pay more salary than Flushing to hire excellent English-speaking cashier and waiter,” he said, noting that the Manhattan store was profitable only for 10 months out of 30. After the financial crisis of 2008, most commodity prices fell back to earth by 2010, according to Modern Baking magazine. These changes, coupled with new procurement strategies, allow bakeries more profit without increasing prices. With the favorable economic environment, Iris became profitable in Flushing.

But the wheat markets have been volatile. The price of bread flour has increased sharply, Lin complained. “The cost has skyrocketed. Bakery flour increases to $20.15 per pounds from $14.10 in 2010. White sugar is more than doubled since 2010. Even relatively flat eggs have been increased to $1.49 from $1.23 a dozen wholesale. And the rent increases by 5% per year in the contract period.” Contrasted to the increasing cost, as business data base of reference USA shows, the sales volume of Iris drop to $160,000 in 2013 from $270,000 in 2012. In the disadvantageous environment, Iris closed the Manhattan operation in June 2015.

Learning from the failure, Iris started focusing on Queens and introduced customized desserts.

The store manager, Jerry Chen noted, Most bread in the shelves come from the ideas of customers, they are very popular.” Each bread is given a fancy name such as cheese boat, plait bread, caterpillar bread, bamboo bread, taro cube, trunk bread, wheel toast. There are also some stories behind the names. The trunk bread, for example, was requested by a young man who wanted to surprise his girlfriend. “Can you make a bread which should be colored with coffee, shaped like a cylinder with a crispy layer and soft fillings,” Chen said he asked. He named it “trunk with love locked inside.” Chen said, “The trunk bread attracts many young customers.”

To show the baking of customized bread, Iris made the baking room transparent. People can watch how chefs shape and decorate the dough through the glass window.

The master baker, Kevin Chow, born into a bakery family, has studied the craft since he was 16. He has special passion for artisan pastries. “Dough is living like you and me,” he said. “You treat it carefully, it always surprise you.”

Chow has worked at Iris since it opened. For him every day is a new one in the same baking room, because he works on the variously designed bread. The bread never looks same to those in the last day in Iris. The shelves change regularly as preferences of the customers change.

Beside the walk-in customers, Chen works with the high-level restaurants. “We have contracted with a dozen of restaurant to offer them dessert in Queen. Both the Mulan restaurant and Grand Restaurant have put Iris customized dessert in their party menus. These restaurants will be our major customer in the future,” she said.

When talking about the benefit of ordering Iris customized dessert, Bob Fen, the manager of Grand Restaurant in the New World Mall on Main Street, said, “Iris has a wonderful chef who can make whatever my customers want. My cost might be a little more for a party dinner than baking the desserts by myself, however in the long term I save the salary for hiring an excellent bakery chef.” Lin believes “though Iris have to give allied restaurants lower price than walking-in customer, the alliance could save the advertising cost and get the wholesale deal. It is a good opportunity for Iris.”



Unexpected Eavesdropper in Flushing

Video by Trey Morris

benBen Wilcox works as a Japanese translator in Manhattan. He speaks Mandarin, Japanese and is learning Korean. Wilcox has immersed himself in Asian culture and currently lives in Flushing, N.Y.

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