Article by Jason Shaltiel
Photos by Irina Groushevaia
Article by Jason Shaltiel
By Brad Williams
The hum of four soft urethane wheels gliding over abrasive asphalt has become a common addition to the noises on the streets of New York, as longboarding continues to grow in popularity. Far from the stereotype of skateboarders (teenage boys, or young men with long hair and tattoos), the people riding longboards range from businessmen, to young mothers, and even young children. They often ride together in groups of three or more on long-distance cruises. They can be seen nonchalantly whizzing by traffic and pedestrians on the city’s streets without doing a single trick, on boards of various shapes and sizes but longer than three feet in length. One rider might be 5 years old, and the next rider might be 50.
Many people refer to these boarders as skaters – and that leaves those on the other end of the skateboarding spectrum – trick skaters – fuming. While outsiders might see longboarders and shortboarders as two families of the same clan, the participants see themselves as rivals.
In the past five years, longboarding has reached new heights in popularity. As more and more longboarders coast through the streets of New York City, many shortboarders frown in disapproval.
The basis of the dispute is the style of board used by the rider. In general, there are three types of skateboards: trick boards (also referred to as “regular” and “short” boards) used primarily for executing numerous tricks; longboards, mostly used for transportation and riding at high speeds, and cruisers, a varying mixture of both.
Longtime skater and Roll America skateboarding instructor John Jackson is displeased with the increase in longboarding. “It feels like they outnumber us now,” Jackson said. “When I would skate around 10 years ago, I’d see skaters everywhere, riding in groups, now I just see a bunch of longboarders clogging up the bike lanes.” Founded in 1988 by Joel Rappelfeld, RollAmerica offers rollerblading and skateboarding lessons and says it works with more than 50 elementary and middle schools to teach students.
Longboards, significantly longer than trick skateboards, require less effort and can reach much faster speeds. Most longboards have wheels twice the size of regular skateboard wheels, to handle rough surfaces and add momentum when in motion. Longboards are primarily used for transportation.
Jackson said beginners were the “most annoying thing” about the rise in longboarding.
“As an instructor, I encourage my students not to start out with a longboard. It’s too easy to reach high speeds, and beginners can’t keep control,” he said. ”It’s like driving a Corvette the very first time you drive a car, you’re a danger to yourself and everyone near you.”
“I can count four longboarding deaths in New York City since 2012. I can’t think of a single person dying from trying a trick here,” Jackson said. “And we skate all of the ramps and rails that most people think are so dangerous! It’s all from a lack of experience and comfort on a board.” According to the Web site Skaters for Public Skateparks, two skateboard-related deaths occurred in New York City in 2012.
By Jackson’s definition, the majority of the city’s longboarders should not be referred to as skaters because they have not spent countless hours bettering their skills through trial and error.
“What can you fail at as a longboarder?” Jackson asked. “Riding down the street? Outside of the hardcore longboarders, who have complete control at speeds above 15 miles per hour, longboarding is not a demanding activity.…Is anyone who rides a bike considered a cyclist? No. They should only be referred as longboarders.” he added, “Longboarding is more like surfing or snowboarding than skateboarding.”
Jeff Gates, an avid longboarder and the founder and owner of Uncle Funky’s Boards in the West Village, said there’s not just a link between longboarding and board sports such as surfing and snowboarding, but that the latter are “the root of all skateboarding”– meaning that skateboarding as a whole evolved from surfing.
“Longboarding is as simple as riding,” Gates said. “You can get the gist of it in a matter of hours, while street skating requires a lot more practice and dealing with injuries.”
Gates said that trick skaters embrace skateboarding as part of their identities, and aren’t happy to see people who just bought longboards being referred to as skaters.
“When a dude who’s been doing tricks for 15 years sees a guy in a suit riding a longboard to work on Wall Street, he’s pissed,” he said.
Unlike Jackson, Gates believes that a longboard is an ideal choice for newcomers for a multitude of reasons: “It’s longer and wider than a standard board, so it has more room to stand on and is more stable. Its wheels are much larger, so riders don’t have to worry about tripping over every crack, twig or pebble, and it’s just easier to turn on.”
Gates admits that the ease of reaching high speeds is a potential danger, but advises that all riders should do their best not to skate outside of their abilities. In addition, he suggests a change in philosophy: “Everybody can skate, everybody should skate. It’s fun, and it’s easy…And I think skaters have tried to keep that secret for too long—to protect it like it’s their own. But it never was their own, and it never should be their own: it’s for everybody.”
By Alex Goetzfried
By Alex Goetzfried
St. Patty’s Day got off to an early start on Wednesday night as the American Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys rocked out to 3,000 rabid fans at Terminal 5 in New York City. Doc Martins, kilts, mohawks, tattoos and hockey sweatshirts imprinted with the Dropkick Murphys logo, are the fashionable items for an evening at a Dropkick Murphys show.
By Erin Teresky
Goodbye Mademoiselle, Hello Mimosa.
They are nail-polish color names, not salutations to a French ingénue or a brunch cocktail — the former is a now-outré sheer pink by Essie, the latter a must-have metallic-infused yellow by Chanel.
Unusual shades once relegated to teenage punk rockers or eccentric elderly women have become mainstream, as have weekly professional manicures, once the preserve of wealthy matrons.
As the earning power of women grows — 28.9 percent of wives out-earned their husbands in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 17.8 percent in 1987 — it makes sense that the nail industry, a market whose customers are overwhelmingly women, has been booming.
As more women earn advanced degrees and contribute more to the G.D.P., the “safe” fashion and beauty choices once typical of corporate culture are going the way of the girdle.
Unlike the 1980s, when many women wore “power suits” with football-equipment-like shoulders, today more women achieve economic success without feeling the need to maintain a gender-neutral style. Shannon Tesauro, an analyst at Fidelity Investments on Wall Street, says she often wears bright colors to work. “My office isn’t strict about nail polish,” she says. “Right now I have on a dark, metallic purple.”
Funky nail colors “are fun,” says Caroline Davis, project manager at New Beauty magazine. “It’s a form of expression just like dressing — you base your nails on your mood and personality.”
While there is no shortage of $20-mani-pedi specials in the city, for the truly adventurous many salons now offer a new service: nail art.
Nail art includes glitter and 3D ornaments, or custom designs painted on the nails by a skilled technician. These services usually cost upward of $60. In SoHo, $40 will buy you a work-appropriate cardigan in a cheery color at Ann Taylor or a glitter manicure at Marie Nails in SoHo.
The nail industry has “expanded very rapidly due to more options, lasting-longer gels,” says Jenny Matayoshi, of Marie Nails, one of more than 4,000 nail salons in New York State. Matayoshi says it helps that area businesses seem “more open to nail art now.”
Nail art has been a boon to salons. According to Nails, an industry publication, 89 percent of salons nationwide said they offered nail art services in 2011; that’s up from 78 percent five years earlier. Moreover, the share of profits contributed by nail art nearly tripled, reaching 9.8 percent in 2011.
Indeed, the nail industry seems to track the fortunes of women in the economy. During the last five years, the unemployment rate for women has been lower than that of men every year, sometimes by as much as two percentage points. For example, in the depths of the recession, in 2009, the unemployment rate for women was 8.1 percent, compared with 10.3 percent for men. That year, the nail industry also experienced a slight decline to $6 billion in revenues from $6.2 billion the year before, but sales were still well above the $5.5 billion in revenues in 2006.
Nails projects that the industry will make $7.3 billion in 2012. That’s a lot of manicures. But as more women are breaking the glass ceiling, they’ll need those salon visits. No one likes to be seen clicking broken nails on the boardroom table.
By Similoluwa Ojurongbe
Now you can have bacon for lunch, dinner, dessert and, in some parts of the city, even a midnight snack.
And baconmania isn’t just sweeping the Big Apple. A few weekends ago, tickets to BaconFest Chicago, (yes, a festival dedicated to bacon) sold out in three hours. Three thousand bacon lovers enjoyed creations from 180 different restaurants and chefs. Some of the bacon-binge options were the porkapalooza burger, bacon pancake pops and the “wobble stopper’ bacon bloody Mary. Desserts included bacon Rice Krispie treats and chocolate-and-bacon-covered toffee.
“They cooked an entire pig,” said Jon P. in a post on Yelp. “They were low when we got there, so they gave us the snout to munch on. Ya, I took a bit out of a hairy, pig’s nose. No one said this event was classy.”
Waffle and Wolf, a waffle sandwich restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, specializes in waffles with embedded bacon. As a main course, it also has a “Wolf waffle,” a bacony waffle with tomato, cheddar, arugula and avocado yogurt. The bacony waffle dessert option comes with peanut butter, banana and caramel. And for those who are in the mood for a bacony late night snack, Waffle and Wolf delivers its bacony waffles as late as midnight.
Matt, the salesperson at the restaurant, who is also the chief waffle maker and a self-declared bacon fan, says: “The reason people like bacon so much is probably because it’s comforting.”
And a review on Yelp, Angelita B. says: “They put the chopped bacon in the waffle batter. It was a freaking Bacon Waffle, slathered with tomato jam and chunks of avocado, folded over like a taco.” Bacon treats are available on the go in New York City. A must-try on a hot summer day is Coolhaus, a food truck that serves a candied bacon ice cream, along with other non-traditional flavors like “beer & pretzels” and “Peking duck.” Their trucks can often be found by Union Square and on 23rd Street and Park Avenue.
The love for bacon extends beyond the edible. J&D now produces a bacon-flavored chap stick. And if you enjoy the smell of bacon in your shower, a bar of bacon soap from Archie McPhee might appeal.
The science behind the appeal of bacon is called the Maillard reaction, which occurs when bacon is heated and the amino acids in the meat protein combine with the sugars in bacon fat. During this process, aromas and flavors are released. The taste and the smell of sizzling fat give bacon its appeal, along with its high salt content, which makes almost anything taste better.
By Erica Hanger
Malina Lambach does not relish Black Friday.
“Imagine having to practically inhale your Thanksgiving dinner, say your goodbyes to your family and not be able to spend the rest of your holiday in a food coma like everybody else,” said Lambach, a sales associate whose 12-hour shift at Saks Fifth Avenue OFF Fifth at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, N.Y., began at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours before the store officially opened.
Every year thousands of shoppers from all over the tri-state area flock to Woodbury Common, a 220-store mall, for door buster deals that begin at midnight on Thanksgiving. However, some larger department stores, including Saks, require employees to arrive even earlier on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for the shopping madness. While many people hunt for bargains and prepare wish lists, retail employees must leave the holiday dinner table, whether they want to or not, to organize clothing racks and ensure that merchandise is fully stocked and neatly arranged.
“Leaving my family and cutting my Thanksgiving short every year to go to work is heartbreaking,” says Lambach, 32, an eight-year Saks veteran who works in the women’s designer department.
Saks Fifth Avenue at Woodbury Common employs 40 year-round employees, but for the holiday season it hires an additional 40 to 50 employees. The mall itself employs 3,000 workers during the holiday season, up from the 1,600 to 2,000 who work the rest of the year. Across the U.S retailers hired nearly 43,000 seasonal workers this year, a 16 percent increase from 2010.
More people are also shopping. “Despite the economy, Black Friday at the Commons gets busier and busier every year,” said Deidre Harris, the human resource manager at Saks who has worked at the store for 11 years. “With nearly 100 employees working 12-hour shifts on Black Friday, we can still hardly keep up.” Hiring more employees is not an option, though, says Harris, as company regulations do not allow the store to exceed a total of 120 employees.
“It’s still just as busy as the year before, but I’ve noticed customers bringing in additional coupons and reward cards compared to years ago,” said Ebony Howard, a sales associate who has worked at Saks for the past six years, adding that impulse shopping is down and customers are, “buying only what is on their list.”
“For the past five years, I’ve shopped Black Friday at the Commons,” said Silvia Young, a medical receptionist from Yonkers. A single mother, Young was shopping at Saks for clothing deals for her three teenage daughters. “But in recent years I’ve been on a tight budget, I only buy what I need, like a few things from my three teenage daughters’ Christmas list and small gifts for relatives. I still get great deals on clothes and shoes, but end up cutting out luxury products like expensive jewelry or handbags.”
By Hope Varma
It used to be that when people thought of clothing rentals, they imagined tuxedos, sometimes horrible powder blue, and prom dresses, often tacky. Think again.
A new era in clothing rentals now gives New Yorkers access to cutting-edge designs from every major label. Fashion showrooms such as Albright Fashion Library, at 62 Cooper Square, have made people’s dreams of dressing like a fashionista a reality.
“People can wear looks that were once worn by their favorite celebrity,” says Marina Albright, daughter of the founder, Irene Albright. “We carry every major designer from Alaia to Zac Posen.” The showroom, which houses thousands of dresses, shoes and accessories, draws the fashion-savvy. The library owns pieces worn by celebrities including Madonna (remember that Jean Paul Gaultier cone bustier from her Blond Ambition Tour), Sarah Jessica Parker and Bethenny Frankel.
Fashion rentals started with stylists who needed to pull clothing for photo, television and film shoots. Showrooms such as Albright came about as a sort of middle ground between the stylists and the fashion houses—they now had access to multiple designers all in one place. Originally just serving the entertainment industry, the showroom has been open to the general public since the late 1990s.
In today’s economy, a showroom like this is much in demand. “The recession has really created a public demand for fashion rental showrooms,” says Irene Albright. “People don’t have the means to be spending thousands of dollars on clothing.” Indeed, many companies focusing on clothing rentals have opened not only in New York but in other parts of the country. People who couldn’t afford such high-end designs now have the chance to wear fabulous clothing.
“As a 20-something New Yorker, I have a lot of events to attend,” says Julie Mulligan, an Albright customer. “It’s impossible to afford different looks for everything. At Albright, I can rent an Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy it.”
Consultations at Albright begin at $250 and rentals, including the clothes, shoes, bag and other accessories, as well as dry-cleaning of the garments, run $1,000 a week.
The rental business has an online presence, too, with virtual showrooms such as New York-based renttherunway.com. All those women who at one time or another felt “I have nothing to wear” can now, with the simple click of a button, have access to designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price.
This experience is one of online convenience—a woman can rent a Herve Leger dress that retails for $1,600 for $150 and have it delivered the following day. Joining a virtual showroom such as renttherunway.com is simple—there’s no charge to register. Then enter the date for which you need the outfit, enter your size and ZIP code and a list of available dresses will be constructed.
Additionally, members get a backup size at no charge, and a second dress for $25 more.
Mulligan, a 28-year-old architect who lives in Tribeca, browsed the racks at Albright, which were filled with thousands of shoes, from Christian Louboutin to Manolo Blahnik to Yves Saint Laurent, as well as the dresses, which are arranged alphabetically by designer.
One can’t help but feel like a child entering Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. “I walked in really excited about getting to try on all these different looks and was not disappointed,” Mulligan recalls. “By the end, I felt like a princess.”
Feeling like a princess does come at a price, but remember—you may be renting a $10,000 Marchesa gown, with $1,500 Jimmy Choo strappy sandals and a $2,000 Balenciaga clutch for a tenth of the price of the gown. “If you saw Mila Kunis or Olivia Wilde in a dress that you absolutely fell in love with and had an occasion to wear it to, we could facilitate that dream for you,” Marina Albright says.
After trying on many outfits, Ms. Mulligan opted for a short, strapless Marchesa lace cocktail dress, Christian Louboutin black patent leather pumps, a Helmut Lang black coat and a Michael Kors clutch. “I am so happy with the look I chose,” she says. “It has a very New York edge to it, while still being elegant. I also can wear some of the different items throughout the week, before I have to return everything. Overall, I had an amazing experience and will definitely be a return client.”
By Miguel Sobernais
Walk into Diane B. Ladies Shoes on Third Avenue on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and you see rows and rows of expensive-looking women’s shoes, much like any other shoe store in the neighborhood. But a closer look reveals that, alongside the usual designer names like Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo, are many shoes labeled Diane B.
Diane B. has been creating and selling its own private-label shoe designs since it opened in 1999.
Craig Blattberg, 47, the owner of Diane B., credits his private-label business with the success of his three Diane B. stores. While many shoe and apparel businesses suffered during the recession, Diane B.’s private-label shoes, which sell for less than designer brands, not only sustained the business but helped it expand, he says.
In 2010, Blattberg opened a Diane B. in Greenwich, Conn., and there’s another on Lexington Avenue. Blattberg says combined sales for his three locations totaled $5 million last year.
A native New Yorker, Blattberg started his career as a stock boy in a Manhattan shoe store when he was 18. Over 13 years, he worked his way up to partner. But a legal dispute led Blattberg to sue his partners and leave the business in 1997; he would not name the store, but said it had recently gone out of business.
Although Blattberg earned a degree in photography while working at the shoe store, he felt his true strengths were in the shoe business. “I was 30 years old with a lot of experience in this business, this was all I knew,” says Blattberg. So twelve years ago, Blattberg opened the first Diane B. Ladies Shoes, on Third Avenue, paying $16,000 a month in rent.
The store focuses on professional, fashion-minded women, ages 35 to 65. Blattberg began creating a shoe line when he realized his customers wanted stylish models that were cheaper than the designer labels sold at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, which can retail for around $500 per pair. In contrast, Blattberg’s private-label shoes sell for $265 to $315 a pair.
“I couldn’t find with other designers what my customers were looking for; so instead of saying ‘no’, I made it,” says Blattberg.
He had no background in design, so Blattberg partnered with his Italian suppliers and began creating original styles to be sold exclusively at his store. Among his private-label suppliers are the Stuart Weitzmann Company and the Pancaldi Company, two major Italian firms that have worked with Blattberg since Diane B. opened. With their help, Blattberg was able to create exclusive designs by taking pre-designed shoe molds and customizing them with unique patterns. The entire process takes about a year.
Producing and selling original products has proven to be a successful formula for Diane B., a fact highlighted during the 2008 recession. “I noticed things were changing around the time Lehman Brothers shut down,” says Blattberg. “Sales were down 20 percent. If a woman came in to buy a blue pair of shoes for an interview that’s exactly what she got and nothing else.” Customers were frightened by the economic downturn and were only making necessary purchases, he says.
Blattberg was in Italy when news broke that General Motors was considering filing for bankruptcy. That was the point when he really felt shaken by the recession, he says, so he reached out to his associates, including Stuart Weitzmann, for business advice. The overall theme of the responses was “sell cheap and sell more.” But the idea of lowering Diane B.’s standards by selling lower-priced items like flip-flops alongside more expensive shoes did not sit well with him. “They all told me the same thing; I did the exact opposite,” says Blattberg. During the recession, Diane B. began increasing its stock of private-label designs, raising prices on those shoes by $10-$20 a pair. “When department stores were marking down, we didn’t succumb to that,” says Blattberg, adding that the markup on his shoes sustained his gross margins. That’s because his private-label business provides better profit margins than do the designer labels.
Indeed, Diane B.’s biggest local competitors, none of which sell private-label shoes, fared far worse during the recession. For example, Shoe Box, another leading Upper-East-Side retailer, has shuttered two stores since the start of the recession.
In 2010, while nationwide consumer spending was still tight, Diane B. had its best year. Sales picked up tremendously, says Blattberg, noting, “Women were tired of not shopping. We provide shoes that fit well and are cheaper than the competition plus we are service-orientated.”
Blattberg who has never advertised and relies on word-of-mouth, estimates that 75 percent of his business comes from repeat customers.
“I’ve been shopping here for a very long time,” says Grace McCabe, 63, a tall and casually dressed woman, as she tried on a pair of spring shoes. “They have a very nice selection, and they always have exactly what I need.”
The same day, Blattberg helped Shirley Appleson, 54, a petite, well-dressed woman. “It’s nice to get a man’s opinion before I purchase some shoes,” she said. “He really understands what I’m looking for.”
Now Blattberg is focusing on the future, planning to open a store every five years. He is also grooming his nephew, who will soon graduate from college, to take over the business, asking, “Wouldn’t you take over your uncle’s million-dollar business” if you had the chance?”