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Posts Tagged ‘Countdown to Corporatization’

Gyro Corner/Clam Bar

Gyro Corner/Clam Bar, Coney Island. April 17, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler

The packing up and moving out has begun for at least one of the Coney Island Boardwalk businesses. On Friday the owners of Gyro Corner Clam Bar removed their awning as well as the hand-painted signage to re-use at their second location at Bowery and West 12th Street. The good news is the popular sign featuring top-hatted clam waiters serving clams on the half shell will be back next season. Hey Joey!, the Dreamland Artist Club mural painted on the side of the building, is out of luck.

On Facebook, there were a flurry of comments– “noooooo,” “Already? WOW!!!” and “sad”– when news of the signage being taken down was posted by a friend. Some of the other stores are also starting to break down and throw stuff out while remaining open for business. Seven Mom & Pops must vacate the City-owned Boardwalk property by November 4, 2011. Unlike the other businesses Gyro’s owners have a second location in Coney Island, though it is much smaller than their Boardwalk restaurant. Last week we saw them pull off the signage from its facade.

Thanks to photographer Lindsay Wengler, whose photos documenting the Boardwalk storefronts and vernacular signage were mostly taken last fall, though her series “Coney Island in Flux” is an ongoing project. “Definitely was one of my favorites, ” says Lindsay of Gyro Corner’s facade. “When I heard the news about the boardwalk being threatened, I had to take a lot of photos of Gyro Corner and Paul’s Daughter so I could at least remember what they looked like.”

A farewell message to the businesses posted on her photoblog Single Linds Reflex last November 1st is just as relevant today: “The absence of these businesses will tremendously change the heart of Coney Island. I cannot imagine the boardwalk without the glorious, hand-painted signs and the distinct character each storefront provides.”

ATZ is saying goodbye to the “Coney Island 7″ Mom and Pops with a Photo (or Two) a Day from October 8 through November 4. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” for links to all of the photos.

summer(night)time, Gyro Corner Clam Bar, Coney Island. June 19, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler

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October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 13, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Americana Looking for New Beach

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Papa Burger

Looking for a New Beach: Papa Burger Atop Paul' s Daughter, Coney Island Boardwalk. October 8, 2011

Last week, a new sign was seen on the roof of Paul’s Daughter, a 49-year-old Coney Island Mom and Pop being booted off the City-owned Boardwalk at the end of the month. Papa Burger, a winsome fiberglass figure, is sporting a sign that says “Looking for a New Beach.”

“I am looking for a new location,” Tina Georgoulakos, the owner of Paul’s Daughter, told ATZ. “Our first preference is to stay on the Boardwalk in Coney Island, if we can’t have that, then we are looking for another beach.”

What are her plans for Mama and Papa Burger? The reason we ask is numerous people, including fans of roadside signage, have sent emails expressing concern about the fate of the figures, which have been part of the Coney Island skyline for decades. They wanted to make sure these rare pieces of roadside Americana were preserved. Last fall, when the businesses first received “Surrender the Premises” notices, among the people we heard from was Debra Jane Seltzer, a devotee of roadside architecture who has catalogued the whereabouts of the Burger figures known as the “A & W Root Beer Family” on her wonderful website RoadsideArchitecture.com.

“The A&W Burger Family may not be the biggest giants out there but they are arguably the cutest,” writes Seltzer on the “Land of Giants” section of her site. “In 1963, A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Baby Burger, and Teen Burger.” When A & W introduced another mascot called “the Great Root Bear” in 1974, some stores began selling off the burger figures, which have ended up at places as various as Magic Forest in Lake George, New York, and the backyard of a private residence in Portland, Oregon. Others are in storage or have been greatly altered, according to Seltzer’s research.

Burger Girl

Burger Girl at Paul's Daughter, Coney Island. November 13, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

“I found the man that made them,” Tina says. “It took all day. His name is Steve Dashew.” There’s a touch of excitement in her voice. In an interview with Roadside America, the former president of International Fiberglass and creator of the Muffler Men and other figures said, “My favorite of all of them was a ‘burger family': Mama Burger, Papa Burger, Baby Burger, a little larger than life-sized.” Tina contacted him to find out how much the Burger people weighed, so she’d know if a crane would be required to remove them from the roof. It turns out Papa Burger is 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and weighs 250 pounds. “I’m going to wrap them with ropes and lower them down,” Tina said. “I am taking every single thing with me. Anything that has meaning is coming with me.”

Another soon-to-vanish piece of Coney Island Americana is the vernacular signage of Paul’s Daughter, including Mister Shrimp and other favorites, which we will detail in another post. “I had considered an auction of certain things but I’m not sure what they are,” says Tina. “It will all depend on whether we move the business somewhere else and I don’t have the answer to that as of yet. If I can’t use them, then I will be auctioning them off.”

Formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, the beloved seaside restaurant and its signage is featured in the book “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York” (see photo here). It was also the scene of the 1999 music video “Summer Girls,” in which the band LFO danced on the roof in front of the Astroland Rocket.  “It was a sad day when the Rocket left,” says Tina. “The Burger statues really miss it. We do too!” Why doesn’t the City keep Paul’s Daughter, the Burger Family and return the Rocket to its rightful place on the roof?

The restaurant is being evicted from the Boardwalk property to make way for a gentrified, corporatized Coney Island. The City-owned property is expected to be taken over by a concession run by France’s Sodexo, the world’s 21st largest corporation. Sodexo was chosen by the Italian company that runs Luna Park to be their partner for “On-Site Service Solutions.”

Through November 4th, ATZ is posting a favorite photo (or two) a day to say goodbye to the Boardwalk Mom and Pops who must “Surrender the Premises” at the end of the month. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the posts.

astroland Rocket

Papa Burger and Astroland Rocket Above Gregory & Paul's. February 10, 2008. Photo Copyright © Diane Taft Shumate/Rubyshost via flickr. All Rights Reserved

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October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk

January 13, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Dishes on the Boardwalk Brawl

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

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Last Drink at Cha Cha's of 2010 Season. October 31, 2010. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Last year, we had our last drink at Cha Cha’s on Halloween, Coney Island’s last day of the season. That’s Cha Cha’s regular Johnny Corona at the end of the bar. The next day, all but two of the Boardwalk businesses received “Surrender the Premises” letters from the operator of Luna Park. This year, Cha Cha’s and Ruby’s are planning goodbye parties for successive Saturdays in October. Now that their one-year reprieve is over, the businesses must vacate the premises by November 4th. If you want to have a last drink with friends or take photos of the signage, get here before Halloween. After that, they’ll be packing up and moving out.

The home of “Wild Women and Wise Guys” is going out with a bang. Saturday, October 22nd, is being billed as the last big party for John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and his friends, including Soprano cast members. Musical guests include Killer Joe as well as Vincent Pastore and his Lickety Split Band. Pastore played the role of Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on The Sopranos. His friend Cha Cha, who also operates a restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, played Albie Cianflone.

According to an email invite: “This is the final Big Party at Cha Cha’s. Starts around 4 pm and will go till???” We’re told that Cha Cha’s final day is Sunday the 30th. Ruby’s Goodbye Party is Saturday, October 29th from 11 am with music by Undercover and Mystical Children scheduled from 2 till 8 pm.

This weekend, local musicians Richi Lupo of Undercover and possibly Erik Knapp of Mystical Children are doing a combo at Cha Cha’s on Saturday at 4 pm. Sunday is Super Major from Sea Gate, also at 4. All of the above-mentioned events are no cover, no minimum. In other words, it’s free to come and say goodbye.

Since October 8th, ATZ has been posting a fave photo (or two) a day to say goodbye to the Boardwalk Mom and Pops who are losing their leases at the end of the month. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the posts.

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October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

October 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar by Kenny Lombardi

October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk

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Butterflies

Butterflies and Beer Island. October 8, 2011. Copyright © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy snapped these photos of Beer Island and the adjacent vest-pocket garden on Saturday. “The garden on Stillwell is a butterfly garden,” he wrote in an email. The Monarchs that greeted us on 12th Street earlier in the week, en route to Florida via Coney Island, touched down in even greater number this weekend.

Butterflies are a potent symbol of change and transformation. The Boardwalk side of Stillwell Avenue, purchased by the City from Thor Equities in 2009, is undergoing a transformation too. In 2011, the parcel on the east side was developed into the new Scream Zone thrill park by Zamperla’s Central Amusement International. CAI is slated to take over the west side, currently occupied by Steve’s Grill’s House, Beer Island and a vacant lot, in 2012. What will they build? There’s been talk of double-deck go-karts or a double looping coaster. And oh, yeah, a beer garden very similar to the one that’s there now.

The key to Beer Island’s success is serving a wide variety of beer in bottles and on tap–all for $5—on a sandy beach just a few steps from Coney’s shore. Blaring music, bikini-clad waitresses, and the fact that you can bring in food from any of the Boardwalk restaurants add to the party ambiance. As one Yelper explains:

I have seen some strange shit at Beer Island. One time some guy rolled up with a bunch of exotic animals: iguanas, parrots, pythons–all at the same time. He sat down at a table, scattered his animal kingdom cohorts about, ordered a beer and proceeded to let old ladies feed his massive iguana (what looked like) strawberries.

But mostly it’s just occupied by a diverse mix of people who share the common goal of getting shit-housed in the Coney Island sun while belting a bunch of Def Leppard in the process. The music is usually amped up pretty loud, and it’s controlled by a jukebox that has the kind of music you want while getting drunk at Coney Island.

Beer Island is a newcomer to the Boardwalk compared to its fellow evictees. The bar got its start in 2007 after Thor Equities bought the property and evicted Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City. The beach bar was built on the site of the miniature golf course seen in these photos of the park. Its creator was Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri, who told the New York Post last year: “They’re going to steal my idea, after I put a lot of time and money and built it up over the past three years.”

In the meantime, stop by for butterflies and beer, weather permitting. You can view Bruce Handy’s complete slide show here. Through November 4th, ATZ is posting a favorite photo (or two) a day to say goodbye to the Boardwalk Mom and Pops who are losing their leases at the end of the month. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the posts.

Beer Island

Beer Island. October 8, 2011. Copyright © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

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October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 9, 2011: Photo of the Day: Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar by Kenny Lombardi

October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Gyro Corner Clam Bar

Gyro Corner Clam Bar - Coney Island. June 10, 2008. Copyright © silversalty via flickr. All Rights Reserved

Our fave photo of Gyro Corner Clam Bar on the Coney Island Boardwalk is this night shot of the 12th Street side by silversalty. It’s lit up like a Chelsea art gallery waiting for reception-goers on a Thursday night. The photographer’s Coney Island set on flickr is rich with night images of such vanished wonders as Faber’s Fascination marquee, Astroland’s Breakdance and M & M Gyro’s signage. Gyro Corner Clam Bar will close and its hand-painted signage will become part of Coney’s vanished landscape after November 4, 2011.

If you live too far away to visit, check out the hundreds of photos on flickr as well as several in Roadside Art Online’s fascinating Gyros Project. We’ll miss these whimsical depictions of anthropomorphized clam waiters serving up plates of clams and “The Gyros Sandwich glorified.” Coney Island’s vernacular signage is widely appreciated as Art and Americana, though it doesn’t fit Luna Park operator Valerio Ferrari’s Europeanized “vision” for the new Boardwalk.

The 12th Street side of Gyro Corner is where the clam bar of “Hey Joey!” fame resides. When the mural was painted by L.A.-based Gents of Desire for Steve Powers’ Dreamland Artist Club in 2004, it won acclaim from art critics. “Combining F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tragic 1920s glamour with the tough stylings of L.A.’s Mexican street gangs,” wrote Andrew Hodges in The Brooklyn Rail. The real-life “Joey Clams” was interviewed by The New York Times:

Joey Pesca, the manager of the popular clam bar, also known as the Gyro Corner, at the Boardwalk and West 12th Street, said the wall sign painted for him by the Gents of Desire – otherwise known as Jonathan Bleser and Alexis Ross – has made his business a destination for art lovers and has given him a new appreciation for artists.

“They were actually a joy to be around,” Mr. Pesca, also known as Joey Clams, said of the Gents. “And at the end they added this little thing that says, ‘Hey Joey!,’ which has made me a little famous around here.”

Alas, we must now say goodbye to “Hey Joey!,” as we already did to Steve Powers’ Shoot Out the Star signs at the Henderson Building and Rita Ackermann’s mural on the Feltman’s Building. Goodbye to the flashy front-of-the-show vernacular signage at Gyro Corner and Paul’s Daughter and Steve’s Grill House. The new Boardwalk storefronts will be branded. We expect the facades and signage to look more uniform as well. It’s a harbinger of the City’s vision of a single operator Coney Island.

We’ll post photos of Gyro Corner’s Boardwalk signage before this series ends when the seven Boardwalk Mom and Pops vacate the premises on November 4th. ATZ is saying goodbye to old friends with a favorite photo (or two) a day. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to see all of the photos. Many thanks to Adrian Kinloch, who frequently photographs Coney Island, for this close-up of “Hey Joey!” from his superb Coney Island Design set on flickr.

Coney Island Signage

Coney Island Hand Painted Signage. December 3, 2006. Photo © Adrian Kinloch via http://www.adriankinloch.net/photography. All rights reserved

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October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 8, 2011: Photo of the Day: “The Chief” of the Coney Island Boardwalk

October 28, 2010: Photo Album: Requiem for Coney Island’s Shoot Out the Star

January 25, 2010: Bruce Handy’s Photo Album: Doomed Dreamland Artist Club Mural

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Rubys

Rubys Old Tyme Bar and Grill. November 20, 2010. Copyright © Kenny Lombardi 2010. All Rights Reserved

Ruby’s Bar was closed on Saturday for Yom Kippur, but they’re open today and every day at 11 am till the end of October. Last fall, there were a slew of “last call” parties at Ruby’s, but sadly this year’s goodbye party on October 29th really is goodbye. The fact that Ruby’s merited a Critics’ Picks in New York Magazine and was voted one of the World’s 21 Sexiest Beach Bars by the Travel Channel means nothing to people bent on gentrifying and corporatizing the Boardwalk. As we wrote yesterday, the one-year reprieve is over for the Boardwalk Mom-and-Pops who were first served “surrender the premises” notices by Zamperla’s Central Amusement International last November.

Seven businesses–Ruby’s Bar, Paul’s Daughter, Cha Cha’s, Gyro Corner, Steve’s Grill House, Beer Island and the Suh family’s Coney Island Souvenir Shop– must vacate their City-owned storefronts by November 4, 2011 as per the terms of the one-year lease extension.

ATZ is saying goodbye to old friends with a favorite photo a day from October 8 through November 4. Click the tag “Countdown to Corporatization” to find all of the photos. Thanks to Kenny Lombardi–KeneL9999 on flickr– who frequently photographs Coney Island and its denizens, for this timeless photo of Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar and Grill.

UPDATE October 27, 2011, 11:40 am

Ruby’s “Final Closing Party” was changed to Sunday, October 30, due to weather forecast for Saturday. Same time–11am till ??–same place. Check Ruby’s Facebook page for updates.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 26, 2011: 85th Birthday Party for Beloved Bartender at Ruby’s Bar

January 7, 2011: Photo of the Day: Greetings from Ruby’s Snow Mountain Resort!

November 3, 2010: Friends of Ruby’s Bar Launch Petition, Plan Nov 6 Rally

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Paul Georgoulakos at Paul's Daughter on the Coney Island Boardwalk. April 17, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita

When we stopped by Paul’s Daughter last Monday, “The Chief” called out “light, no sugar” to a helper and offered us coffee and cookies. Paul Georgoulakos, 82, is the oldest operator on the Coney Island Boardwalk and beloved by all except the Bloomberg administration, which purchased the property occupied by his restaurant from Thor Equities, and Zamperla’s Luna Park, which leases it from the City. As Paul’s daughter Tina told ATZ earlier this year: “I wanted so much to be a part of the New Coney Island but they didn’t even offer me a tiny little spot on the Boardwalk.”

The Boardwalk restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, a masterpiece of vernacular signage established in 1962, is being kicked out to make way for a soulless cafeteria run by Sodexo. The French multinational is the world’s largest food services management company and the world’s 21st largest corporation. In Coney Island, Sodexo also operates the new Cyclone Cafe on Surf Avenue, though you won’t find their name on the marquee. Apparently Luna Park’s “partner for one-site service solutions” likes to keep a low profile in the People’s Playground.

The City’s revitalization plan calls for year-round restaurants in Coney Island’s amusement zone. On Monday, Paul’s Daughter as well as Ruby’s Bar, Gyro Corner and the Suh family’s souvenir shop, whose days on the Boardwalk are also coming to an end, were open as usual. Sodexo’s Cyclone Cafe was shut tight as a drum.

With 27 days left until seven Mom & Pops are kicked off the Coney Island Boardwalk, ATZ will be saying goodbye to old friends with a favorite photo a day. The seven businesses must vacate the premises by November 4th. The one-year reprieve is over. If you have a photo, new or old, that you’d like to contribute, please post a link below or send to hello[AT]triciavita[dot}com

paul's daughter

Paul's Daughter, Oct 31, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

March 3, 2011: The Lowdown on Sodexo’s Sweet Deal in Coney Island

January 13, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Dishes on the Boardwalk Brawl

December 16, 2010: Blast from the Past: LFO’s Summer Girls Music Video

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