Hell’s Kitchen was one of my first weekend biking forays during the pandemic.

It was early into the lockdown and almost everything was closed. There was no traffic and few people and a still, quiet I’d never seen in New York City.

The absence helped me notice everything from the fancy Mexican bars with murals, to boutique shops to the older, sad, run-down facades of the Knights of Columbus or Botanica, a store for “Libros de Suenos. Colonias, Velas, Oraciones.” 

One of the few places that was open was the Jolly Goat coffee shop, on 47th street.

Owner Murat Yilmaz was behind the counter. He had just let go his seven employees and was working to make money to meet the last payroll.

The conversation made it clear that not everyone can work from home. That the shutdown would be devastating for many people.

At that time it was hard to imagine what the new world would look like, but it was clearer what might be lost.

Murat described how he grew up in Turkey and moved to New York where he worked in PR and communications for 12 years before he decided to pursue his passion for coffee by opening the Jolly Goat.

He missed the vibrant community. The people flocking to Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery down the street. The amazing wine store around the corner.

The streets in Hell’s Kitchen between 10th and 11th Avenues are easy to miss, but dotted with small gems.

There is Fine and Dandy, a men’s clothing store on 49th that describes itself as a “dandy-inspired store of men’s accessories.”

They sell a broad array of items including bow ties, cummerbunds, handkerchiefs, scarves, neckerchiefs, hats, tie bars, lapel pins, cufflinks, collar bars, watch straps, money clips, key rings, suspenders, sock and shirt garters, belts and spats. 

On 45th street, there is La Duca, opened by Phil LaDuca for dance shoes handmade in Italy. LaDuca trained as a classical ballet dancer before moving to Broadway where he performed in “Brigadoon”, “Pirates of Penzance” and “Singin’ In the Rain”.

LaDuca has designed shoes for Katy Perry, Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Emma Thompson, Hugh Jackman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Penelope Cruz, Selena Gomez and most of the shows on Broadway, including Moulin Rouge, The Music Man, Wicked, Book of Mormon, Frozen, and Kinky Boots.

New York is filled with small shops and businesses born of a restless energy and tremendous creativity.

The pandemic that prompted me to notice them is now also threatening their survival.

Shops in Hell’s Kitchen

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More from Hell’s Kitchen

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More from Hell’s Kitchen

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