Have any tips on where the owner might be or memories related to this shop? Please drop me a line.
It was well below freezing on the day that I met Rahman, the man working at a newsstand next door to where Carmel Cleaners used to be. He had been selling gum, lottery tickets, and magazines from there for about fifteen years. But the shop itself had stood there for roughly fifty-five. If only I could interview the newsstand, plying it with questions about not just Carmel Cleaners but also about the neighborhood. Although he did not know anything about the original Carmel Cleaners Rahman was happy to share his own story and observations. The winner of a green-ticket lottery, he arrived in New York from Bangladesh in 1990. How did he end up working at a newsstand? He met other people from Bangladesh doing the same and quickly landed his first job. He's been in the business ever since. From his corner of East 79th and First Avenue he's watched businesses come and go. Pointing to the now empty space on the corner, he noted how just in the past year alone he'd watched as two different restaurants had opened and closed. "The rent!" he said, eyes widening.
The only thing certain about this location is that a dry cleaners of some sort has operated out of it for many decades. That at least is what I have learned from talking to the current occupant and owner of La Mode 1st Cleaners, Stephano Kim. A man named "Carmel" of Italian origin, Stephano told me, opened the original Carmel Cleaners sometime after the Second World War. But what happened to Carmel? When did he sell his business? Stephano did not know. The name, however, lived on for a time. There was, as I discovered, a "New Carmel Cleaners," owned by a certain Jin Woo Kim, and in business between 2002 and 2010, that operated out of the same space. But who owned the shop when Gerry sketched it back in the 1990s?