Have any tips on where the owner might be or memories related to this shop? Please drop me a line.
Around 1889, a certain Jacob Ringkleb opened a butcher shop at 528 Columbus Avenue in the space where over one hundred years later Pizza Pete's would open an Upper West side outpost of its Brooklyn joint (est. 1985). But when did the idea occur to someone to use the narrow space next store as a retail outlet? Or what might the future hold for this now boarded-up space? If what is happening down the block is any indication then perhaps another local chain, like the resurrected and reinvented H & H Bagels or the tiny outlet of Espresso Matto, both of which opened recently.
This space took some serious sleuthing to find. I had no leads. I decided to try talking to some of the local, independent bookstores that remain in the area. A tip from an employee at Westsider Rare and Used Books, who had a vague memory of a stall "somewhere on Columbus in the 70s or 80s," eventually led me to this empty space, over which hung an awning with the words "Thiam Variety Store." Scrawled across the door was, "906 Amsterdam." At “906 Amsterdam” I found Thiam himself, from Senegal originally, who had operated out of Johnny's former space after the landlord gave Johnny the boot sometime around 2003. Thiam, who for years sold goods from a table in front of Johnny's shop, knew Johnny fairly well. But he had no idea what Johnny did after closing his shop nor where Johnny might be now.