New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, March 10, 2008

Where's the Special

I've been worried that special is over. I don't mean special like a sale, I mean special - something unique, different, unusual. Special is what many people look for - in people, places and things. That's why you come to this site. This is the reason people often line up. There is frequently an element of the creative in the special and there is typically a shortage of creative to go around. Of course there are also many, perhaps most, who find great comfort in the ordinary, regular or usual. Creatures of habit, lovers of routine. There's a piece of this in most of us. But this story is about the special.
At one time Zabar's, along with Balducci's and Dean & Delucca's downtown were truly special, very unique places. The quintessential gourmet food emporiums, meccas for residents and visitors. But now, many of these products can be found in national chains like Whole Foods, with enormous selections of specialty items.
Zabar's, located on the upper west side, was started in 1934 by Louis and Lillian Zabar renting an Appetizing Counter in a Daitch Market. Over the years, they took over the Daitch Market. Louis died in 1950. Saul and Stanley Zabar took over running the business. Today the store is over 20,000 square feet - almost a city block long at 80th and Broadway, serving over 35,000 customers per week. It is still a family owned and operated business.
Perhaps its not that special is exactly over, it's that it is fleeting - appropriated and co-opted at lightning speed - or hidden in the nooks and crannies. There are things in and things about Zabar's and their ilk that is still special. So, if you want the special, act quickly and/or look in the corners and edges. I'll see you there ...

Footnote. Perhaps there is nothing so great about special anymore - that I am just romanticizing the past. I see a new generation that appears to be happy with the ubiquitous. Luxuries and specialties have become very common - do we need the special?


An Honest Man said...

To quote from Gilbert & Sullivan's Gondoliers

"When every blessed thing you hold
Is made of silver, or of gold,
You long for simple pewter.
When you have nothing else to wear
But cloth of gold and satins rare,
For cloth of gold you cease to care--
Up goes the price of shoddy."

In other words - special doesn't go away - it merely changes.

Keep seeking it out Brian.

Brian said...

Honest Man - Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

For those of us not native to New York but are avid followers of all things New York, Zabar's has a special appeal. We tend to think of it as somewhere that all New Yorker's go, at least those attempting to cook. I'm sure those of us who do not live in New York or a big city would find Zabar's special as the thought of finding all your gourmet needs from all four corners of the world in one store certainly is somethnig very special.. To me anyway !!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian. I live at 16th & 6th from 1977 to 1991 and guess where I shopped? The bustle of B after work was beautiful. I learned alot about food from the people who worked there. Half the meal was made from scratch from the B workers and was on the stove in 10 minutes (my own personal pasta machine). I know it is not there anymore.

Therese said...

Yes for the need of “SPECIAL” that’s why I have visited that very site for some time now, for that “something special” which makes me write down these few addresses for the next time I/we will be in N.Y.: Paris in America, home. I just wanted to say thank you-merci.

Plume said...

Even for a French tourist visiting NY, Zabar's looked very "special", and I'm glad to see that it's also a special place for a New-Yorker like you.. The homeware upstairs would also deserve a photo...