New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, May 05, 2008

Good Fortune

What a fortuitous occasion. I have waited 2 years for the right day for shooting this chess shop. Chess is special to me - I played on a chess team in high school and spent many Sundays over the years watching masters and grandmasters playing in Washington Square Park; chess legend Bobby Fisher himself was a habitue at one time. I have posted previously on the Marshall Chess Club.
When I took this photo, I had no idea one of the players was the original owner, George Frohlinde (the white haired player in the photo). When I went inside to discuss my intentions for this blog, I coincidentally met and spoke with the new owner, Lawrence Nash, Frohlinde's nephew.
We spoke of real estate and the precarious position a place like this is in. And, he confided, this place may not be around much longer. I have done many stories that I consider part of a an "end of an era" series. Unfortunately, the Village Chess Shop may be added to the fatality list some time in the not-so-distant future. I found Lawrence extremely likable and sensible. We both agreed that the problem is market forces as a result of the tremendous improvement and desirability of NYC and not, as is frequently alleged, any overt conspiracy by landlords. Most landlords do ask for market rents which do force many tenants out, but some landlords, as is the case in the Chess Shop, do give preferential rents to long term-tenants. But it is still very challenging for a small niche business like this to survive, even with undermarket rent.
The Chess Shop was opened in 1972 by George Frohlinde. In the 1960s, he ran a shop owned by International Grandmaster Nicholas Rossolimo. At the time, there were a number of chess shops in this area. Sometimes referred to as the "Chess District", only two shops remain - the Chess Shop at 230 Thompson Street and a new competitor across the street, the Chess Forum, opened in 1995 by one of Frohlinde's employees, Imad Khachchan. The Chess Shop is opened 365 days from 11AM to midnight and provides a place for playing at a nominal hourly fee. They also are known for their selection of a myriad of unique themed chess sets, many of which can be seen in their windows - eyestoppers for most passersby. See them and learn more about the shop at their website. I suggest you visit soon...

7 comments:

Litsa Dremousis said...

What a gorgeous vignette. If I had ceaseless cash, I'd disperse it among irreplaceable businesses like this.

Anonymous said...

I have always been interested in New York City. I follow a lot of blogs and articles because I like to learn of how things are changing there. It seems as an outsider that it could be changing for the worse. All of the "mom and pop" stores seem to be dissapearing and these seemed to be what made NYC. Now the Donald Trumps in the world seem to be staking claim and raising rents everywhere in the City. It sounds like you are a long term resident, I was just curious on how you see it.

bitingmidge said...

It's a sad reality that as we strive to maintain our identities, we are becoming overwhelmed by "internationalism", the Chess Shop will no doubt soon become a boutique!

Thanks for passing it on to us all.
Sunshine Coast Daily - Australia

airborneintell said...

It is a great place to play chess or backgammon.
Open late :)

Therese said...

Disappearing Identities. Still so many of us roam streets for the simple appreciation of these scenes.

RI 360 said...

My wife used to play competitively for years a young person and recently bought our kids (ages 6 and 4)their first sets and roll up boards and bags from I believe Village. We have wondered for a long time how this shop continues with rents being what they are and I guess we figured the owners owned the building as well. To think it might close one day in the near future is quite sad.

sonia a.m. said...

Very nice scene!