New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


People love to complain and a popular object is the demise of single location businesses and the domination of retail chain stores. Americans, however, love a deal and few can resist the lure of a huge selection and deep discounts - even those most adamantly opposed to the retailing giants will at times find themselves at places like Home Depot for AA batteries or perhaps KMart for beach accouterments.
The weaknesses in these places are staff knowledge and quality of goods. To enter a mom and pop, family run specialty shop usually means cutting to the chase - learning what's available, qualitative differences in products and every other nuance. And in the case of smaller operation, all of this can be done quickly. I frequent many of these stores, smaller and larger, and have blogged several - Space Surplus Metals (now gone), Joe's Dairy, Myers of Keswick, Murray's Cheese, Raffetto's, Pearl Paint, Faerman Cash Register, Eileen's Cheesecake, Economy Candy, Canal Rubber, B & H Photo Video, Kate's Paperie, Bleecker Bob's, Strand Bookstore, Met Lumber and Matt Umanov Guitars. Many other places, veritable NYC institutions, have closed, like Industrial Plastics on Canal Street.
Most chains whose primary strength is price, create an illusion of good service and competency with buzz words that I am sure come down from the corporate headquarters. Phrases like "Did I give you excellent service today?" which is really more of an irritant, adding insult to injury. Why tell them the truth when they don't really have the capability of giving you excellent service? How can young workers compete with people who own businesses for decades or even half a century? There are upscale retail chains like Starbuck's and Whole Foods, but the size of their operations still makes it impossible to have the type of staffing you find in a smaller independent retailer, like McNulty's Tea and Coffee. In fact, I just called while writing this with a coffee question - the owner answered and gave me an immediate detailed, informed answer.
I am not a coffee drinker, so my knowledge of McNulty's is from browsing and buying for others. This place has that stamp of authenticity - you can feel it when you walk in - a place for serious coffee buyers managed by serious coffee merchants. McNulty's, established in 1895, is located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village and run buy David Wong, the 7th owner of the shop. There are over 100 teas and 75 kinds of coffee from around the world and of course, many things you won't find elsewhere - that's why we live here and why others visit. Let's hope for survival of the independents and coexistence with the chain stores ...


Wayne said...

I'll bet it smells great in there. Do they have a roaster in there KM? Just look at those bags of beans piled by the door.

Kris said...

I beg your forgiveness for my cutting and pasting – yet constantly reworking – this comment, but there was no way on Earth I would be able to make it around the whole globe to wish everybody a Merry Christmas otherwise.

You cannot know the pain it causes me to admit that I am a mere mortal (and that the magical elves on my staff have little respect for my authority or their salary packages. Consequently, the reindeer are all filthy and out of shape and the elves that have shown up for work all seem a little worse for wear, if you catch my drift. All they seem to do is sit around smoking, playing cards and telling dirty jokes!

Anyway, myself, Henry and Ezra, would dearly like to wish you a Merry Christmas/Winter Solstice/Hanukkah/Festivus and a happy New Year!

We hope that all of your holiday photos turn out to be triumphs, your Yule logs firm and that Santa treats you kindly this year!

Paula said...

I love this place. I live upstate, but a friend who knows how much I love coffee took me there about a year ago and I've tried to stop back in on almost every trip to NYC.

Thanks for the wonderful blog. The daily pictures make me miss New York, but are always a treat.

Happy Holidays!

Fernando Casals said...

Just to say hi! ,and wish you and your love ones a great 2009!
Fernando Casals.
Buenos Aires,Argentina

Shiho said...

McNulty's is my favorite mom & pop coffee shop. I designed their holiday window display and witnessed their warm and friendly service. You can hardly find this from large chain stores. I wish them the best for their business!