When America celebrates her 240th birthday on Monday, Gary Souza will be marking the occasion in a very big way. As a fireworks designer for Pyro Spectaculars, he is responsible for creating and overseeing the wondrous fireworks that make the nation ooh and aah during Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. This year’s show will be Macy’s 40th annual production, a huge milestone for the department store, and will take place over the East River in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.
Pyro Spectaculars is a multigenerational family business begun by Manuel de Sousa after he immigrated from Portugal to the San Francisco area in the early 1900s. Over the years, the business has grown tremendously from creating small fireworks displays to a company that now spans five generations and is responsible for providing fireworks for some of the biggest names in the sports and entertainment industries, including the Winter and Summer Olympics, Super Bowls, Disney, and at concerts for icons such as the Rolling Stones. When it comes to Macy’s, Pyro Spectaculars has a 35-year collaboration with the store that has propelled the fireworks company to develop technology that allows for safer, more elaborate firework creations to come to life.
6sqft recently spoke with Gary to learn about the magnificence of fireworks, what it takes to produce the Macy’s show, and some of the exciting new elements at this year’s display.
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In a city where ever-rising rents often hamper potential small business owners from opening a storefront, mobile retail has become a popular alternative. Food trucks certainly led the way over the last few years, but the business model has spread beyond the culinary world and now includes a flower shop on wheels.
A year ago, Ashley Custer and Kristin Heckler introduced New York to Uprooted Flower Truck. The business parks in neighborhoods around Manhattan to sell their New York-inspired, hand-tied bouquets available in three sizes: studio, loft, and penthouse. The driving force behind Uprooted is to not only bring flowers directly to New Yorkers, but to help people engage with and hopefully gain a deeper appreciation for them. 6sqft recently spoke with Kristin to learn more about this budding business and how it’s developing a unique identity in the city.
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If you head west on the road that winds by the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, there’s a good chance you’ll see New Yorkers dressed in white, playing croquet on a stretch of green lawn. Yes, the sport associated with tea parties and country clubs has a home in New York thanks to the New York Croquet Club. But the club’s dedicated members are not playing the typical backyard version. Instead, they’re playing American Six-Wicket Croquet, an iteration of the sport played in the United States that exists on the croquet spectrum alongside the internationally played Association Rules as well as the widely popular Golf Croquet. American Six-Wicket is an intense game that’s full of strategy, as players try to maneuver balls with their mallets in ways that are hard for those unfamiliar with the sport to imagine.
At the New York Croquet Club’s helm is Peter Timmins, an ambassador for the sport in New York City. Peter tells everyone he meets to give croquet a try at one of the club’s free Monday evening clinics, which is exactly how he was first introduced to it. 6sqft recently spoke with Peter to learn about the complexities and excitement of croquet and why there is nothing better than playing the sport in Central Park.
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For many smear-loving New Yorkers, there’s no better way to usher in the weekend than with a bagel and lox. And one of the companies keeping this culinary tradition alive is Brooklyn-based Acme Smoked Fish, a family business that traces its roots back to 1906 when Harry Brownstein started selling fish out of a wagon.
For over 100 years, members of the Brownstein and Caslow families have been providing New York with smoked salmon, herring, fish salads, and other specialties. Adam Caslow and his cousin David Caslow are part of Acme’s fourth generation, continuing to grow the company and adapt to the city’s current “Renaissance in appetizing.” 6sqft recently spoke with Adam to learn more about Acme’s rich history, smoked fish, and how he feels about carrying on a family tradition.
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At a time when the inner workings of so many things have been demystified, magic still has the ability to stump us. But for magicians to make tricks look seamless, a tremendous amount of time is invested in perfecting the craft and engaging with colleagues who can help them grow and develop their skills. And in New York, magic is cultivated on a daily basis above the hustle and bustle of 34th Street at Tannen’s Magic.
The business has been serving the magic community since Louis Tannen opened a street stand in 1925. He later took the business indoors, where it became a gathering place for magicians of all ages and skill levels to purchase and practice their tricks. The current keeper of Tannen’s tradition is Adam Blumenthal, who fell in love with magic at a young age, in part thanks to the store, and is now responsible for ensuring its legacy and introducing it to a new generation of magicians. 6sqft recently spoke with Adam to learn more about magic, Tannen’s, and New York’s magicians.
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While temperatures outside are still a bit chilly, New York’s devoted wetsuit-clad surfers at Rockaway Beach are not deterred. Right now they have plenty of room in the water, but in the next few weeks there will be a bit more traffic when the busy summer crowds arrive at this popular surf spot. Amongst the experienced longboarders and shortboarders, there will be a fair number of newbies who’ll be starting their surfing journey under the guidance of Frank Cullen and the New York Surf School.
Frank has deep roots at Rockaway Beach. He first began surfing with the local guys during summers and later founded the New York Surf School there. When not out teaching kids and adults how to catch a wave, Frank is also a real estate broker working in Rockaway and parts of Brooklyn. Given his connection to the beach as a surfer and local resident, while also dabbling in local real estate, it goes without saying that he possesses a unique perspective on the changes taking place at Rockaway Beach.
6sqft recently spoke with Frank to find out more about surfing at Rockaway Beach, the New York Surf School, and to find out how he thinks the neighborhood will continue to change in the coming years.
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An early appreciation for science can lead to a lifelong passion for the subject, but it can be a challenge to get elementary, middle and high school students excited about the sciences from inside the classroom, which is where the BioBus comes in. The mobile science lab was founded in 2008 by Ben Dubin-Thaler, who has a PhD in Biology from Columbia University. The bus began “as an experiment to test his hypothesis that, given the opportunity to use research-microscopes to perform live experiments, anyone would be excited about science.” To test his hypothesis, he purchased a bus on Craigslist and transformed it into a mobile laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art microscopes that could travel to students. The bus now serves thousands of New York City students and has a sister in the BioBase, located at the Lower East Side Girls Club, a hub created so that bus’s lessons can be expanded upon through additional programming.
BioBus’s Chief Scientist Sarah Weisberg is a great example of what’s possible with careers in science. While she originally envisioned working in academia as a researcher, she found her passion for science programming and advocacy through BioBus. She is now hard at work growing the organization and its mission of presenting science in a fun, accessible way to children. 6sqft recently spoke with Sarah to learn more about the BioBus and how it’s helping young New Yorkers discover their inner scientists.
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At a time when Batman and Captain America are all over the big screens and sports culture is becoming increasingly digital, one might think superheroes’ and athletes’ presence on paper is waning. But collecting cards and comics is alive and well in Yorkville, where Alex’s MVP Cards and Comics has everything an X-Men-, Archie-, or sport-loving aficionado could want.
Alex Gregg first opened a store on the Upper East Side 27 years ago. The business grew out of his own personal collection and interest and is now the place to locate that latest rookie card, newest comic, or buy a piece of memorabilia. Alex certainly knows a great deal about history – particularly New York history – having worked for 22 years as a bartender at the famed (and now closed) establishment Elaine’s. 6sqft recently spoke with Alex about how cards and comics have both changed and remained the same and about his days at Elaine’s.
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New Yorkers tend to have go-to writers who they read day in and day out — with their morning coffee, on the subway, or winding down after a long day. For many, Jason Gay is on this team of journalists. As a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, he regularly provides sports coverage, insights, and opinions for the paper’s readership. He writes extensively about specific players and teams, but also pens features that touch upon the human aspects and humor that can be found on and off the court.
Jason has become known for his funny rule-centric columns, including the very popular “The 32 Rules of Thanksgiving Touch Football” and “The 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym.” This passion for rules took shape as a book, “Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living,” which takes seemingly banal topics — parenthood, exercise, office life, travel, and the holidays — and celebrates how the smallest accomplishments in life are often the most meaningful.
6sqft recently spoke to Jason about sports, writing for the Journal, and how “Yankees World Championships are like real estate closings.”
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As the co-founder and co-owner of The Gefilteria, a Brooklyn-based gefilte fish manufacturing business, Liz Alpern is hard at work making sure there’s plenty of her product for her customers to serve at their Passover seders in just a week.
Gefilte fish is a dish surrounded by lots of opinions; at seders, it’s just as common for someone to ask for seconds as it is for others to kindly offer the dish to their neighbor. Liz understands this range of feelings, as she’s found herself on both sides of it. When she was younger, she didn’t partake in the course, but in adulthood, she was introduced to homemade gefilte fish– instead of the pre-made variety found on store shelves–and a love affair began that developed into The Gefilteria, which she co-founded with Jeffrey Yoskowitz in 2012.
6sqft recently spoke with Liz to discuss the founding and evolution of The Gefilteria, how they’re casting the Passover staple in a new light, and what it means to be part of her customers’ seders.
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