The urban lens

Featured Story

Features, History, photography, The urban lens

The Luncheonette, Privilege Signs, James and Karla Murray, disappearing storefronts, NYC mom and pops

6sqft’s new series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In the first installment, award-winning authors and photographers James and Karla Murray brought us 15 years of images documenting the changing storefronts of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Now they share more amazing images, this time of privilege signs, an industry term for the promotional signs installed by large corporations on storefronts. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on 6sqft? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

Privilege Signs are an industry term for the promotional signs installed by large corporations such as Coca-Cola and the Optimo Cigar Company. They were popular in the 1930s through 1960s and received their name because store owners were given the “privilege” of completing the signs with their own copy. Large companies benefited from the signs because they were an easy way of weaving a marketing campaign right into a building’s façade. The signs were not only given free to store owners, but they also brought people into the store with instant brand recognition.

Today, they read retro and antique, standing out as a testament to a business’ ability to endure even in the face of the monumental challenges in a city known for its rapid pace of change. When compiling our books on disappearing storefronts, we were immediately drawn to facades that still had these type of signs, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorites ahead.

See all the photos ahead

Featured Story

Features, gentrification, Greenwich Village, History, photography, The urban lens

O. OTTOMANELLI & SONS PRIME MEAT MARKET, NYC signage

6sqft’s new series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. To kick things off, award-winning authors and photographers James and Karla Murray bring us 15 years of images documenting the changing storefronts of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on 6sqft? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

Bleecker Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue South was once a huge Italian enclave with many traditional “mom and pop” stores catering to the large Italian families who resided in the neighborhood. By the late 1930s, it also had a significant bohemian population with many artists, writers, poets and musicians living in the area who set up galleries, coffee houses and music shops. Due to widespread gentrification and escalating real-estate values, the neighborhood has changed drastically and its unique appearance and character is suffering.

We are here to take you on visual tour to experience how many of the truly authentic shops remain on this venerable Greenwich Village street, and to show you what has replaced the ones that have vanished. Many of the shops you’ll encounter ahead have been featured with full-color photographs and insightful interviews with the store owners in three of our widely acclaimed books on the subject, but we’ve also rounded up several more ahead.

Walk the Greenwich Village of yesteryear and present

Featured Story

Features, Greenwich Village, photography, The urban lens, West Village 

Bob Estremera, NYC architectural photography, black-and-white photography, Greenwich Village photos

When we talk about the allure of Greenwich Village, we’re often referring to it in past tense, reminiscing about the good old days of folk music, ridiculously cheap apartments for artists, and the free-spirited bohemians that transformed the enclave into a cultural hub. And when we do talk about the Village in present tense, it’s often because we’re examining gentrification, whining about those pesky NYU students, or looking at the ever-rising rents.

But if we stop feeling bitter about the fact that we can’t get a $600/month studio there anymore, the Village still has plenty of charming and quirky storefronts, buildings, and characters. Photographer Bob Estremera captured this essence of the neighborhood in an impromptu rainy-day photo shoot that reminds us to take the time to look around and appreciate the small things.

See all the amazing black-and-white photos here

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