Friday, November 14, 2008


Aquavit, located in New York City's lap of luxury, is within walking distance of the St. Regis Hotel, Trump Tower, Tiffany's, Cartier, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman.
Aquavit opened in 1987 on West 54th Street in a Rockefeller family townhouse. Twenty years later it remains one of the city's premiere restaurants due to the brilliance of chef/co-owner Marcus Samuelsson's cuisine.
Born in Ethiopia, orphaned at three, adopted by a Swedish couple, Samuelsson grew up in Gotesborg, Sweden where his grandmother taught him about food. He studied at the Culinary Institute there. In 1991, at 21, Samuelsson apprenticed at Aquavit and before working at Georges Blanc, a three-star Michelin restaurant, near Lyon, France. Four years later he became Aquavit's executive chef. He scored three-stars from The New York Times in 1995 and 2001 and has received the James Beard Foundation award - “Best Chef in New York City.”

Samuelsson serves innovative yet traditional Scandinavian cuisine. He layers flavors and textures creatively which enhances but does not overwhelm the meal. His wild-striped bass with chorizo, langoustine, Napa sauerkraut, potato aioli sauce and broccoli puree and the spice smoked salmon plate with espresso sauce and goat cheese ice cream bursts with flavor. The beer-braised short ribs with celeriac puree, asparation and hop sauce proved mouth-watering.
Aquavit gets ninety percent of its fish from the North Atlantic and Scandinavian waters. Samuelsson understands sustenance. As a boy he hunted for mushrooms and fished. “It's important to stay aware of sustainability issues, know what's being over fished and buy accordingly,” he told The Good Life magazine.

Presentation is important. The Arctic Circle dessert presented with a white colored cylinder of frozen goat cheese and lemongrass parfait with blueberry sorbet filled and a bright yellow colored curd is a work of art.
Traditional favorites, Salmon Gratin, Swedish meatballs and lax pudding are served in the sun-lit café. The Inca grey-slate bar/lounge features Jacobsen's Egg and Swan chairs and hand-blown glass jars filled with assorted flavors of homemade Aquavit. The staff is professional and very knowledgeable.

Aquavit moved to East 55th Street, near Park Avenue, two years ago. The warm, elegant dining room has three large circular-shaped skylights, soothing green leather/fabric banquettes against stained oak walls, and walnut floors.
Samuelsson serves on the board of Careers through Culinary Arts Program. It prepares inner-city students for restaurant careers with scholarships, training and placement. He is the spokesman for the UNICEF's U.S. Fund, which supports tuberculosis programs in developing countries.
He has hosted the Discovery Channel's show “Inner Chef” and has authored several books including “Aquavit: And The New Scandinavian Cuisine,” and The Soul of a New Cuisine,

Aquavit at 65 East 55th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues New York, is located next door to the famed Friars Club...Hours: Sun-Thu 12pm-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm, Fri 12pm-2:15pm, 5:30pm-10:45pm, Sat 5pm-10:45pm; 212 593-0287.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


James Columbus Hicks, known to hundreds of people he greeted everyday as the mayor of Ninth Avenue, died on May 12, at 81.
Mr. Hicks died in front of his home, The Whitby,
on West 45th Street. The cause of death was a heart attack.

A fixture on Ninth Avenue for years, his domain stretched from 42nd to 45th streets. From six a.m. to early evening Mr. Hicks frequented the 44th Street Newsstand, Westway diner, Bread Factory and his favorite place, Thrift and New Shoppe on 43rd where he chatted with friends, strangers and tourists.

Many people are given labels such as mayor or chairman of the board but Mr. Hicks earned his distinction. Kind, gracious, with a warm and generous personality that engulfed all who knew him, Mr. Hicks had the ability of changing one's nightmarish day into one filled with seashells and balloons. He had a brilliant smile and a hearty, infectious laugh.

Furaha Moye, a niece, described Mr. Hicks as generous, dependable, trustworthy, loving and witty. "He was always ready to help a friend," she said.

You chuckled whenever you heard Mr. Hicks call out to a fifty plus year-old man "Hey kid! Have a good day" followed with a handshake or fist tap with the person he greeted. Spry, charming, and a true gentleman Mr. Hicks was popular with the ladies. He would eagerly hug an octogenarian as he would a twenty-something and greet all with "Who is this beautiful gal."

A world War II veteran and a member of the Service Employees International Union. Mr. Hicks called Clinton/Hell's Kitchen home for the past 40 years.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, the youngest of five children, Mr. Hicks, a lifelong bachelor, had no children but was a godfather to several.

At his funeral service at Holy Cross Church, his goddaughter Christiana, battling back tears, spoke eloquently about how much he meant to her.

"He was like a father. He was always there for me," she said. Christiana recounted how Mr. Hick's would wait with her for the school bus every morning. "If I was running late James would make the bus driver wait. He never let the bus leave without me."

Minas Demetri, owner of the Thrift and New Shoppe, knew Mr. Hicks for over 20 years. "He was very upbeat and full of energy. One day he walked into my shop and he never left. From that day on we became great friends. He was well liked by everyone. He had a wonderful personality," Mr. Demetri said.

"He did so many things for me. He went to the bank, he swept the sidewalk but more importantly he kept me company. He was like family."

Mr. Hicks wore straw hats or fedoras. He enjoyed wearing dressy tropical shirts with bright floral patterns. He had style and class. At his funeral at Holy Cross Church,
Metropolitan Opera star Aprile Millo sang the Ava Maria and The Lord's Prayer.

He was an avid collector of art deco vases, African figurines and elephants. "He loved elephants," Mr. Minas said. He had elephants made of gold, ceramic, wood, some were small, others two feet high.

In the early 1990's, after he collected his 500th elephant Mr. Hicks threw a caviar and Moet Chandon party in his apartment. "We had a fun time," Mr. Demetri said. "He threw another party after he collected his 1000th elephant. He probably had over 1600, all with the trunk up. Just like the life he led, always looking up, always looking at the brighter side."

Besides his niece Furaha Moye, Mr. Hicks is survived by his sister, Ernestine Moye, both of Rochester, NY; and nieces Jeanine Taylor of Brodentown NJ, and Paula Taylor of Baltimore; nephews Sylvester and Blair Taylor, of Baltimore, and Paul Hicks of Washington, DC.


Thursday, October 9, 2008


Although Hell's Kitchen has more restaurants than Howard Johnson has ice cream flavors, (28 if you are wondering), Chelsea Grill has carved a solid niche in a neighborhood teeming with good places.

Co-owner James Barker has created his dream place, a 1940's New York style restaurant/bar, which he opened with Phil Alotta, in 2003. "I wanted a place where people can hang out, enjoy good food and drinks in a relaxed, upbeat atmosphere," Barker said.

His formula has worked. Chelsea Grill has a strong neighborhood following and reflects the diversity of Hell’s Kitchen. It draws actors from Broadway and Off-Broadway. When asked to name some celebrity customers, Barker smiled and refused to divulge house secrets.

"I can be on Page 6 often,” he said referring to the New York Post's gossip page. I respect my customers privacy.”
Chelsea is not just a showbiz hangout but popular with theatergoers and the midtown business crowd.

The dining space is comfortable. Tables up front face a garage-style door with large glass windows. Old black and white photographs hang from brick walls. Tiffany chandeliers hover over the bar. The back dining room has two stained glass windows and a gold-framed original painting of a busy restaurant. A brown floral designed fabric covers the banquette. The slate tiled floor has splashes of grey, blue, green, and brown coloring.

Five plasma televisions, positioned around the room that seats 50 plus another sixteen at the mahogany bar, show sports or major events like the Oscars/Tony. On a Friday night the buzz from the crowded bar did not overwhelm the dining room crowd. Great music filtered throughout the room.

Along with places like P.J. Clarke's
and St. Andrew's Chelsea Grill is part of the city's rich tradition where food and drink share equal billing but there are few places where the owner plays as active a role as Barker.

The 35-year-old Long Island native started out as a dishwasher at 14. He has worked as a prep cook, salad, and sandwich maker. While tending bar in college he decided to go into the business. "I learned a lot working in small town North Carolina," he said. "Many customers lived there. If you messed up, you got an earful."

He has applied this experience to Chelsea. "I know many customers by name," he said. "If I do wrong, I expect them to tell me. His reasonably priced menu is American eclectic. Servings are large. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.

His mostly sirloin filled hamburgers are juicy. The Everything Burger has mushrooms, apple wood smoked bacon, sautéed onions, American and cheddar cheese. The bacon wrapped meatloaf served with roasted garlic, sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes draws raves.

On the lighter side, try the coriander crusted tuna salad served with mixed organic greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and orange sesame vinaigrette. The Tuscan grilled vegetable platter with marinated zucchini, squash, eggplant and roasted red peppers is delicious. The Grill has a good selection of wines and beers.

Chelsea Grill is a popular brunch spot. Try the Hungry Man Special: two pancakes, three eggs, bacon and sausage after your weekend workout, or Mary and the Boys, a Bloody Mary with two jumbo shrimps dangling from the glass.

When asked about his formula for success Barker said, “We have great food and excellent service. We treat our customers first-rate.”

Chelsea Grill, 675 Ninth Avenue between 46th & 47th Streets. Kitchen open Sun-Tues until 2a.m. Wed-Sat until 3a.m. For information call 212-974-9002 Photo by Straycat

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Christine Fellows knew she needed her own shop when her work began spilling out of her spare bedroom into the rest of the apartment. "I came home one day and Kevin, my husband, cried 'You have to do something about this,'" referring to the clothes and boxes piled throughout their Hells Kitchen flat, she said. For a time she worked out of a storage unit before opening Couture du Jour, her vintage clothing and luxury goods boutique, in the basement of a tenement in Hell’s Kitchen.

Undaunted by its location, six-steps below street level and two doors away from a troubled SRO, Fellows took a shabby space and created a bright stylish shop. This attractive 450 square foot shop is cozy yet spacious for a handful of visitors to browse comfortably. Wood floors, track lighting, a huge mirror, shelves and racks filled with an amazing collection of dresses, blouses, pins, earrings, and much more create a toy land-like experience for adults.

For many people vintage means worn and cheap. At Couture everything is in mint condition. Fellows buys clothes and accessories with today's woman in mind. “If you need an accessory to complement a work outfit or if you need a dress for a picnic or evening wear, I have it."

Born in Miami Beach, Fellows grew up in Atlanta and attended school in the south. She identifies closely with her southern roots but is very much a New Yorker. "This is my city and where I want to be. Paris is the only place that could take me away from here," she said.

Fellows started as a deejay and arts critics at Florida State's public radio station. Then she worked for independent and punk rock labels in Los Angeles. Tired of the cutthroat entertainment business and in desperate need of change she went to Hawaii for vacation. She fell in love with the island's beauty and stayed for several years. She worked as a mortgage broker but soon opened a consignment shop. Having worked at Bloomingdale's Fellows loved retail and interacting with people, plus Hawaii had only three consignment shops.

She is the ultimate people person. Friendly and gracious with an engaging personality and a warm beautiful smile, Fellows has a sharp business mind and a keen eye for fashion. She attributes this to her Bloomingdale days. "I learned how women shop, what they like, how they expect to be treated and how they spend money,” she said.

In 1999 she sold her shop and moved to New York with her husband, who she met in Hawaii. Fellows worked for a research group when she moved here but grew bored. "I like making change for a living and meeting people" she said.

She attended a vintage clothes show with
avant-garde artist Julia deVille.
"I fell in love with it all," she said. "I knew I could do it." She researched the business, frequented shows and felt the city had a large enough market.

Fellows has a discerning eye for quality and style.
On a recent visit Fellows showed off her Bangle bracelets, Boucher costume jewelry, Donald Brooks evening wear; and cotton Shaheen MUMU's with colorful floral patterns.

Vintage looks expensive but there is something for all tastes. Prices range from $20 to $1000. "There is always the sale rack," she said. _

Fellows loves Hell's Kitchen. It is a socially active, creative community. It is vibrant and full of many interesting people, she said. Her clients are locals, theatergoers, tourists, garment center, Broadway and a few celebrities.

One day several ladies from the Midwest stopped in. A voice
from behind the dressing room curtain asked Fellows for a certain dress. A minute later a six-foot-tall drag queen in high heels walked out from behind the curtain. "The looks on their faces were priceless," she said. Visiting Couture is also priceless.

Couture du Jour, 349 West 44th; Hours Wed-Sat. 12-7 Hours; Available for private appointments; 646-595-6351; Photo by Straycat

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


After a five-year hiatus Floating the Apple is back on Pier 84.
This time home is not old cargo containers on a crumbling pier. Home is a large boathouse on a new Pier 84, the gem of the Hudson River Park,
a network of pier parks stretching from Battery Park City to 59th Street.

FTA, a non-profit co-founded by Mike Davis, has called Pier 84, located at 44th Street and 12th Avenue between the Circle Line
and Intrepid Museum home from since 1992.

Unlike the volatile currents of the Hudson, FTA's mission has remained steady: promote community boating and access to the Hudson which Davis calls "our greatest open space."

FTA has succeeded on both counts. FTA has built 20 boats. In the past FTA used loaned storefronts on busy midtown streets as workshops. The new building, an 80 by 40 feet space, is a workshop and storage facility. Davis hopes to establish a maritime library.

Students from the Navy Jr. ROTC program at Graphic Arts High School on West 49th Street build and repair boats while earning school credits. They learn carpentry, boat design, maritime history and ecological science and rowing skills. City-As-School had a similar program with FTA, at the Pier 40 boathouse near Houston Street.

"Several generations of people have had no connection to this magnificent river. We live on an island but we were landlocked," Davis said. "We couldn't even see the water. Huge pier sheds blocked our view.”

Davis speaks with a deep, firm voice. Medium build, with a round, rugged, sea-tanned face with long bushy white eyebrows and a high forehead, Davis resembles a New England ship captain.
"When you are on the river you deal nature's realm, wind, current and weather. You don't quibble with the rules," he said.
Anthony Geathers, a 17-year-old student at Graphic Arts, said "I learn teamwork, responsibility and how to handle a boat. It's exciting.”

Davis, an anthropologist, got his idea for community boating after visiting Istanbul with the University of Chicago. Rowing on the Bosporus, a narrow strait that separates Istanbul's European and Asian sections, is extremely popular. "This was one of my great experiences. Istanbul and New York were built to be seen from the water," he said.

Returning home he researched local history and discovered New York had its own rowing tradition. Used for commerce, transportation, sport and policing Whitehalls populated the both the city's waters.

Whitehalls are built for speed, yet sturdy enough to handle wakes and strong currents. They are also rigged for sailing.
Maritime historians believe the boat's originated in England and came here in the early 1800's. Whitehall boatman got their name from the ferry station near the fireboat pier. Renowned for their exploits the boatmen operated from a cove built by the city to thank them for rescuing passengers from a ferryboat fire. People used the boat to go to work.

Whitehalls plowed the Hudson until the end of World to protect the port against thieves and saboteurs. The boat fueled competitive racing. On a cold December day in 1824 over 50,000 people, crammed the Hudson waterfront to watch the Whitehall boatmen defeat the legendary Thames men from England.

This summer FTA offered free rowing Thursday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to sunset. In late August FTA staged its annual evacuation from Brooklyn, a re-enactment of the dramatic rescue of 9,000 men of George Washington's Revolutionary army. Fall events are planned.

"We welcome all who want to learn about boating and the river. I want to get as many people out on the water as possible." Davis said.
“But free community boating can only succeed with a strong core of volunteers and we need help”.

Editor’s Note: Mike Davis died November 2, 2008.
*PHOTO by Merecedes Fanchin: Mike Davis and students rowing on the Hudson off Pier 40 in lower Manhattan

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I entered cyberspace as alley cat. It is an odd sobriquet for someone who grew up on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan. My block is home to the Actor’s Studio,
and the New Dramatists in the once tough Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, home of the murderous Irish gang, the Westies.

City slicker, Broadway shuffle, forty-deuce, floozy, over-the-pan (our version of stick ball), stoop ball, knickers, (my grammar school, Holy Cross, made us wear them until the second grade) would have made sense. Friends laughed when I made my Internet debut as alley cat. Some thought I gave them a link to a porn site or a Chelsea boy hustle club.

Many assumed I liked cats. I never had one. I had hamsters, turtles, parakeets, a rabbit, a chick, (my mother baked it, by accident, in a hat box. A twelve-year-old friend told her to place a heating pad under the box to keep the chick warm) a dog, goldfishes and a large snapping turtle my mother made me toss in the rowboat lake at Central Park.

In my first apartment I unknowingly had a five-foot snake. The green, yellow, black serpent belonged to the previous tenant who left in a hurry. He owed six months rent, plus the cops wanted to ask him about his son’s “side business” as what else, a cat burglar.

One night the tenant left and took all his belongings. Well, almost everything. He left his pet snake behind. The serpent used to slither around the apartment freely. It disappeared a week before the dude departed and nestled itself behind the refrigerator near the motor. Two weeks later it emerged from its hiding place and startled my friend and super of my building, Francis, as he replaced my living room window. What happened next, you may ask? Alligators are not the only things floating in the city’s sewers.

Let’s return to the name game. I picked alley cat because as a kid I enjoyed watching the cartoon cats - Felix, Sylvester and Krazy Kat. (Years later I loved Broadway’s Victoria, the fetching white feline in the musical Cats. The beautiful, talented Cynthia Onrubia, a neighbor from long ago, originated the role on Broadway.

I liked Top Cat more than any other cartoon. Sassy, smartalecky Bowery Boy with whiskers and tail, Top Cat schemed his way around town and usually outsmarted Officer Dibble. Top Cat made me laugh. He also tweaked my imagination about the world that existed behind the six-story apartment building where I lived. For a seven-year-old boy this world contained mystery and an element of fear.

Many nights long piercing wails, similar to the cries of hungry, sick babies, sliced through the glass panes of my bedroom window. I woke up terrified. Scared and shivering I buried myself deeper under the covers. I knew babies did not live in the basement. Or did they? Hard to imagine these frightening human-like cries or caterwauling came from the alley cats living in the backyards of my block.

Huck Finn had the Mississippi. I had my backyard, a world far different from the busy, noisy streets out front. Not as long as Huck’s River, my backyard extended from Ninth to Tenth Avenues and stretched 21 buildings, including The Actor's Studio and The New Dramatists, two churches originally built for the Presbyterian and Lutheran faiths respectively.

Back then the city’s streets had no trees and flowers, a sharp contrast from today. In a thirty-block stretch we had only one green, leafy, shady oasis, DeWitt Clinton Park.
Hell’s Kitchen, and 44th street in particular, had many trees. They grew tall and lush hidden behind the century old brownstones and apartment buildings on my block. These trees often soared four, five and six stories high.

Ailanthus, the Tree of Heaven, the Poverty Tree, Frances Nolan’s tree in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, grew everywhere. It popped from the sides of buildings, cracks in the ground, from basements, and sewer gratings. It had big leaves and long branches, some extending the width of buildings.

One day I finally found the courage to leave the comfort of my building. I descended the rickety wooden stairwell connecting my building’s lobby to the courtyard and walked thirty feet to the catacomb-like passageway that led to the backyard. When I exited the walkway I discovered a magical place filled with these trees. I found sun-drenched gardens, waist high grass and shrubs and wild sunflowers. In this new playground I climbed old wooden fences and scaled ragged rock walls, some dating back to the 1850’s, which separated the yards.

Behind one building, my current home, my friends and I used to time our climbs or jumps from the six-foot high wall as we ran from one end of the yard to the other side ever fearful of the monster who lived inside the basement, an aging Doberman Pinscher. Once when the super spotted us climbing the fence, he yelled in frustration “Next time I’ll let my dog loose you brats. He eats boys like you.”

Even with this threat we knew this place belonged to us. Boys ruled. No parents to yell at us. No cars racing up the block to run us down. No traffic lights to limit our crossings. No one could stop us; not this super or the old man, who lived in a building in mid-block, the one we called the mad man, the deaf mute, with the large peach-sized lump on his head and a gimpy leg who always tried to whack us with his stick as we ran past him. He could not stop us. Nor could the drunken, chain-smoking, toothless, man who spewed cuss words in between his hacking cough while tossing cigarette butts from his second floor window as he constantly let go with cup-full globs of phlegm scraped up from his mucous clogged lungs. No one stopped us, no one except Big Red.

Red belonged on the Serengeti and not in a city backyard. A domestic cat discarded by his owner Red was a big cat in a little cat’s world. Long haired rusty colored, twice the size of any cat I had ever seen, Red led a colony of 20-30 throwaways.

They all belonged to Red. At least a dozen red colored cats lived in the backyard. Even years after his last sighting, cats with red streaks mixed with their black-gray charcoal colored fur lived on. You knew Red made his mark. Whenever we spotted Red our adventure ended for that day. Red had a tough, mean streak and he scared us.

One summer evening, I watched from the safety of my bedroom window, as a German Shepherd entered the courtyard - a fifty-by-fifty foot space between two buildings, named the Alton, my home, and the Lorraine. About ten cats slept on the wooden staircase. Others rested on metal storage containers, an old refrigerator and trashcans. All the cats scattered quickly when the crazed dog appeared.

Red stayed in his corner, the place where he had humped many a scraggy looking cat and virgin cast-offs. It was the same corner where a few years before the organ grinder and his monkey would sing and dance performing for pennies and nickels tossed down to them by the woman hanging their wash from clothes lines crisscrossing the courtyard from the apartments above.

Trapped between a wall and the garbage chute, Red had no room to run. Before the shepherd pounced on him, Red arched his back, his fur stiffened. As the dog moved closer Red hissed loudly, bared his teeth and swatted his big paw at the dog’s face. With one quick powerful stroke he ripped opened the shepherd’s nose. The dog’s fury disappeared. He whimpered loudly then turned and ran chased by Big Red. The cat earned his place in block lore.

I am no longer an alley cat. I have graduated from email to web searching to the blogosphere. Now I have my own bog and dallied about with many names. I liked streetwalker. It is a perfect fit for me. I have walked all over my city and a few others, but a Filipino office worker already snatched it. His blog www.manilastreetwalker has great photos of Manila and his travels abroad.

So I remain a cat but I have renamed myself stray cat. Alley cat is provincial, territorial. Stray cats roam the streets searching for something different, just like Top Cat. It is a reflection of me, a stray cat in the big city. Hopefully I can skillfully capture and write about what I find and learn from my wanderings and share these things with you.

This blog is not just about my block or Hell’s Kitchen. You will read stories about New York City and points beyond. I shall report, interview and write about people, places, neighborhoods, buildings, urban issues, new developments and the social and historical fabric of this city – things that interest me and hopefully will interest you too.

Please drop in whenever you have a chance. Comments and insights are encouraged. Photos by Straycat

Monday, June 9, 2008


Perhaps it's the red storefront with large picture postcard windows filled with eye-catching merchandise. Possibly it’s the fragrant scent and the eclectic mix of music that embraces one upon entering this homey setting filled with many colorful and splendid items.

One thing is certain Domus; a home/lifestyle boutique is a retail experience unlike any in midtown. Domus, Latin for home, is the creation of Luisa Cerutti and Nicki Lindheimer.

"We enjoy entertaining friends. Domus is an extension of our home," Cerutti said.

Cerutti, from northern Italy, and Lindheimer, a Californian, got the idea for Domus after visiting a boutique in Connecticut. Intrigued by the concept they thought about opening their own store but the economy soured after 9/11.

Cerutti, who worked in fashion, and Lindheimer, a chef, left successful careers and gambled. Their efforts paid off. O, The Oprah Magazine, Country Living and In Style have featured their products. Lucky Magazine placed Domus on its list of 100 city boutiques and praised its “reasonably priced decor and hostessing accoutrements."

Their mission is twofold: share their passion for good taste and improve conditions for marginalized people through fair trade. They do this by traveling to places with rich traditions of art and crafts and buy directly from cooperatives.

Domus prefers handcrafted to mass produced goods.
They are one of twenty shops in the U.S. to sell Arghand soaps from Afghanistan. Creamy, rich in natural oils these long-lasting, hand-molded soaps resemble polished stones. Sarah Chayes, a former NPR correspondent, and author of The Punishment of Virture, started the Arghand co-op to help the local economy. When Oprah featured these soaps and mentioned Domus on her tv show orders orders flowed in for weeks.

Domus carries La Chamba cookware from Colombia. Baking dishes, plates, pots, soup bowls and tureens all made from black clay, burnished and suitable for stove, oven and microwave.

From Kenya they sell stuffed animals made by a six-year-old women’s cooperative. The village has built a clinic, school, and offer literacy classes with the monies earned.

"This is empowering. We help the people who need it most." Cerutti said.

At Christmas they sold ornate glass ornaments from a co-op in India. These women support families and avoid working long hours in sweat shops for far less money.

Domus has table runners, blankets and decorative merino wool pillows with vibrant colors from a Peru cooperative. Four men work nine months to weave one blanket. "We have seen them work. They use only natural materials: flowers, tree bark, leaves, insects and flowers," Cerutti said.

Domus is a treasure chest of wonderful ideas. They sell elegant but moderately priced silk blend shawls from a family in China, and finely-crafted stone boxes, ideal for jewelry and keys, from Vietnam.

They have Vosges chocolates from New York, single-sliced pies from Beatrice Bakery, Treleela teas, beautiful letterpress greeting cards, classic Italian throws made of merino wool or washable acrylic, Voluspa candles, picture frames constructed from broken doors designed by a California artist, stationery, music CD's, sweaters, blankets, cotton organic hoodies and shoes for tots, and much more.

Finding an affordable space and good location proved difficult. It took Domus three months to locate their current landlord and even longer to finalize a lease. They worked around the clock for weeks, up until the night before their 2002 opening, painting, hauling bags of debris, reconfiguring the store, laying new floors, ordering and stocking shelves. “That first day we wondered if anyone would show up,” Lindheimer said.

Each year at the West 44th Street garage sale, Domus, with help from neighbors, raise thousands of dollars for charity. This year they raised over $6,250 dollars for the Global Medical Relief Fund which arranges transportation to the U.S. for children from war ravaged countries in need of prosthetic limbs and medical help.

When asked about doing business in Clinton, Cerutti said, “This a community of artists who appreciate and understand creative work. Even before we opened people offered to help us. This is where we want to be. "

Domus Unaffected Living, 413 West 44th St., 212-581-8099

(Stop by and check out Luisa and Nicki's wonderful new selections from their recent trip to India)

Photo by Straycat