Monday, June 29, 2009
When I first moved to New York, Broadway was full of old fabric stores--one after the other. You could get lost in them for hours, or even days. One by one they gave way to boutiques: Guess, Mango, Scoop, shoe stores that sell Timberlands and Uggs... Even Canal Jeans Company closed its doors in 2002 (it has since opened back up in Brooklyn). Since I don't go to lower Broadway often, I still expect to see stores in their old locations--Pearl River, or the American Indian store that has moved at least twice. I get very confused when I suddenly see something on the other side of the street, momentarily questioning if I am going North or South. That's why I really enjoyed walking into P+S Fabrics (360 Broadway, New York, NY 10013, USA
Phone: (212) 226-1534) today, finding a little piece of the old Broadway that I used to love.
(the cash register)
Away from the hustle and bustle of tourists outside, I found some true New York characters at P+S, starting with its manager, Mark. I asked Mark if I could take pictures of the store, and he said, "Sure, no problem." (He himself was rather camera shy.) P+S has an elaborate yarn corner that stretches out on three walls.
The yarns are mostly discount, Lionbrand (basic Lionbrand, not LB collection) and Bernat, but the store is looking to expand it's selection and will be adding a few more companies from Italy and Austria. P+S is a great place for beginners who want to try their way without breaking the bank.
Aside from yarns--and fabrics, as the name suggests--you can find all kinds of useful things here: boas (synthetic and feather), a huge selection of buttons, needles of any kind (crochet, knitting, sewing, needlepoint...), pattern books, pins, memory wire (to make jewelry), beads, bag handles, fabric dye, shoulder pads, velcro in any width, zippers, pipe cleaners, felt, self-sticking felt letters, and ribbons...
...fabric paint, elastic sewing thread, needlepoint hoops, scissors, tassles, lace hems, and a huge selection of sewing threads...
Downstairs I found more fabric, upholstry, pillows, and foam. P+S is also affiliated with a store in Brooklyn that sells sewing machines.
When I finished browsing, I spent some time at the cash register, waiting to ask Mark a couple of questions. The store was pretty busy. Most of the customers were trying to bargain down the already reasonable prices. Not a problem. Although Mark was very clear on what he was willing to do (or rather not willing to do), he gave each offer consideration. At some point, one staff member approached him while he was on the phone and asked what fabric she was holding. Mark ended his call gently, saying "Wir sprechen spaeter" (Yiddish for "We'll talk later," which I understood because it is the same in German). He grabbed the cloth, lit a lighter, burnt a corner of the fabric, sniffed it, said "silk," and then handed it back to the woman. When I asked to pay for a spool of thread with my card (I had foolishly handed all my cash to my husband earlier), he waved me off and said, "Pay next time."
This is how I remember New York, and this is what I have always loved about the city. You can still find these little enclaves, almost like little kingdoms with their own rules. I asked Mark how long the store had been there, and he told me, "About 25 years." The P+S stands for Palatchik and Spiegel, two partners who originally started the store together. It has always carried fabrics and looks like it will continue to do so for another 25 years or more... As I left I wondered if I might walk out and suddenly find myself 15 years younger, on the old Broadway, in some movie where time is turned back inside of a fabric store. But the banner hanging above the exit jerked me out of my fantasy:
So I stepped back out to the stream of people, and made my way back home for dinner...