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Then and Now Thursday: The Minerva Theater, In The Words of Pete Hamill

One of the strangest-looking buildings in the neighborhood stands at 419 Seventh Avenue, on the northeast corner of Fourteenth Street. It has a facade of uneven brick, an exposed beam, and a completely incongruous two-story addition slapped on top. The two storefronts inside have been vacant for years.

The building has a long history, though, and it's nearly impossible to tell by looking at it that it was once home to a theater. 

First opened in 1912 as the Palace, it was later renamed The Armory and in 1941 it became The Minerva, which it remained until closing in the 1950s. No old photos of the theater remain, unfortunately (if you find one let me know; I'm dying to see what this place looked like in its prime).

I recently had the incredible opportunity to sit down for a conversation with journalist Pete Hamill, Park Slope native and author of one of the finest memoirs ever written, A Drinking Life. We discussed his experience growing up in the neighborhood during and after World War II, as well as his thoughts about the changes Park Slope has gone through. Our chat will be published on this site in a series, starting next week. Here's a little teaser, about the Minerva:

"One thing that's not in Park Slope now--something that happened after The War--was the youth gang culture. The south side of Ninth Street was the territory of The Tigers, who hung around the front of what was then the Minerva Theater. The building is more or less still there, but that was one of the first casualties of television.

"It played some of the worst movies in the history of the world. They had a version of King of Kings, which is about Jesus, that was a silent movie with some kind of crazy soundtrack. They had a copy of it that didn't even have titles at the beginning! I don't know where it was from; today they're probably selling it on Canal Street.

"It was full of all kind of rowdies. The Tigers one time in the place, they went in to watch some movie. They were all sitting together in the orchestra, and they brought screwdrivers with them and unscrewed the whole aisle. And at the break they went out onto Seventh Avenue with the whole aisle! And the owner was a guy named Seymour, he knew that if he called the cops they'd probably burn the joint down in retaliation. And they dropped it over by The Factory and had a big laugh, and they never replaced it! So there were four or five rows, then an empty space, and then another six rows to the back of the theater.

"But it was a lot of fun. It was the kind of movie house where the kids talked when the actors talked, and when the action came on they were all quiet. You know, when the cowboys were shooting people."


Closed for Business: Wndrlnd, 347 Fifth Avenue

Wndrlnd, the signless woman's shoes and accessories store on Fifth Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, has shuttered.

The shop (pronounced "Wonderland"), was apparently a female-oriented spinoff of Premium Goods, the shoe store located directly next door, but when I called Premium Goods (just to figure out the name of the store, which is never good for business), the man who answered the phone told me that they weren't affiliated. Possibly ownership changed recently.

As mentioned above, it's always a good idea to put the name of your store somewhere on the storefront itself (!), or else people will have no idea what you are or how to find you.


Avon Cosmetics Coming to 479 Fifth Avenue


Have you always dreamed about being an Avon Lady Independent Sales Representative? Well here's your chance! Avon will be opening up a store on Fifth Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets, in the former Sea World Fish Market space, and they're now hiring. 


A Peek Inside Kulushkat Gourmet Falafel

Co-owner Andrew Rowley behind the counter

I dropped into Kulushkat, the falafel restaurant coming to Dean Street just east of Fifth Avenue, and things are really coming along. All the cooking equipment, tables, and chairs are in place (along with a flatscreen TV), and co-owner Andrew Rowley told me that they're just waiting on the final go-ahead from the city, which could come in as soon as two weeks.

We also had a chance to chat about the philosophy behind the restaurant, which uses recipes handed down from co-owner Yagil Kadosh's family.

"I'm not lying when I say that this is the best falafel I've ever had," Rowley said. "We're using the highest quality ingredients we could find, but that's not enough. It's about making each dish as if we're cooking it for ourself. Nothing tastes good if it's not made with love."


Closed for Business: Harry Boland's Pub, 297 Ninth Street

Harry Boland's, the low-key Irish pub on Ninth Street just west of Fifth Avenue, has closed. They were seized by the city for nonpayment of taxes back in February, but re-opened in March thanks to the help of some loyal regulars. Apparently that wasn't good enough, though, as the storefront has been sealed shut for the past week and the its phone has been disconnected.

I had the opportunity to drop in a couple months ago and chat with some regulars as well as bartender Brian Demoy, who filled me in on the bar's history (apparently it goes back to the 40s, and was called C.J.'s). It had a couple great nooks as well as one of the best darts areas I've come across in the city. There was nothing wrong with the bar in particular; it just didn't really differentiate itself from the pack and never drew huge crowds. Combine that with tax evasion, and it's a recipe for disaster.

Believe it or not, this is the first pub in the neighborhood to close since Mooney's a few years ago, which re-opened as the great Sharlene's. Turn-key bars tend to transfer from one owner to another, though, so hopefully some enterprising entrepreneur will come along to take advantage of the opportunity.