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Willie's Says Farewell

Willie's Dawgs, the hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand on Fifth Avenue between Fourth and Fifth, closed as planned last week, after four years in business. Here's the sign they posted on their door:

As well as some cute children's drawings and a little note from Tom, the owner:


Business of the Week: Tarzian Hardware, Celebrating 90 Years

This article originally appeared on Patch.

The story of Tarzian Hardware, like so many other mom and pop shops in this neighborhood and city, is a story of the American Dream. 

Charles and Sophie Tarzian
Charles Tarzian came over from Armenia as an infant, and after growing up in Brooklyn and getting married, he and his brother decided to go into the hardware business. They looked at a couple locations, including a spot on Flatbush Avenue, but finally settled on a storefront at the corner of Seventh Avenue and First Street.  Tarzian Brothers Hardware and Appliances first opened its doors there in 1921 (the site today is a laundromat). 

A turpentine bottle from the 1930s, with the business' original name
In 1929, they moved up the street to 193 Seventh, which today is the northernmost of the three storefronts currently occupied by the store. They expanded into the full space in the 1960s, and in 1976 they opened Tarzian West across the street, which sells housewares and kitchen supplies. They're no longer affiliated with that store, even though they still share a name. 

"The only time we ever came close to closing down was right after the Depression, as World War II was breaking out," John Tarzian, the third-generation owner, told me.

On the verge of shuttering after taking a hit during the 30s, Charles and his wife Sophie were forced to devise a new tactic to bring people to the shop.

"Back during the war it was illegal to keep your lights on at night, so the German bombers wouldn't be able to see the city. Charles got a part-time job giving out tickets to those who left their lights on. There was a way around the ban, though. You could leave your lights on if you had heavy drapes and a fire bucket. So he directed them to Tarzian Hardware, of course," he said, laughing. "Business picked right back up."

View from the entryway. There was originally a large horseshoe-shaped counter at center.
Charles' son, Harry, took over after Charles retired in the 60s, and his son in law, John, runs the business today. In 1996 they underwent a thorough renovation, modernizing the store and installing a new sign. The only remaining relics of the past are the tin ceiling and an old rickety staircase leading down to the basement. 

The ancient basement staircase
Walking into the store today surrounds you with every possible item you can think of that might be useful in your apartment.

It may appear cluttered but if you look closely it's apparent that everything is carefully organized, from paint to showerheads to "granny carts." If you can't find something, the salespeople, many of whom have been working there for well over a decade, can point you in the right direction.

"There were seven hardware stores on Seventh Avenue in the 1960s, and today Tarzian is the only one left," said Tarzian. "We've worked really hard to make sure that we stick around."

Hard work, personalized service, quality merchandise, and maintaining strong ties to the community and its residents have kept the store open for 90 years, and hopefully will for many years to come.

A view of the block in the 1990s. Tarzian is at left.
Tarzian Hardware, 193 7th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-788-4120.


Sponsored Post: Come to Da Nonna Rosa's Super Bowl Party

On Sunday the Sixth, the Steelers will be facing off with the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Looking for a place to watch the game? Head to Da Nonna Rosa's second floor tap room, where $20 will get you two free beers of your choice, plus access to a buffet of appetizers including wings, mozzarella sticks, and chicken fingers. If you want some pizza while you're watching the game there (and you will), all pies (square or round) will be just ten bucks. 

Note: The price was misquoted earlier as $10. Apologies for the confusion. 


Friday Foodporn: Scalino

Scalino is an unassuming 3 1/2 year-old Italian trattoria on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Tenth Street. With its large windows, blue and yellow outdoor color scheme, and simple brick interior it's one of the more attractive restaurants in the area, and it's serving up some surprisingly good food. Scalino is a real hidden treasure; I might even go so far as to say that it's the best Italian restaurant on Seventh. 

The simple, rustic decor is echoed in the food, and the menu changes according to what's fresh and in season. It's all prepared as simply as possible, but with plenty of care. You can tell there's some skill at work here, even in the pasta dishes, some as simple as tagliatelle tossed with herbs and lemon. The daily specials are the real draw here, although the small regular menu is always well-curated (try the osso bucco with lentils, you won't be disappointed). The portions aren't massive, but the food is high quality and there's no gloopy red sauce in sight. Case in point: some grilled tuna over a salad of green beans and cherry tomatoes, tossed in an onion vinaigrette, above.

Owner Mateo Yaksick is almost always there, catering to a group of loyal regulars. He's from Pittsburgh, so don't be surprised if you see a Terrible Towel or some Iron City Beer around (The beer is for decoration only; "I'm not afraid to say that it's absolute shite," Yaksick told me. If you're not a Steelers fan I'd advise not dropping by on Super Bowl Sunday, but if you haven't eaten here yet I'd seriously recommend stopping in next time you're looking to discover a new neighborhood gem. 

Scalino, 347 7th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-840-5738.


The Cutest House on Fifteenth Street

It's between Fifth and Sixth, and is set so far back from the street that the odds are it's the oldest surviving structure on the block. My guess is that it was built in the 1860s. Here it is on a map from 1880: