At the turn of this century, photographers James and Karla Murray started a project to document New York City’s iconic storefronts. Old haunts that defined a city but are quickly vanishing— shops and bars, mom-and-pop restaurants, clothing stores, pizzerias, diners, night clubs… all little shops that collectively helped characterize the Big Apple. A particular store that caught their attention was a place owned by Jerry Kurowycky. Jerry is a third-generation owner of E. Kurowycky & Sons Meat Market situated on First Avenue in the East Village. It is a Ukrainian butcher shop that once served the neighborhood’s active Ukrainian residents. James and Karla struck up a conversation with him, which they wrote about in their book, Store Front – The Disappearing Face of New York.
Jerry spoke with pride of his shop holding sway to old traditions.
“Nothing has changed,” said Jerry to the photographers. “We use the same family recipes. We are allowed to smoke meats on premises because we are grandfathered in as far as our smoker is concerned since it’s been in operation since the 1920s.” Unfortunately pride in the good old days and ways, would not be enough. The store eventually closed too. Fast forward four year later and things did change.
In 2007 the business that had been owned by the family for over 50 years had to be shut down. The sadder part to this story is that Jerry Kurowycky and his meat shop is just one of many other stores suffering the same fate. Trying their best to preserve, at least in pictures, these old establishments, Store front – The Disappearing Face of New York, is a collection of photographs taken by James and Karla of New York storefronts, then and now, separated by around ten years. The book is composed of before and after photographs, speaking volumes of what is happening, showing the drastic change in single storefronts over the period of a mere ten years or so. James and Karla lamented the changes taking place.
“The changes we have seen in the storefronts of NYC for the most part are unsettling to us because many traditional ‘mom and pop’ neighborhood storefronts that had prevailed in some cases for over a century were disappearing in the face of modernization and conformity and the once unique appearance and character of New York’s colorful streets were suffering in the process.”
See what they have chronicled in Store Front – The Disappearing Face of New York, here.