Nyack Sketch Log: Dr. King Compilation

by Bill Batson

Were it not for an assassin in Memphis in 1968, our nation’s Nobel Prize winning champion of nonviolence would have turned 90 years old today, January 15, 2019. In a time of voter suppression and the deployment of crude racial stereotyping to distract from the growth of a foreign-influenced kleptocracy, the annual remembrance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is more urgent than ever. In Nyack, there are two wonderful celebrations of King’s life and legacy on Monday, January 21 at St: One at the St. Charles AME Church at 432 Valentine Avenue, Sparkill (9:00am) and the other at Pilgrim Baptist Church at 80 N. Franklin Street, Nyack (2:00pm).

Dr. King famously observed that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The results of a mid-term election in 2018 that seated the most diverse Congress in history is strong evidence that King’s maxim is true.

Here are four essays and sketches published to celebrate King’s legacy over the last eight years of the Nyack Sketch Log. Below find a link to each. Whether you are commemorating the day through service, or at a public ceremony, the value of having an annual opportunity to refocus our eyes on the prize of social, political and economic equity becomes more apparent.

 

Nyack Sketch Log: Fellowship of Reconciliation
January 17, 2012

This is the house where Martin Luther King would have slept.  Were it not for an assassin in Memphis in 1968, our nation’s Nobel Peace Prize winning champion of nonviolence would have made it to Nyack.  The purpose of his visit would have been to commune with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an organization that shared his philosophy and stood with him during his defining struggle.

 

 

 

Nyack Sketch Log: Dr. King Almost Owned a Gun
January 15, 2013

Would you be surprised to know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a concealed carry gun permit? In his fascinating essay “The Secret History of Guns, Adam Winkler recounts that after King’s Montgomery, Alabama home was fire-bombed in 1956, he applied for a pistol license.  Less shockingly, he was denied.  If King had not been shot down in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, he would surely be speaking out for gun control today. Detractors might have tried to use his Alabama gun application against him. I would have argued that this fact made him an even more reasonable advocate for sensible reform. His voice is sorely missed.

Nyack Sketch Log: Let Freedom Ring, Again, on August 28
August 13, 2013

I was born in the interval between the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, and the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, where four little girls lost their lives. America was at a perilous crossroads. These two months were a time of great uncertainty for our nation: would we embrace Dr. King’s enlightened vision of interracial cooperation, or descend into the anarchy of violence motivated by racial animus?

 

 

Nyack Sketch Log: Suicide by Assassination
April 3, 2018

No one took Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life on April 4, 1968, he gave it. In an act that was the ultimate example of the non-violent philosophy he championed, King absorbed a fatal blow, borne of the racial animus his 14 years of non-stop activism hoped to end. James Earl Ray may have been convicted of killing the anti-racism, anti-poverty and anti-war leader with a Remington Gamemaster rifle, but King consciously signed his own death warrant by living the social gospel of his faith to the letter. In a speech publicly opposing the Vietnam war, given at Riverside Church in New York exactly one year before his death, King said “Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?”

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Dr. King Compilation“ © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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Nyack Sketch Log: Independent Order of Odd Fellows

by Bill Batson

Every time I passed this sign, I struggled to decipher the mysterious acronym. Not knowing the meaning of the hieroglyphic written in glass neon tubing gnawed at me.  And when I finally obtained the answer, I was launched on another voyage of discovery.  What on earth was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and what did they do inside this building at the corner of Franklin and Main Streets?

This three-story brick structure was erected in 1895 as the local lodge for the international fraternal organization. The etymology of the name is more mundane than the evocative word “odd” promises.  Fraternal orders were originally organized around a particular trade, like the Freemasons who were drawn from Masons. Odd Fellows drew their members from various or “odd” trades.

The first Odd Fellows lodge was established in England in the 17th century. The group’s American presence was established in Baltimore in 1819 as an altruistic social organization. When the Nyack lodge was dedicated, the Odd Fellows claimed to be the largest international fraternal organization in the world.

Support for the veracity of the boast comes from Kjeld Tideman, a painter who had a studio in the building in the 1980s and 90s. Kjeld (pronounced Shell) had a childhood memory of seeing an I.O.O.F sign in Oslo, the capital city of his native Norway. When he was setting up his painting studio, he found daguerreotypes among artifacts left behind by the group that gave the appearance that the entire white male population of Nyack belonged to the Odd Fellows.

Several facts about the Odd Fellows distinguish the group from other fraternal organizations. They were the first to accept both men and women in their ranks, and they were the first to build homes for orphans and the elderly. Illustrious past members include Ulysses S. Grant, Wyatt Earp and Charlie Chaplin, an assortment of fellows that some might find odd.

There are still Odd Fellows organizations operating in 29 countries. Nyack’s lodge closed decades ago.

But with theatrical garments, resplendent with elaborately mono-graphed cloaks, upside- down-ice-bucket-shaped-hats, and matching collars and cuffs, the Odd Fellows are very similar to their sibling service clubs.  However, they had nothing to compete with the off-beat practice of the Shriners to appear at public events in miniature cars. I guess if you fund children’s hospitals, you amass the social equity to parade around in whatever strikes your fancy.

The man who solved the riddle of the defunct neon Odd Fellow’s sign for me was Philip Biagioli.  A transplant to Nyack from the Bronx, Biagioli, used to pass a similar display near the Whitestone Bridge. Biagioli, who worked as coordinator of media services for Rockland Community College is the local champion of a national movement to preserve ghost signs, the vanishing commercial messages that are decaying in plain sight in cities across America.

photo credit: Kris Burns

In his campaign to save the numerous ghost signs in Nyack, like Havermales Hardware’s fading advertisement that is across from the I.O.O.F sign, Biagoli hopes to enlist the support of Frank Jump. Jump is the author of the book Ghost Signs of New York and publisher of the Fading Ad Blog.   In an interview with the New York Times, Jump explained. “The sense of urgency I felt every day drove me to document New York’s fading advertisements, and capture the marks left by artists and artisans, most long since dead, who spent their lives painting huge commercial murals over the last 150 years.

As bland, crassly commercial and irrelevant as a sign that lists the items available for purchase at a hardware store that closed decades ago may be, there is something unnerving about a landscape that is constantly in flux.  Freezing the process of public entropy of these signs creates monuments of local archeology that connect the multiple generations that have shared and shaped our village.

There are some philosophical differences among preservationists on this matter.  One camp would like to restore these fading ads to their original mint condition. Others, including Jump, are more ambivalent. In the same New York Times interview Jump said, “Personally, I feel these ads should be left alone to fade into imperceptibility, which is part of their natural life cycle. Although I understand the motivation behind recreating these images to remind us of their former glory, for me, the fading quality of these images is a beautiful process to behold.”

However, Biagioli would like to see the power restored to Odd Fellows sign. His affinity with the group was on display in his recent Christmas card, where he donned the fraternal order’s ceremonial garb.

The tubes that once carried illuminated neon gas in the service of spreading the Odd Fellow message have survived intact. This restoration project should not offend the purists:  It doesn’t need new paint, just a visit by an electrician and the flick of a switch, and voila, the gateway to our downtown business district would have a distinctive historically significant beacon. And as a landmark, Nyack can be proud of the sentiment behind the motto emblazoned on the Odd Fellow’s antique electric billboard, represented by the letters F.L.T: Friendship, Love and Truth.

Originally posted February 5, 2013

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Independent Order of Odd Fellows“ © 2019 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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Nyack Sketch Log: Casa del Sol

by Bill Batson

“Music is the light of the sun at night,” declares a mural on the back wall of this Casa del Sol. Legends of music, both local and far-flung, like Frankie Dee and Bernie Williams, regularly transform a few squares of floor into a magic carpet. A kitchen with a staff that have worked together for decades serve plates that generate testimonials on Yelp. Crowds of art lovers and drum circles fill rooms at monthly Casa hosted confabs. Many return because on the first visit, this casa will feel like yours.

Nyack Sketch Log sat down with owner, Tom Lynch to learn who the house of the sun was built.

How long has Casa been here?

Casa del Sol opened in Nyack in February 1997

Tom Lynch, center

What was here before?

Before it was Casa, it was a Middle Eastern cafe that was famous for their belly dancers.

Describe the first day you walked in?

One the first day we opened, it was a Saturday Night special invite dinner for friends and family. The construction workers were all there still building the bar. At 7 pm when the first guests started arriving, I was still sweeping up the saw dust while Chef Jorge was going over the menu with the staff.

How long have you been at Casa?

Along with myself (22 years), we have Alex (22 years), Juan (20 years), Efran (5 years), Amanda (10+), Carley (12), Elena (5+) & Anna (5+). I’m very fortunate

How did you come to own Casa?

In 2003, Gina the previous owner brought me on as full time manager. Prior to that I was working 3-4 shifts a week bartending. A few years later, she would always say “someday Tommy will buy Casa from me.” By 2013 we started talking more seriously about it and in September 2015 we did it!

Has music always been an important part of the scene?

There’s a mural in the back wall of the dining room that reads “Musica es la luz del sol en la noche”, which translate to “music is the light of the sun in the night”. Live Music has always been a huge part of the fabric of Casa del Sol. Over the years we’ve had some pretty big names perform. Grace Vandeerwal, (America’s Got Talent Winner) and Jermaine Paul (The Voice Winner) have both made appearances at our Thursday Night Casa Jam. Bernie Williams performed recently along with Gil Parris who is a Grammy nominated guitarist.

Those are all some big names and amazing musicians, however the artist that graced our stage that I am most proud of is Pedro Capo. Pedro won a Latin Grammy earlier this year and his latest music video “Calma Remix” has over 150 million Youtube views and counting. To us, he is not the Latin Superstar, he’s just Pedro, part of the Casa family, He worked at Casa on and off for 8 years and played countless shows with his band Rustico Acoustico and was one of original host of the Casa Jam.

What was the best set you’ve seen?

Pedro and Rustico Acoustico had some epic shows back in the day. Both No Discipline and Frankie Dee have been playing regularly at Casa for nearly 20 years. When ever ND plays, Casa turns into a full blown Reggae dance party. (ND will headline Casa’s New Year’s Party this year!)

Frankie Dee is a Nyack legend. His music will take you back in time to a blues club in the 60s or 70s. I’m proud to keep the tradition that he started at the Coven Cafe alive and dancing at Casa del Sol.

The new generation of bands include Dead Meat, Danielle Sheri & Mr Breakdown. All local artist with amazing talent that always draw a great crowd. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dylan Kelehan.

Dylan has been our resident rocker over the years in many, many bands. He was also one of original host of the Casa Jam.

I often catch myself listening to our musicians and thinking how lucky I am to have them perform in my place.

I am proud that we still do not charge a cover charge for our bands!.

When did the Nyack Collective starting holding their monthly exhibits here.

I’d like to think of Casa as a haven for both musicians and artist alike. We host the Nyack Art Collectives First Friday Art Show. The Collective is local group of super talented artist that exhibit their work, auction it off and generally just get together for food and drinks and to display their craft.

Glenn Schloss and his group For Vibration put together a Drink-n-Drum on the 2nd Friday of every month. D&D is a Drum circle and unfortunately any description will not do it justice. Its an experience!!!! Glenn creates a spiritualistic, almost trance-like combination of music, dancing and drumming.

On the 1st Saturday of every month the Rockland Poets host a Poetry Slam. This energetic group is fully organized with judges, scoring and cash prizes.

Nyack Pop-up Chorus is the newest group calling Casa home. They pick an musician or theme and meet up once a month on a Sunday for an evening of singing. They request a small donation to help pay for their band. Its always a fun event for vocalist and the casual singer. Recently they’ve performed songs from the Beatles, Cat Stevens and Tom Petty.

What is your favorite dish?

Picking my favorite dish on the menu is like picking my favorite kid. I’ve always been a “seafood guy” so i would probably pick the Fish Tacos. We change them every week. Some recent favorites were Mahi-Mahi in a Caribbean Jerk-Brown Sugar Sauce w/ Grilled Pineapple and Southern Fried Catfish w/ Red Cabbage Slaw and Srirachi Mayo.

Some of of newer items on the Casa Menu are Sonoran Style Hot Dogs. The Baja Dog is a jumbo hot dog topped w/ chorizo, Mont Jack Cheese, Onions, & Pickled Jalapeños. The Tijuana Dog is a jumbo dog wrapped in bacon and jalapeños, w/ mayo, avocado, pico-de-gallo and cotija cheese.

What are some of the challenges of running a small business in Nyack?

I’d say the biggest challenge of owning a small business in Nyack is dealing with the elements. Trying to get people to come out in the rain, snow or cold weather is always difficult.

What do you do as a Nyack Chamber of Commerce Board member?

I’m entering my 3rd year as a Nyack Chamber of Commerce Board member. The thing that I appreciate most about the Chamber is that we’re always looking to improve on our organization as a whole and all of our events. I feel that as a group, we are all open to fresh ideas and a different ways of thinking or doing things. Along with Melody Patrick, from the Village Parks Department, we put together Nyack’s Earth Day Festival. Earth Day is family friendly festival filled with music, vendors and interactive events for children. Nyack Earth Day Festival 2019 is scheduled for April 27th

What’s your favorite drink to mix?

My favorite drink seems to change every couple of months. Right now its a ‘Mexican Mule’ made with Casamigos Blanco Tequila, Ginger Beer and lime juice.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 is now available at Pickwick Book Shop, Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center, Hickory Dickory Dock, Archive Home and the Nyack Farmers Market or at nyackgift.com. 

Casa del Sol is located at 104 Main Street or visit casaofnyack.com

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Casa del Sol“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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The First Nyack Sketch Log

by Bill Batson

On the occasion of the publication of Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2, here is the first Nyack Sketch Log. I had spent a few weeks during the summer of 2011 sitting around the village, filing the pages of my sketch pad. NyackNewsAndViews publisher Dave Zornow saw me working around town and asked if I would submit a drawing with a caption. Twelve hundred words and one sketch later, the Nyack Sketch log was born. Even though Dave was concerned I did not know the meaning of the word “caption,” he offered me a weekly column.

My first essay was more about the absence of a place than what was in front of me as I sat on the curb at the corner of Liberty Street and Depew Avenue. I was mourning the loss of a middle-class African American neighborhood, where my grand mother had once owned a home. The house that I chose to draw is similar to ones demolished by fiat through the use of eminent domain during Nyack’s Urban Renewal period.

Here’s the essay and drawing that launched hundreds more. Information about how to buy Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 is at the bottom of this column.

Liberty Street is Aptly Named

Originally published August 23,2011

This house and this street are the remnants of Nyack’s oldest middle-class black neighborhood.  In the early twentieth century, when Edward Hopper was a teenager, a group of African American families bought homes in Nyack. Homeownership by blacks in Nyack was a stunning achievement when you consider the fact that merely fifty years earlier blacks owned nothing: blacks were owned.

The speed of this reversal in fortune is hard to comprehend. In historic terms, fifty years is a tiny interval. Fifty years ago was 1968. Imagine a family advancing from slavery to home ownership in the time span that America went from black and white TV to digital cable. My 60’s reference is purposeful irony. It was urban renewal; a phenomenon of that era that destroyed the middle-class black community that many refer to as Jackson Avenue. Almost obliterated, that is, except for this house on Liberty Street.

NSL_Liberty St._revised

My great-grandparents, George T. and Sarah Avery (center)

My great grandparents purchased the house on Jackson Avenue.My grandmother used the meager sum that she got through the condemnation process of the eminent domain debacle to buy another home. The only saving grace is that this site now holds much needed affordable housing and a senior citizen development.

As I sat on the ground in front of this modest structure and drew, a parking enforcement officer walked toward me. I asked him if he was going to ticket me for squatting in a parking space. He laughed and said if that was the case, he would have written me up weeks ago; having seen me numerous times perched on the curb side drawing. I think he chose this moment to say hello because he approved of my subject matter. It turns out that he knew my aunt, who was once the Deputy Village Clerk and who grew up on Jackson Avenue.

I was then approached by a local artist who told me she admires, but avoids representational drawings. She is an abstract painter, which I told her I envy. She lamented the demands of linear perspective, telling me how she would throw in the towel after the first line went astray.  Watching my imprecise and quivering depiction, she thought aloud that if she could have forgiven herself  the occasional errant mark, she would have seen that the whole is greater than the sum of its imperfect parts.

Because I draw free hand with black ink on white paper, I confront the fear of failure with every pen stroke. Yet I persist and complete each drawing, motivated by my attachment to the village and enriched by my random interactions with the villagers. That someone who loves Nyack and making art would consider drawing from life after meeting me on this special site was invigorating. During this encounter, I could feel the freedom that my ancestors must have felt on this spot. As modest as this home appears, its very existence and hidden history is profound and I am pleased to have archived it.

The cartographers got this one right. Liberty Street is aptly named.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 is now available at Pickwick Book Shop, Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center, Hickory Dickory Dock, Archive Home and the Nyack Farmers Market or at nyackgift.com.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “The First Nyack Sketch Log“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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Nyack Sketch Log: Giving Thanks

by Bill Batson

Some years, it’s easier to compose the gratitude list than others. With my new book, Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 arriving a week from today, I can safely say that Nyack has been “very, very good to me.” But when I opened my booth at the Nyack Farmers’ Market six years ago, I could only afford to pay rent with sketches like this one of autumnal vegetables. (Forty of these illustrated payments are on permanent display at the Nyack Library.)

Only in Nyack can you find a Farmers’ Market so dedicated to the principle that art and culture are part of a balanced diet. In honor of those who believed in me, I want to spend this Thanksgiving column giving thanks to the groups in our community who help others: Soup Angels, Nyack Center, United Hospice of Rockland and Meals on Wheels. I have included contact information if you wish to make a year end donation to support the work of these institutions that make our village home so sweet.

Soup Angels (originally published November 21, 2017)

For the hungry, the First Reformed Church tower on South Broadway is a beacon of hope. Inside this building that almost scrapes the sky, an organization called the Soup Angels provides food and comfort to the needy three nights each week.  This Wednesday, for the 12th year, Soup Angels will serve over three thousand Thanksgiving meals throughout the county.

Soup Angels will provide a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for anyone in the Nyack area who would like a Thanksgiving meal in a welcoming, festive atmosphere (no questions asked) on Wed, Nov 21 from 4 to 7p in the First Reformed Church. The entrance is on Burd St between Cedar and S Broadway. It is accessible to the disabled. Read more about the annual Soup Angels Thanksgiving feast in Bill Batson’s Nyack Nyack Sketch Log: Soup Angels Serve Three Thousand for Thanksgiving.

Soup Angels
Box 565, Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 358-5518

Nyack Center(Originally published December 3, 2013)

The only thing not central about the Nyack Center is their location. At the corner of Depew Avenue and South Broadway, their address is too southeast to claim the geographic middle of the village. But in all the measurements that matter, Nyack Center sets the civic standard.

It is a place where children find safety, support and a space to study and adults gather to experience art and culture and discuss public policy. The premises, with a distinguished historic pedigree, shelters small businesses creating an indoor market place. Nyack Sketch Log: Support Nyack’s Center.

Nyack Center
58 Depew Avenue
P.O. Box 764, Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 358-2600

United Hospice of Rockland (Originally Published October 7, 2014)

The staff that work from this serenely situated suite of offices tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac in New City have given great comfort to thousands. United Hospice of Rockland, Inc. (UHR) provides a wide range of services to individuals facing serious illness and their families. When my family was confronted with the challenge of making end-of-life decisions for two beloved family members, all of our most urgent personal and professional needs were met by United Hospice of Rockland.

Hospice provides palliative care that not only eases the physical suffering of the patient, but also reduces the emotional and psychological stress of the caretaker. While the living have been called upon, since time immemorial, to witness their loved ones shuffle off this mortal coil, since the mid-20th century, the health care community has begun to pay more attention to the particular needs of the elderly and the terminally ill. Nyack Sketch Log: United Hospice of Rockland

United Hospice of Rockland
11 Stokum Ln, New City, NY 10956
(845) 634-4974

Meals of Wheels (Originally Published on September 25, 2018)

Meals on Wheels delivers. For people who cannot shop or cook because of illness, physical disability or advanced age, their service fleet is a lifeline. For those who can travel, but need a destination for social and recreational activity, MOW operates five senior center in Rockland County. Granting independence for individuals and support for fragile families, MOW provides more than just the safety net, but the tent and a team of acrobats who bend over backwards to care for seniors. I should know. My mother attends their daily program at 90 Depew Avenue in Nyack.

On July 23, 2014 Meals on Wheels Programs & Services of Rockland delivered their 9 millionth meal. The milestone accomplished during their 40th anniversary, commemorates not only millions of meals served, but millions of human connections and safety checks. Nyack Sketch Log: Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels Programs & Services of Rockland, Inc.
121 West Nyack Road
Nanuet, NY 10954
(845) 624-MEAL (6325)

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available on Tuesday, November 27. Join me for the book launch at 6p at the Hudson House, 134 Main Street. Soup Angels is one of the fifty-five sketches and short essays in this new volume. Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price at nyackgift.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market which is open Wednesday of this week, to accommodate Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Giving Thanks“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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Nyack Sketch Log: Strawberry Place

 

strawberry place_featured imageby Bill Batson

This sign, promising a sweet destination, has hung at 72 South Broadway for over 40 years. Despite a devastating fire that struck the week of the Brinks robbery in 1981, a succession of owners, and the vicissitudes of an economy that is not kind to small business, Strawberry Place is forever. This kingdom built on ice cream and flapjacks elevated by a succulent red berry with white seeds and a green leafy crown has reached iconic status, evidenced by the lines that form every weekend for brunch.

I can’t remember my first serving of strawberry ice cream, but I can remember my first Strawberry Place ice cream cone. It was the summer of 1976 and my father brought me and my friends Danny and Dean to the curbside window. The size of the strawberries and the richness of the cream were a revelation. That is now the taste I chase whenever I sample a serving of strawberry ice cream. The bottom tip of the cone was consumed before we made it to the Post Office, barely one block away.

Strawberry Place_78The first Strawberry Place opened in the late 1960s as one of three franchises, according to Vinnie Cuccia, the owner, chef and scion of the family that has owned the business, on and off, for decades. The other two Strawberry Places were in Florida and Connecticut according to Cuccia. In 1974, his parents, Vinnie and Cecelia Cuccia, bought the building and the popular ice cream parlor. Cecelia Cuccia was a fixture, holding court from behind a 1904 cash register that was used by a restaurant that once operated from the location. Her daughters Renee and Jody worked at her side. This building was erected by Tunis Depew in 1889 as the Depew Place block.

In 1980, the Cuccias sold the restaurant. Five years after I had my first Strawberry Place ice cream cone and a year after the Cuccia’s sale, the building was gutted by a fire. The blaze started on Sunday, October 26 in the ground floor kitchen and spread to the upstairs apartments. Earlier that week, on Strawberry Place InteriorTuesday, October 21, two local police officers, Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady along with a Brink’s armored car guard Peter Paige were murdered during a bank robbery. On the same day of the fire, an elderly woman was killed by a car while crossing Route 59, a quarter mile from the scene of the shootout. The first responders who subdued the flames at Strawberry Place must have been battle-weary after a week of senseless violence that shook Rockland County.

After the fire, the Cuccias re-acquired their beloved Strawberry Place. In 1990, Vinnie’s parents called him with an offer,“You always wanted to run a restaurant. How about you start a few months from now.” Vinnie was studying Small Business Management at Quinnipiac College. “I learned more from working with my mother and father in my first six months than I did in four years of college,” Vinnie said. During this period, the interior of the restaurant was renovated with custom woodwork including tables and finishes by Joseph Capasso.

Strawberry Place Owner Vinny

Vinnie Cuccia

“When I came back, I became Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” Vinnie remembers. But until her death in 2006, Cecelia Cuccia continued to maintain her post at the century old register. Vinnie now plays that role. Having grown up in the restaurant, he has quickly assumed the role of presiding elder. “This has always been a family place. You watch kids being born and you follow them up. There are customers who come that I remember as kids. Now they are bringing their kids here.”

The future of the Strawberry Place as a family business seems secure. Joining Vinnie to staff the operation are his sister, Jody, his brother-in-law, Karl, and his nieces, Alaina, Jennifer, Taylor, Dominique, and long-time employees who feel like family. Vinnie’s children Gianna and Vinny Jr. are often around, adding to the restaurant’s family-friendly ambiance. Apparently Vinnie’s son is also taking notes. “The other day, Vinnie Jr. was talking about the new items that he wants to put on the menu when he takes over,” the proud father reported.

Vinnie Sr. is also putting new touches on the classic Strawberry Place menu. What started out as an ice cream parlor is now a breakfast and brunch restaurant and catering business. “We just added vegan waffles and pancakes because people have been asking for them.” According to Vinnie the most popular item on the menu is the Nutella Stuffed French Toast topped with bananas and strawberries.

But I think there is something else that Strawberry Place offers that keeps people coming through the door. Everything in this modern world is in a constant state of flux. Aspects of our lives that once remained unchanged for decades, like the landscape, careers, and relationships are now temporary at best. As the pace of change accelerates, there are some appetites that people wish to sate that are as important as sustenance. When an eatery endures, familiarity becomes the most satisfying item on the unprinted menu.

Visit Strawberry Place on Facebook.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Strawberry Place is one of the fifty-five sketches and short essays in this new volume. Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Strawberry Place“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com


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by Bill Batson

This sign, promising a sweet destination, has hung at 72 South Broadway for over 40 years. Despite a devastating fire that struck the week of the Brinks robbery in 1981, a succession of owners, and the vicissitudes of an economy that is not kind to small business, Strawberry Place is forever. This kingdom built on ice cream and flapjacks elevated by a succulent red berry with white seeds and a green leafy crown has reached iconic status, evidenced by the lines that form every weekend for brunch.

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Strawberry Place is one of the fifty-five sketches and short essays in this new volume. Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

The Nyack Sketch Log is sponsored each week by Creative Financial Planning and Weld Realty.

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Nyack Sketch Log: Grace’s Thrift Shop

by Bill Batson

“We have a solid base from the neighborhood,” said Theresa Bergen, co-manager of Grace’s Thrift Shop. “People need the kind of prices that we have.” At almost every season in a life, a thrift shop trip comes in handy. Bergen cites moving, cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate. A new apartment, looking for savings, or the guilty pleasure of browsing through bric-a brac might inspire a visit to 10 South Broadway.

The operative word in this shop’s name, however, is Grace. Theologically, the word is defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Founded in 1968 by a group of parishioners from Grace Episcopal Church to support initiatives for child care in Nyack, the blessings have also come from a legion of volunteers and donors who for decades have made this store a place where one can unload clutter and be thrifty and fabulous at the same time.

Garret Hopper, Father of America’s Preeminent Realist Painter Edward

In the 1890’s, the revenue from this storefront helped nurture one of America’s greatest realist painters, Edward Hopper. Hopper’s father, Garret (1852-1913), owned a dry goods store at this address. The younger Hopper (1882 – 1967) worked here after school. According to Anya Berg, Adult Services Librarian at
Palisades Free Library and author, “while often defined by his occupation, Garrett’s personal interests centered around literature, an affection for which he passed on to his son. But sympathetic to, and encouraging of Edward’s preference for art over business, Garrett did not pressure Edward to take over the family store.”

The Hoppers are just one of an infinite number of families whose lives flow through this storefront. Each object for sale has some mysterious intrinsic meaning, and may soon be imbued with the aura of a new owner. For tourists, young families, hipsters, and bargain hunters, the prices deliver on the promise of thrift, and the money spent bestows grace on the recipients of programs funded by the purchase.

Father Owen Thompson, (middle), Theresa Bergen (2nd from right) and Kickie Fulmor presenting a $2,200 to “Rockland Homes For Heroes”

Today, more than 30 organizations benefit from contributions generated by sales at Grace’s Thrift Shop. Contributions help send water to Flint, Michigan, serve meals to the hungry through Soup Angels and help children attend after-school programs at Nyack Center, among many others.

If you want to pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in your pocket?  This thrift shop is frankly awesome.

To learn more about the people who volunteer their time here, and those who donate and shop here, and the programs they support, Nyack Sketch Log asked Theresa and her co-manager, Kickie Fulmor, a few questions.

Groups that benefit from Grace Thrift Shop

  1. Amazing Grace Circus
  2. ARC
  3. Cell Phones for Military
  4. Center for Safety and Change
  5. Grace Episcopal Church
  6. Grace’s Kitchen Monthly Pledge
  7. Head Start Nyack
  8. Habitat for Humanity Rockland Co.
  9. Helping Hands
  10. Hi Tor
  11. Homes for Heroes, Camp Shanks
  12. Hospice
  13. Living Museum Rockland
  14. Mazzeppa Fire Company
  15. Meals on Wheels
  16. Midnight Run
  17. Murphy House
  18. Nam Knights
  19. Nyack Center
  20. Nyack Homeless Project (Coat Drive)
  21. Nyack Senior Center
  22. People to People
  23. Pizza with a Purpose
  24. Rockland Hospital Guild
  25. St. Anne’s Pantry
  26. St. Dominic’s Home
  27. St. Zita’s
  28. Soup Angels
  29. Sunday Supper
  30. The Fellowship Community
  31. Venture Inn
  32. Water to Flint, Michigan
  33. YMCA Nyack Child Care
  34. Youth Service Mission

Grace Episcopal Church 
130 1st Ave, Nyack

Grace Kitchen 
Grace Kitchen serves a free, healthy and delicious breakfast every Thursday, from 7a-8:30a, 52 weeks a year to anyone in the community in need at Grace Church.

Breakfast is served by volunteers on china with silverware and table linens.

Worship
Sundays
8:00am  Holy Eucharist (Rite I)
9:30am Holy Eucharist
(Family service, followed by Church School)
11:00am Holy Eucharist (Rite II, Grace Choir)
4:00pm Choral Evensong
(First Sunday of the month, October-May)

I understand you are having an anniversary. Congratulations. When did Grace Thrift Shop first open?

November 1968 at 58 S. Broadway and was named Grace’s Corner Thrift Shop. In Sept. ’69 it was renamed Grace’s Thrift Shop and moved to 10 S Broadway. So we’re turning 50!

Who were some of the founding members?

The shop was formed by the Episcopal Church Women of Grace Church, Nyack. (ECW) The first board included Bartie Leber, President of ECW; Margie Davids, Shop Chairman/Manager; Herrietta Conlin, Publicity Chairman; Jane Chaffe, Vice President;  Helen Cook, Secretary; and Margaret Gilhuley, Treasurer. It is my belief that there are no women alive today who among the founding members. Faith Harvie was the last.

Why did Grace church start a thrift?

Child Care, then and now was largely unfunded. A decision was made to support a day care center opening at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in South Nyack and to support other community and church programs.

What are some of the community groups that you currently support?

People can visit the Grace Church website to see the list. Most gifts range between $300 to $1000. In recent years 1 or 2 groups have shared the December gift,  the amount of which is decided after the books close on December 31st. Last year that gift went to Nyack Head Start. While our gifts are given with no strings attached, we understand that a number of Smart boards grace the classrooms.

We also have a number of downstream charities that we can help by passing along things we can not use. One is in Nicaragua, and a local group picks up from us and does the shipping. We also supply Midnight Run with winter garments. Things which we cannot use at all go to the Boy Scout Donation Boxes on Church Street.

Are all the management and staff volunteers?

All are volunteers. We do have an Executive Board to help with decisions, but all are referred to as Volunteers. Most people work a 3 hour shift each.

Who is your longest volunteer?

We do have people working whose mother or mother-in-law also worked here. I believe  Martha Graham and Betsy Growney are our present longest working volunteers. Jeanne Duryea worked at the shop until her final year – (age 104).

How many volunteers do you currently have?

45 About half are from Grace Church and the other half are from the community at large.

What is the most valuable thing donated (I’ve heard about an 1899 flag that probably draped over the casket of President McKinley in NYC)? Anything more or nearly as spectacular?

I may be the wrong one to ask as I tend to focus on the bottom line, but a service for 12 of Limoges china may have been the highest priced item to sell, at $750.

Bandit Bear (Raggedy Ann is looking suspicious)

What are some of the questions you would like people to ask themselves before they donate?

Would you give this to a friend or family member?

Would you use this yourself?

Is the item in good repair and sparkly clean?

If you answered no to any of these questions then Grace’s will not be able to sell the item.

Bonnie Timm is rumored to want this jacket

What kind of items do you have for sale?

Clothing: Men’s, Women’s, Children’s

Dishes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, tools, games

Linens, lamps, bedding

Easier to say what we don’t sell. No furniture or tvs. No plants. Nothing too big. No out-dated electronics. No books

What kind of items are you looking for?

It’s winter, so coats are needed. After that we trust to what come in the door to provide  a great mix.

Family Open House

at the Hopper House

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper

Families that are fans of Edward Hopper are welcome to attend a Family Open House at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center on November 11, from noon – 1p.

photo by Ray Wright

Nyack Sketch Log artist and author Bill Batson will draw urban landscapes with you.

$10 per family. Members Free.

The Hopper House is located at 82 North Broadway.

Who are your customers?

We have a solid base from the neighborhood. People need the kind of prices that we have.

Who donates?

Everyone. People moving, or cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate.

Is there any solidarity between the thrift shops?

We regularly tell people about the Montefiore Hospital thrift. We also refer people to Nyack merchants and restaurants who might have what people are looking for. And we keep a list of free meals and where to get them.

Do you sell any antiques?

We like to be accurate. We research many items. We are absolutely sure when we say an item is an antique. If we are not sure, and cannot find the item on line, we prefer to call it vintage.

Does anyone come in and ask about the Hopper Dry Goods Store?

Very few ask but for those who do we like to tell them about it

What are your plans for the future?

Deep in our hearts we believe that our work is feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, caring for children, aiding the mentally ill, providing all manner of things at prices people can afford and generally helping those in need. We might be very happy if our world put us out of business. We don’t so much plan for the future as trust that we will be given interesting things to sell, and encourage each other to keep on keeping on. If you ask our volunteers why they work, they will say they are here to “give back.”

Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Fifty-five more sketches and short essays! Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to wrbatson@gmail.com or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

For reading all the way to the end, here’s a bonus, Macklemore’s internationally embraced thrift shop anthem with  over 1 billion views of Youtube. Warning: the lyrics are not safe for work, but it’s frankly awesome.

Read also:

Breakfast Is Served! Each Thursday at Grace’s Kitchen by Kim Cross October 14, 2016

Nyack Sketch Log: Reverend Owen C. Thompson of Grace Church by Bill Batson, January 23, 2018

Special thanks to Rev. Owen Thompson, Caran Pullen, Judy Martin and Betty Perry.

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Grace’s Thrift Shop“ © 2018 Bill Batson.  To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 


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