How a seller of books, pickles and Tchotchke spends Sunday
The Cabbage Patch doll-shaped phone in the front window will set you back $ 295. Or at least, if the seller was willing to part with it. Passers-by are constantly asking for it. Instead, they’re invited to choose from memoirs by the stars of the 1990s sitcom, Chopin’s yellowing sheet music, and illustrated books on dog grooming. And pickles.
Sweet Pickle Books is primarily a bookstore, with a healthy side business of handcrafted pickles and various donated trinkets. Since Leigh Altshuler opened her small boutique on the Lower East Side of Manhattan a year ago, much of her stock has been donated to the store.
“All of my friends are around 80,” Ms Altshuler said behind a proper oilman’s desk, on which is a VHS copy of “Crossing Delancey”, ” the 80s film about a pickle hawker who falls in love with a bookseller in the same neighborhood. It is not for sale either.
“I have, like, three million old ladies calling me, who I’ve become friends with,” Ms. Altshuler said. “They always ask me to come. His new friends and other Lower East Siders, on discovering the store, feel obligated to contribute by, for example, passing on their still-blank copy of Rick Steves’ 2002 guide to Rome.
And the buyers are in it. “The other Sunday someone left a giant FreshDirect bag with old DVDs like ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’, tiny wine glasses and a bag of half-eaten Fritos,” Ms. Altshuler said. “I sold everything except the Fritos.”
Ms Altshuler, 30, lives four blocks from the store with her boyfriend, Costa Damaskos, 29, who runs a design agency.
RIVER DANCE Here’s what Costa and I are trying to do as the sun rises on Sunday: we’ll be walking along the East River, under the FDR There’s everything going on near Pier 36 that people don’t know . Men in their 60s and 60s doing Tai Chi – it really works. The guys are fishing. Women doing an amazing, choreographed dance to obscure, techno-ish songs pumping through a speaker that they have to roll with a cart. I don’t know who is responsible, who chooses the music; but nobody takes selfies, posts them on Instagram; support their iPhone, do something for TikTok. And I’m like, if these women can come out here and do this dance at 6:30 in the morning, just to to do that, then I can certainly make it work on time today.
CASH ONLY At one point in the morning, I’m juicing fruit at one of those kitchen supply stores on East Broadway. Whatever TLB Trading products are: ginger, carrots, bok choy, apples. They have it all. Difficult to leave without buying small kitchen items. For example, a very small cheese grater. Every time we go, I say to myself, “I’m bringing money, because it’s only money. And Costa will say, “No, it’s not. Then he’ll try to pay by credit card and they’ll say, “It’s cash only.” It happens every time.
SUPPLY CHAIN For weeks, an 80-year-old lady named Pearl kept knocking on the store door saying, “You have to come! My neighbor down the street in Seward Park has a collection of books he needs to show you. He doesn’t have a phone. When I finally gave in and went to see the neighbor in question, Milton, who turned out to be literally 100 years old, said, “I have 4,000 pounds. And, you know, I’m getting a little older now and I need to get rid of it. I just need help.
FULL So now I clean Milton’s house on the weekends. It’s a two minute drive to the store. I could walk, but when I go I don’t get a single box, I get a full car. I paid a guy from Craigslist in cash for my silver 2004 Jeep Liberty with a million miles on it. And I can’t let this car die. Sometimes smoke comes out. People say, “Your car is smoking! And I’m just like, “Oh, I know.”
TALK SHOP When I open the store at noon, there are always books and bags of things on the steps. Most of the time when people come to sell me their books, I offer them cash and they say, “I just want the pickles.” Although there is still a woman of 70 and over who brings a leather case full of tapes. Uh, I don’t want tapes. At all. But, there’s just something about her that brings them to me. So I look at them all; I count them. Then buy them all with cash rather than pickles.
DINNER DATE AT WU’S At 6 a.m. I lock the door and my work week is finally over – Monday is my only day off. I’m like, ended. Costa and I are going to have dinner at this Chinese place across from our apartment, Wu’s Won Ton King. Lo mien, bok choy, vegetarian noodles; I drink tea. We know the Wu people. Sometimes they let us park the Jeep in front of the restaurant. They tell me, “We’re gonna watch it, we got you,” which is good because I park in illegal places all the time and owe so much money. The last time I called to fight tickets, the New York City Department of Finance said, “We need to transfer you to a parking specialist. “
CARDS, CLEANING Our apartment doesn’t have a TV, so Costa and I are going to play card games. Right now it’s Quiddler, which I bought at this board game cafe in the West Village, the Uncommons, it’s about going out and buying something in a store rather than online. Sometimes we stay awake until 2 a.m. to rearrange the apartment. We love to clean.
Readers of the Sunday Routine can follow Leigh Altshuler’s activities on Instagram @sweetpicklebooks.