While the tragic tale of the beloved mom-and-pop shop vanishing is nothing new, photographers James and Karla Murray hope their latest project will get people to think a little more about the city's changing landscape.
For over 20 years, the couple has photographed storefronts throughout the five boroughs. Their latest project, however, has brought some of these off the page — "Mom-and-Pops of the L.E.S." is a public art piece now on view at Seward Park. Karla Murray said the project honors the fallen family businesses once plentiful on the Lower East Side.
"We thought this would be a good opportunity to show people the kind of disappearing businesses that used to be here," she told Gothamist.
The installation features four life-sized photos of businesses that once thrived in the Lower East Side: a deli, a bodega, a newsstand, and a diner. The project is part of Art In the Parks, a grant issued to 10 artists by the Parks Department in partnership with UNIQLO (they also raised additional money through a Kickstarter).
One side of the installation features a photograph of Cup & Saucer, a beloved local diner that was forced to close last year because of a hefty rent increase of $15,000 a month. Karla Murray said that the establishment was one of the last true community-oriented businesses in the neighborhood.
"It was the kind of place where they would start making a regular customer's order the minute they walked in the door, or sign a package for you if you weren't home," said Murray, adding, "Someone at a chain store would never do that, you don't even see the same employee twice at those kinds of stores."
"Mom-and-Pops of the L.E.S." will have a special opening ceremony on July 14th, complete with pickles from The Pickle Guys.