Lifestyle

Inside Fishs Eddy’s secret tableware museum

“‘You here for the tour?’ ” quips Julie Gaines, the co-founder of the enduring downtown house items retailer Fishs Eddy.

Though the store has lengthy been recognized for promoting quirky kitchen objects — together with plates and mugs with an illustration of nation music legend Dolly Parton that say “Hello Dolly!” — Gaines has one thing new to indicate off that, till this month, solely fortunate eyes might see.

Just one flight of stairs up from the shop stands a free-admission, one-room museum that Gaines opened in early June.


Welcome to the Museum of American Restaurant China, which showcases 1000’s of items of classic restaurant-ware — with piles of dishes on the ground, plates throughout the partitions and rustic-looking cabinets filled with mugs and creamers.

These objects — together with bits from New York Central Railroad eating automobiles — aren’t on the market, however replicate a giant a part of Fishs Eddy’s id. Since the Nineteen Eighties, the shop has lured customers searching for classic dishware from diners, company eating rooms and lodges.

Gaines has turned her collection of vintage restaurant ware into the Museum of American Restaurant China, which is on display at Fishs Eddy near Union Square.
On Thursdays by means of Saturdays, head upstairs to see her favourite, and not-for-sale, assortment.
Stephen Yang

“I love bringing people up here,” mentioned Gaines, 57, including that when she beforehand noticed clients rummaging by means of the classic part behind the shop, she’d quietly invite them as much as this room for enjoyable.

It’s the place Gaines and her then-husband David Lenovitz stored choose objects from the troves of plates, bowls and typically bouillon cups they discovered over time within the basements of Bowery restaurant provide shops, and even in upstate New York barns. (They bought the remainder.)

Julie Gaines, founder of Fishs Eddy, shows her collection of vintage restaurant ware, which she has turned into the Museum of American Restaurant China.
Gaines is thrilled to indicate off simply how bizarre, wild and artistic restaurantware could be.
Stephen Yang

“ ‘You want to see somethin’?’ It sounds like I’m taking them to a dark place or something, but it’s an a-ha moment — and I’ve gotten letters from people saying, ‘We came to New York and that was the highlight.’ ”

Browsing this assortment is a visit by means of time. Gaines is fast to level out report books from since-shuttered producers, equivalent to Syracuse China, exhibiting illustrations of custom-designed dishes that date again to 1912 — in addition to different objects peppered throughout a big eating desk, like a bowl used to serve meals throughout the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Shoppers at the store near Union Square.
The retailer has lengthy been a preferred supply of classic, and typically cheap, classic restaurantware that Gaines has spent years sourcing.
Stephen Yang

The level of this museum is not only to have fun good design and performance of all these sturdy items, but additionally “to share an appreciation for it, because it was a great American industry that’s gone now — if we don’t share it, who will?”

The show additionally contains small, however significant, objects from famed New York City spots.

A mould for a ceramic creamer that Gaines has collected over the years.
A mould for a ceramic creamer in Gaines’ huge assortment.
Stephen Yang

There are floral-printed mugs and bouillon cups from the glam Hotel Astor in Times Square, which shut in 1967.

There’s additionally a small white creamer with blue trim that spells out a well-recognized identify: Macy’s. (“That’s from their corporate dining room,” mentioned Gaines.)

I want I stored extra.

Julie Gaines, Fishs Eddy’s co-founder

A white mug with pink letters reveals the cursive brand of Junior’s — a small vestige from the unique Fifties diner in Brooklyn. “I love this,” she mentioned whereas holding it.

“No one goes to a diner and thinks about the history of the mug they’re drinking out of,” she added.

It might take hours for a customer to flick through the assortment of the museum, open on Thursdays (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.), Fridays and Saturdays (each days 2 p.m. to five p.m.) — however Gaines thinks the space deserves extra items to indicate.

“I wish I kept more,” she mentioned.


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