Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hotel Chelsea's Capitol Fishing Tackle moves

Ed Hamilton of the Living With Legends Hotel Chelsea blog informs us in an 1 August entry that the "Capitol Fishing Tackle, which has been in its present location on the ground floor of the Chelsea Hotel for sixty-five years, is moving at the end of July. Since we’d never been in there before, my girlfriend Susan and I figured we should visit the store at least once, and maybe even buy something to show our support.

Inside the tackle store we looked at various lures and bobbers and sinkers, and finally decided on a cheap rod and reel to use to play with the cat who lives on our floor. At the register a tall, gaunt man with red, curly hair rang up our purchase, scarcely even glancing at us.

“I heard you guys were moving,” I said. “What happened? Did Stanley raise the rent on you?” Stanley Bard is the owner and manager of the hotel.

The man looked up. “Twenty-one-thousand he wants! Can you believe it? Up from nine-thousand he’s getting now.'"

When in NYC for the 2006 Saint at Large Black Party I spent the day on Saturday photographing areas of NYC that I had onced lived in or was very familiar with, including he Chelsea and Gramercy Park areas. After first taking take a few photographs of the exterior of the Capitol Fishing Tackle I'd step inside and mention to the staff that as a documentary photographer I may would like to return, in the future, to photograph the interior of the store. The woman behind the counter was very comfortable with me which, as a black male, I do not always find to be the case. She said, "By all means, we've been here for more than 60 years ...".

She insisted that I should feel comfortabe with taking pictures at that time. And older man staff person said 'You never know we may be here when you come back again!". I had a full day ahead me and did not want the staff nor community to get too suspicious about a black man rooming around the store and the streets with a camera (since I had many other places to visit) I said that I would wait until a future visit to NYC.

This story inspires me to be more vigilant when I'm in or near old stores such as the Capitol Fishing Tackle. As a documentary photographer, it concerns me that if I am not more vigilant I may miss the only opportunity to document and photograph the interior of an important part of the American culture. In many cases, these old stores have been there one day. And gone the next.

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