Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?

February 20th, 2020

Categories: Historic, Restaurant, Retail, Travel

Eddies Sweet Shop

Driving through France one summer years ago we were starving as we entered a tiny town. Not a soul was on the street–it was lunchtime so schools and businesses were closed–but we found someone inside the otherwise empty local cafe. She said she was désolé, but she had no bread and couldn’t make us a sandwich. Our faces fell. Knowing we’d find the same situation in town after town she said to wait–she had some fresh bread at home. We sipped a drink and sat at a table outside the cafe which was on the main drag–as no cars drove by–and were entertained by Muscat, the dog. She returned with magnificent ham sandwiches which also pleased Muscat, the recipient of welcome snacks.

Schmidts Candy Shop

I haven’t been to France in years and was sad to read the headline of Noemie Bisserbe’s Wall Street Journal article, “France Says Au Revoir to the Cafe,” which I hope is an exaggeration. [The photos in the online story are wonderful–take a look.]

We’re not so good at keeping the best/most charming elements of our neighborhoods either. I’ve been to American cities that have decimated any architecture of interest. Here’s an exception. A friend took me on a tour of favorite haunts from her childhood in Queens where I saw many wonderful landmarks–architectural, restaurant and retail. Our adventure began with a visit to Rudy’s Pastry Shop where we had blueberry coffee cake and I a cafe latte–scrumptious.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona

The photos here feature:

  • Schmidts Candy where the proprietor apologized many times because the shop was recovering from Valentine’s Day. I sampled a divine homemade dark chocolate treat with orange filling.

    Eddies Sweet Shop

  • Eddie’s Sweet Shop. My choice was a scoop of banana ice cream with caramel sauce. Can’t wait to return on an empty stomach.
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona is featured in the intro to the TV program “The King of Queens,” in re-runs. We had no more room for sweets but I’m planning a reprise in summer.

Something striking about Queens: 98 percent of retail space appeared to be full unlike Manhattan which has an alarming number of empty storefronts.

What neighborhood favorites do you remember from your childhood and how many of them remain? Which do you miss?


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16 Responses to “Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?”

  1. Larry Kay Said:

    Larry on Facebook: Eliminating neighborhood cafes in *France*? The world is truly changing.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So sad.

    In many ways it reminds me of all the “upgrades” I get, 89 percent of which are downgrades in my opinion. Change for change’s sake is not always the right move.

  3. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: Wow! I want to go to all three! They remind me of where I grew up in Queens.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    My guide may have launched a new business! 😊

    I have a yen for lemon ice —memory of childhood walks for same with cousins one summer in Ste. Maxine (S of France) and I can’t wait to try more ice cream at Eddies and more pastry at Rudy’s and more chocolate at Schmidt’s. Maybe a sponsor for such tours should be a manufacturer of loose dresses.

  5. Francine Ryan Said:

    Francine on Facebook: WHEN ARE WE GOING? I have never loved lemon ice, but the others sound perfectly wonderful. Which neighborhoods are they in?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I did not take notes and we were in many, many between 11 am and 5 pm. We saw beautiful neighborhoods and wonderful homes. Another thing I noticed in addition to the full storefronts was that regardless of neighborhood and demographic the streets were whistle clean, properties well maintained.

  7. Larry Kay Said:

    Larry on Facebook: Incidentally, in Sunnyside there’s a fair amount of empty storefronts. Can’t explain the discrepancy between it and other neighborhoods.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Maybe Sunnyside is closer to Manhattan–a faster ride, not needing to change to a bus–and rents reflect this? Trouble with that theory is that LI City also seemed retail-full and it’s one bridge and subway stop away.

  9. Kathleen Said:

    For those special birthdays, a butter cream cake from Sutter’s on the Grand Concourse jus
    t north of Fordham Road was always a special treat. I seriously doubt that Sutter’s is still there.

    A distant relative married into the Glaser family, which owned a bake shop on First Avenue around 87th Street in Manhattan. The shop had been there for over a century. When they opened, they catered to the surrounding German families. Over the years the population changed and when they closed a few years ago, their clientele was mainly people who stopped in for a coffee and Danish on their way to the subway. It was the changing neighborhood that made them close. They owned the building so rent hikes were not the reason for the closing.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I adore a good buttercream and most birthday cakes. Many of ours as children came from Bauer’s on Lexington Ave off 86th Street. Cakes from Dumas on Lexington in the 80s were amazing. Both are long out of business. When I lived in Turkey my dad sent a foil sticker that Dumas put on its cakes in one of his letters and my mouth watered!

  11. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward wrote on Facebook: I hate the idea of going to giant franchise “theme restaurants.” Stay with local family mom-pop! Money stays in the community, they hire people that support families, franchises hire kids and microwaves.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m afraid that may be happening in France. It sure is happening here. The featured places in my post are treasures.

  13. EAM Said:

    EAM wrote on Facebook: Cafe Geiger on UES. We used to go there.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A familiar name. I went there plenty of times!

  15. LL Said:

    LL on Facebook: Sadly long gone as is Glaser’s Bakery. Yorkville ain’t what it used to be.

  16. Martha Takayama Said:

    In affluent Boston and chestnut Hill neighborhoods there are vacant storefronts everywhere. There is a parallel wave of construction of ugly buildings with retail, commercial and residential spaces. There is a constantly increasing lack of individual places to shop, snack or have a meal. Restaurants come and go very frequently and the whole environment lacks any charm. All I know is that Shake shack cannot replace the legendary delicious and decadent Bailey’s for lunch or sweets. It is often a chore to find food. In the meantime less developed neighborhoods like East Boston still hold onto small mom and pop shops, ethnic foods, and much more taste and charm. It is hard to understand what the developers are thinking as they engage in these projects.

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