What do you think of this photo of me? I ask my daughter Julia.
It’s fine. But where are you? Who is that man holding a peace sign by your head?
I’m in New York in a magazine shop. That’s Mo. Actually, no that’s Ali.
You are so weird, she says, and pads off in her pyjamas.
It’s 3pm so I think the pyjamas are doubling as day wear. Living with a teen is interesting. I can’t understand how she can slop around all day in her pj’s. And she can’t understand why I prefer getting dressed, going outside and meeting strangers who hold peace signs by my head. But then again, she’s never been to Casa Magazines. If you love magazines – and who doesn’t – then time to get out of your pj’s and head to this shoebox sized gem in New York’s West Village.
You name it, Casa’s got it. With over 3,000 current magazines ranging from fashion, art and design to architecture, entertainment and sports, this packed to the gills ant-size establishment is guaranteed to please. The shop has stacks of titles in every conceivable space, including the ceiling. Casa has won awards for “Best Use of Limited Store Space”. It has several glossies that I have not only never heard of, but can’t quite fathom what they’re about, like …
or others that are stunningly beautiful …
While a lot of newsagents have closed as people read more and more on-line, Casa is going strong. The shop is so busy I have to time my questions to Ali – who is either tracking down titles or hi-fiving regulars – to whenever he has a spare moment. Magazines can cost anything from a few dollars to a hundred and climbing, like this one…
Or this one …
with its gorgeous images inside …
At the helm is Ali who knows where every magazine is without the aid of computers.
It’s all in my brain, he tells me.
When I ask him how long he has worked at Casa, he answers
Since before Columbus. Mo is my boss, (Mo below)
but I run the show (Mo wasn’t there when Ali made this assertion). I am his right-hand man.
The morning I visit several regulars drop in looking for a specific title or just to say hi. One woman comes in to get the latest copy of ‘Interview’ magazine.
My uncle’s house in Rome is on the cover, she explains proudly.
Another customer from Mexico City asks about an obscure magazine called ‘Vanity Teen’ He shows Ali a photo of it on his phone. Ali thinks for a second, darts over to a pile in the corner and produces it.
This is the best magazine shop in the city, the Mexican tells me.
A man walking his lab, pops in, grabs a magazine and tells Ali as he leaves that he’s left the money by the cash register. Two NYPD police officers are hanging out, sipping coffees, clearly regulars. When I ask Ali what are some of the more unusual requests he’s gotten. One of the officers pipes in.
There was that woman who came in, looked around and said, ‘Oh you won’t have it.” Then you said ‘Try me’, and you did have it. It was called something like O’Reilly. Maybe like the Irish spelling?
Like the star, adds another customer glancing at an architecture magazine.
Casa may be tiny, but that doesn’t stop those in the neighbourhood or further afield from dropping by to browse and chat and buy. If I lived in Manhattan, I know I’d be a regular too.