The new book, Store Front, is a fascinating, valuable artifact: Photographers James and Karla Murray documented the façades of hundreds of old-fashioned stores and restaurants, the kinds of places that New Yorkers of a certain age see in their minds when they think of the city (and less and less in real life). On the cover, as you can see, is Ralph’s—the discount emporium on Chambers Street that was torn down in 2007—so we were a little disappointed not to more Tribeca photos inside. We emailed the Murrays.
Q: Why did you choose Ralph’s for the cover?
A: We absolutely loved the store and its interesting old sign. We love the old cursive font that was used and especially are fond of the strange-shaped “S” in Ralph’s. We also liked the idea of featuring a store on the cover that has disappeared and is no longer in existence.
Q: Why is there no Tribeca chapter? Is the neighborhood too far gentrified?
A: The page count of the book kept growing and growing over the years we were working on the project and we had to cut out chapters and neighborhoods when there were too few stores to include a whole section on. It’s not that Tribeca is too gentrified, because many neighborhoods featured in the book are also gentrified, but we simply didn’t collect enough photos in the 10 year period of time we have been photographing and documenting these stores to fill a chapter.
Q: Did you take photographs of other places in Tribeca?
A: We did photograph other stores in Tribeca, including an old liquor store that was on Chambers Street. When we go to our storage place in a few weeks, we’ll look for other negatives for you.
Q: Have you heard from the former owner of Ralph’s?
A: No, but we hope that he has seen the book and will now always have a memento of his store.
This is one of those books you’ll never regret buying—in fact, we loved it so much we’re tempted to buy some of the prints, which the Murrays sell on their website, jamesandkarlamurray.com.