My LES: Tyrone Williams

BMX rider Tyrone Williams.  Photo by Alex M. Smith.

BMX rider Tyrone Williams. Photo by Alex M. Smith.

My LES For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with Tyrone Williams, who owns Dah Shop bike shop at 134 Division St., and is a BMX freestyle rider.



What do you do?

I ride for Animal Bikes and I sell a lot of their products–primarily their products–in my store. I’ve worked on some signature products with them and I’ve been riding with their company since 2000, since day one for me…I don’t like to categorize the type of riding I do, but what we do most is street riding. There weren’t a lot of skate parks when we started riding and if there were, they didn’t allow bikes. I like to refer to what I do as “freestyle” because I can get on anything and be free and have fun. I like to ride a lot of different types of bikes to keep trying stuff out–it keeps me young, I want to keep mastering stuff and stay agile, and I don’t care how old I get, I’ll never “grow up.”

How long have you worked on the Lower East Side?

We’ve had Dah Shop for six and a half years (this month). But it’ll be a year that I’ve had it on my own. I originally started with a business partner but now it’s just me, by myself.

What made you decide to open Dah Shop here?

The location kind of chose us. We really wanted to be near the Manhattan Bridge because I used to work at Metro Bikes on the west side, so the Manhattan Bridge was pretty much my daily routine. I grew up in Flatbush, and that’s the route I would take every day. So at some point in time, it dawned on us that there wasn’t a bike shop anywhere around there.

We knew that was part of what we wanted to do. Because either way, as commuters or riders, whatever style, if you need something or you get a flat you’re gonna hope there’s a bike shop nearby and you don’t have to walk too far. We came here and I think the landlord just took a liking to us and it just kind of worked out.

Now people know us from all over the world. So we’ll hopefully be here for a long time.

Favorite cheap eats?

I like to go to the bakery around the corner–Sunrise Bakery on East Broadway, at the corner of Essex. That’s a good spot for quick, good pastries that you can get for a dollar or a dollar twenty-five. You can get good stuff on the go there. I also like going to Ming’s Cafe, which is the Chinese restaurant on Canal at the corner of Essex.

My favorite quick eat is the peanut butter and jam toast ’cuz I’m a fanatic about peanut butter and jelly. I don’t know why. I like it a lot. It works. Some people think that’s all I run on ‘cuz i probably eat it almost every day. Peanut butter and jam toast for $1.25 with a cold Ovaltine made by Tiffany.

Favorite place for a special event?

I like Bacaro, next door to the shop. Some people go there who are a little posh and they look at me like, what are you doing here? But I like that I can go in wearing basketball clothes and not be turned away. If you have a larger crowd you can go downstairs and there’s more seating we’ve done a bunch of random celebrations there.

I also like Forgtmenot, my other “NDN” [next door neighbor]. It’s two different vibes and two different atmospheres. Both are cool. Forgtmenot is a homestyle place: it’s a bar that serves good food with good people. Sometimes you can watch some soccer, but sometimes you can watch movies. I’ve seen so many movies there. It’s a place where you can chill and enjoy yourself and take a load off. Neither of the two places are pushy–they’re very relaxed.

How have you seen the neighborhood change?

A lot more diverse businesses and galleries have opened up; some work, some don’t. There are a lot more places to eat and drink. It was really quiet when we opened. There was nothing except this nice Venetian restaurant [Bacaro] and Project 8, which was a posh ladies’ store that never had anyone in it.

Some of the older, cheap electronics businesses and such have had to move out because they were stuck in a different time period, things are moving faster now and it’s hard for them to stay around.

What do you miss from the old LES?

These days, I’m always working, so I’m more focused on what I’m doing than what’s going on out there. The job of running a business means life just whizzes by you. I look up and it’s the end of summer–what happened?

Is there a new arrival you love?

I like Dimes. Dimes is cool. I’m not a crazy fan about restaurants, I don’t get all wowed out, but they’re cool. I mean, if there’s a place where you can enjoy good food, then it’s probably OK. When we first opened up, I was eating a lot of dumplings and stuff like that because it was cost-effective. But at the same time, I’m an athlete and I can’t be eating that shit all the time because it’s fuc*ing up my body.

What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?

Not much, except when people have attitude or give you a look like “who are you?” with some sense of entitlement. But there’s not too much that irritates me because I’m pretty easygoing and open-minded.

Who’s the best neighborhood character you’ve met and why?

Well, we’re all characters aren’t we? But my favorite neighborhood character lately is the Sikh mailman I see around here all the time. He custom-made his clothing so he could work for the post office. He has this tall turban and a long beard. I’m not sure what country he’s from; he might be from the Middle East. But he just has a look to him that’s like, “yeah.”

He has a custom uniform to fit with his religion. I see him and think, that dude’s dope. He used to wear the big Beats headphones on top of his whole turban wrap and I’d be like, “oh, my man is really doin’ it right now. He’s chillin’.” That’s what its all about. He’s like, “OK, I work for The Man but so what, I got to make a living, but I’m gonna do it my way.”

Tell us your best LES memory.

You know, it’s just every day that passes. You don’t know where you’re gonna go or how you’re gonna feel or how it’s going to end up. I never thought that I’d live to be 31 years old. I don’t feel like I’m 31 years old, I’m still a little kid on the inside. I’ll act like an adult when I have to, but if you want to live a long time, you have to be able to enjoy yourself.

Behind The Counter: A Tribute to Six Classic Diners

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Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the April 2013 edition of The Lo-Down’s print Magazine.

One of the things that makes New York City great is its classic neighborhood diners. On the Lower East Side, we’ve got our share of these old-school spots — places that are so familiar some of us think of them as extensions of our own apartments. In a world that’s becoming more impersonal, there’s something comforting about these no-nonsense hangouts. They’ll make you anything you want, exactly the way you want it, and fast! The guys behind the counter are quick to refill your coffee and will remember exactly how you like your eggs in the morning. You’ve got to admire their ability to handle just about anything, or anyone, and usually with a smile.

As gentrification changes the LES and real estate prices skyrocket, we fear these classic spots may be in danger of extinction. But they’re here now, continuing to ride the ups and downs of the restaurant business, seemingly stronger than ever. Recently, photographer Alex M. Smith and I spent some time hanging out at our local diners, photographing the people who make them tick. These guys have clearly seen it all, having experienced decades of changes in the area. Here’s our tribute to the classic diners of the Lower East Side. (Click through for each owner’s fascinating story and some excellent words of wisdom.)

Arts Watch: Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) at Joe’s Pub

Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) – Photo by Alex M. Smith:

There’s a fun show at Joe’s Pub this Sunday evening at 9:30pm.  The (comedy) rock duo Die Roten Punkte are in town.  The (so called) ‘brother and sister’ team, “Princess Astrid Rot and Prince Otto Rot,” from Berlin, will feature LES lady of lore, Jessica Delfino, as a special guest.

‘Princess’ Astrid Rot told us, “We are super excited to play Joe’s Pub. We saw ‘Our Lady J’ perform there two years ago and loved her and loved the room, it’s so beautiful. We met Jessica a few years ago, we actually performed a spot for her on one of her shows and then we all became friends.”