For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with LES residents and La Petite Mort shop owners Kara Mullins and Osvaldo Jimenez (aka SLUTLUST).
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
OJ: I’ve lived here since 1988. My mom came here from the Dominican Republic with me in her stomach, so my joke is that I was made in the D.R. but I was born here. We lived in Harlem for a few years before my family moved down to the L.E.S. for my “formative” years.
KM: I’ve been back and forth since 2003.
Why did you move here or (if you were born here) why did you stay?
This is the best place in the world to create and be inspired at the same time!
What do you do?
KM: We own the boutique La Petite Mort (LPM) on Orchard Street. OJ is also a curator, an artist and a writer. I was a buyer in the fashion industry for quite a few years. We opened LPM just over a year ago. We love being able to work with so many talented people to make the shop come together. We hold gallery openings every two months, as well as music events throughout the summer. Collaborating with so many artists, musicians and designers makes the shop what it is, and hopefully you can sense the neighborhood energy coming together within it.
Tell us about your apartment—the good, the bad and the ugly.
We’re in the best neighborhood in the city. It has high ceilings and a bar in our “lobby” (169 Bar) on the ground level—haha.
What’s your favorite spot on the LES?
KM: The East River waterfront is beautiful at night. We go down there as often as possible to either jog or just hang out for a cheap date. Also, Orchard Street between Hester and Canal—it’s where our store is located, but also where a ton of other great spots are. Get to know the owners of the stores/galleries on this block—they have some great stories to tell.
OJ: That little triangle that’s Canal Street and East Broadway, Division and Rutgers. There’s something about it because it’s like the poor man’s Port Authority. You have all these people from the entire East Coast, all over the country, that travel here, and tourists that learn about the buses from Lonely Planet, and every day it’s this whole new energy. These people get off the bus with their eyes wide open and find themselves in Chinatown.
Plus you have all these new art galleries and all these new restaurants and all this old history, colliding right there. So it kind of reminds me of what the old LES was, but with a little bit of Soho and Tribeca money mixed up in it. And everyone’s still kind of cool and not obnoxious down here. I feel like this is the last little bit of undiscovered New York.
Favorite cheap eats?
Yummy Kitchen Chinese for $4 wonton noodle soup!
And Forgtmenot for sit-down service and amazing tacos.
Favorite place for a special night?
Gallery hop after we close up the shop, dinner at Café Katja, and then drink and dance it off at either Jerome’s, Beverly’s or Clockwork Bar. Kara also used to love going to the Vector Gallery (RIP) when it was still here…
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
OJ: Besides Tompkins Square Park going from a shanty town to a glorified yuppie puppy run? I’d say the Meat Packing-ification of the Lower East Side (which I don’t mind as most of the people that work in bars are just creatives trying to keep their apartments) and the art gallery-ification of Chinatown. The grittiness reminds me of the old East Village but mixed with Soho/Chelsea money.
What do you miss from the old LES?
OJ: Not much! For everything that people glorified about the old New York, I remember the violent and very frightening underbelly. If this was 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to open up my shop in Chinatown. I was from LES and those Chinatown boys didn’t like us one bit.
I love and miss the frenetic energy and intensity of the ’80s when it comes to music and art, but you also have to remember these people were afraid for their lives most of the time, so whatever they did, it had to be good because it could have been their last.
Is there a new arrival you love?
We love Kiki’s on Division Street and Jerome’s on Rivington (between Suffolk and Clinton), though it’s not super new.
What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?
Realtors… those guys…
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the LES?
The girl that does Michael Jackson dances weaving in and out of traffic outside of all the LES clubs and bars.
Who’s the best neighborhood character you’ve met and why?
KM: I really love Marilyn Sokol. She stops by the store every so often and on top of having amazing stories to tell, she is always dressed to the nines. She always stocks up on crazy tights from us and pairs them with a vintage piano skirt or a massive fur. She’s been featured in advanced style and has an extensive acting career—still a fireball at almost 80 years young!
Tell us your best LES memory.
KM: We “met” on an MTA bus years ago. OJ saw me on the bus and said, “That’s someone I could spend my life with.” We both got off the bus without speaking to each other, but then ran into each other that night at a bar and the rest is history. It really holds true that, for as big as the city is, it’s also very small. OJ proposed on the same bus this year in the middle of a snowstorm.