This feature spotlights a wide variety of people who live and work on the Lower East Side. This month, we are featuring Roni-Sue Kave, a very familiar face in the Essex Street Market. This story originally appeared in the February 2013 version of our print magazine.
What do you do?
I own and operate Roni-Sue’s Chocolates in the historic Essex Street Market — i.e., I make candy for a living. Woo-hoo!
How long have you lived on the LES?
I opened Roni-Sue’s in October 2007, so I’ve been working down here for over five years. I just finally moved from East Harlem to the East Village in June, though, so at last I can walk to work.
What drew you to the neighborhood?
I had been hearing about the Essex Street Market for a few years but never had been “way down to the LES” until January of 2007. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came into the market for the first time. Here in the heart of NYC was a fabulous local food market just like the ones I’d eagerly seek out when traveling in Europe! How did I not know about this place? When I saw the little spot in the rear of the market (where Pain d’Avignon is now) with its windows all papered over, I knew I had found the right home for Roni-Sue’s Chocolates. The unique nature of the ESM was ultimately what attracted me to the neighborhood. The first few times I came down to visit the market, I remember wondering why so many places were closed and shuttered when I’d heard what a vibrant neighborhood the LES is. Then I came down to check it out at night and, lo and behold, all those places were open and jam-packed! Ah, nightlife.
What is your favorite block in the neighborhood?
I love wandering the side streets over by Tompkins Square Park. I also like walking from the LES to the EV where I live. Fun to see the surrounding crowds change from hipsters to aging hippies (such as myself).
What is your favorite date spot in the neighborhood?
Second Floor on Clinton, a hidden gem up the back staircase inside Barramundi — so sophisticated, a beautiful grown-up space with fabulous artisan cocktails and warm attentive service. It’s set up like a lovely drawing room with comfy chairs, nice lighting and a relaxed vibe. Good place to talk and get to know someone. You can actually hear one another, too!
What is your favorite coffee in the neighborhood?
Porto Rico Importing in the market is our go-to, regular spot, of course. Sometimes I take a walk to the new spot Caffe Vita on Ludlow, for a change of pace.
What is your favorite cheap eats in the neighborhood?
Puebla Mexican is good and they deliver to ESM quickly. Also like Wacky Wok for healthy stir fry. Love their tempura string beans (OK, maybe not so healthy).
Where do you take your visitors when they’re here?
‘ve taken friends to the Tenement Museum, which is pretty cool, and the New Museum. I love to go to the greenmarket at Tompkins Square on Sundays and out for meals at my fave places in the ‘hood. Alias is a great spot, reasonable prices, delicious food and warm welcoming staff. There’s always some music to hear, too, of course, maybe at Ella lounge.
How do you feel about recent changes in the neighborhood?
I don’t think I can really speak to the recent changes since one could argue I’m one of them!
What new establishment(s) have you been wanting to try?
The new menu at wd~50, Mission Chinese, Pig & Khao.
What’s your favorite LES memory?
The first year after I started Roni-Sue’s, my friends and neighbors in the ESM threw me a surprise birthday party. I remember looking around the room and thinking “I’m home.”