This is going to make you say ‘only in New York.’
I got the opportunity to see a preview of an upcoming show that really intrigued me.
I promise it’s real. I couldn’t make it up if I tried.
Sammy Gluck, an orthodox Jewish owner, his Italian sales associate, and his Dominican Store Manager are worried about how rapidly changing Lower East Side will affect their store, Global International Menswear, which has been in business for some 70 years.
Now they’re in trouble because of gentrification. Global International Menswear was doing well in its earlier days, a period that makes me think of those mafia movies where everyone had to wear a nice suit.
So they bring in some young people to save the store: a rising rapper and a fashion-forward nephew to start with, and it looks like the Sammy, the store owner is taking well to their advice.
This is where life is imitating art, in that the cast of characters is so diverse, and the owner is so receptive to their feedback and everyone seems to genuinely love and respect each other and the community that it almost feels like a live action episode alla Hey Arnold! Except it’s a an unscripted comedy.
And this is real life. And it’s New York.
I want it to work out, but there’s always a chance it might not. But clearly a lot of people have faith in this business, after all they’re making a series about it, and that’s really what makes this an interesting show. The people involved with the makeover are on board, so I’m eager to see how customers will react.
While slice-of-life period pieces like recent best picture nominee Roma make you feel like you’re watching real life by immersing you in the emotions of the characters and using symbolism and carefully constructed scenes, The Luckiest Guys is an interesting blend of cinematic and documentary style shooting. It’s like what real life would actually look like if it were directly translated into a movie. It doesn’t hide what happens when worlds collide in the way that they only do in New York City.
It’s beautiful in the same way those moments are when the most different kinds of people are all stuck on the subway or trying to figure out if they’re getting on the right bus that just replaced the Q train out of nowhere.
Deep down, I feel like every New Yorker secretly wants to belong to a self-made neighborhood family like this one. Sometimes we don’t know how to connect and the only thing we have in common is wishing the trains would move faster. And I think the age difference between the newcomers and old-timers has a lot to do with the divide. Back in the day, people from different backgrounds only had each other, and these guys who have known each other for a long time have clearly made things work. I think young people want to make things work — we don’t come to New York to displace anyone, but we don’t always know how to work with the existing community to preserve it. Sammy and his team grew up in times where different people from different backgrounds all were coming to neighborhoods like the LES at the same time, and they learned to put their differences aside so that together they could create a thriving business. I think it’s good that they’re taking the lead in bridging the gap between the developing and existing communities in the modern LES.
Plus, I have to say it’s rare to see someone like Sammy on as the subject of a show. He’s someone you root for. He seems like an honest guy — certainly New York tough and gruff, but he’s definitely the patriarch of this group, and a loving one who’s willing to listen.
I think it’s a good reminder that in spite of our differences on the surface: in age, religion, skin color, and fashion sense we’re all New Yorkers, and we all want to preserve our community even as it evolves. Maybe this story will teach all of us how to integrate the changes that are coming with gentrification while preserving the communities that have lived here for decades.
There’s definitely some nostalgia of classic New York and the historical Lower East Side melting pot that I, a Brooklyn transplant am always fascinated by. And given some of the articles I came across about Sammy and the shop, it looks like a lot of long time LES residents are glad to see efforts to preserve local businesses and the existing community before they’re gone and forgotten. I feel like change anywhere is inevitable, but perhaps this show will show us that it doesn’t have to come at the expense of tradition and inclusivity.
I’m keeping tabs on this one to see how it goes. If you’re in the Lower East Side, you can stop by Global International Menswear on Orchard St. and Grand. And follow the series on its website www.luckiestguysles.com It premieres on Amazon Prime April 1st of this year.