Sunday, December 31, 2017

An Abundant Life - The Old And The New

It seems fitting that I would find myself writing about The Campbell Bar as the end of the year turns from an old page to a new one. I learned about this glorious space when they first opened, and though time and again I would talk about making plans with friends to go there, the first time I walked in was on an anniversary of sorts with one of my longest time friends when she was visiting over Labor Day Weekend, and she offered to treat me to any number of wonderful places that were some my choice and some hers. I suggested The Campbell Bar because I thought she would like to see it - I knew I'd been wanting to go for years and from everything I'd heard it would be just the sort of place that is special enough to spend time with a good friend while also being a sight seeing adventure. It was both of those things, so beautiful and relaxing to sit there, so luxurious with its old paneling and rich design, and the food and the cocktails were lovely and delicious too. It is the kind of place that makes you think of Old New York while still being chic enough to be new and exciting, and the food and cocktails, the service and the atmosphere remind you that you live in a place that has a history of being the Greatest City in the World for good reason. Outside the plush and hushed inner sanctum, the hustle and bustle of New York City's 42nd Street rushes by, and an elevator away is the stunning and invigorating Grand Central Station, a place that captivated my childhood sensibilities enough to be the focus of a requested vacation trip there with my mother in the bygone years ago when I'd never seen it before. I had three requests that vacation - to climb the Statue of Liberty, to go to Wall Street, and to take a train from Grand Central Station. At the time when we climbed Lady Liberty, we could go all the way up into the crown, something that I've never done since and that cannot be done any more. Wall Street I've found myself in and around for many different reasons over the years, and Grand Central Station too, and each time I am near any of those places, I remember my long ago childhood dream and how each one fulfilled its promise to a romantic heart.

Over the years Grand Central Station has been transformed into something even more exciting and vibrant. With the cleaning of the overhead mural and the addition of gourmet shops, luxury goods and a food hall it has become a regular destination for many people who might not otherwise be traveling by its trains. But it is those trains that make it what it is, a transportation hub to places beyond, with always that feeling that train stations have that something exciting could happen and new places could be found with their new adventures. When the Campbell Apartment opened, it had long been hidden away and forgotten. During the time of the many excavations and repairs and construction projects and renewals that were begun by the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the years before my first trip there, it had become a space that was unused and unseen by the public. Originally known as The Campbell Apartment, it had been the private office and reception hall of Jazz Age financier John W. Campbell, and was carefully and thoughtfully restored by the excellent Gerber Group under the direction of internationally renowned design firm Ingrao Inc. When it opened as The Campbell Bar, it was an astonishing discovery to know that this loveliness had been there all along, a sight that brought back the days gone by when people of all sorts of businesses traveled through Grand Central on their way to and from making New York City the great city it is today. My father and grandfather traveled that way, stopping at the Oyster Bar and having Clam Pan Roast with Gin Martinis or Perfect Manhattans on their way to and from Westchester County or Yale and New Haven. It was a different time then, and when I visit the Campbell Bar, I can still feel the promise of those nearly forgotten days which brings me to my own present and future and reminds me of why I know that New York City is and always will be the best and greatest place there is.

The Campbell Bar is part of a trio of beautiful spaces which also includes The Campbell Palm Court and The Campbell Terrace. All of them unique and lovely experiences, with a beautiful combination of historic and contemporary design features that create a feeling of elegance and comfort. Tonight, on New Year's Eve, The Campbell Bar will be hosting a Black Tie Ball. If you're a history buff, a lover of luxury, or you just like to dress in your finest, I can't think of a better place to ring in the New Year and start it off in style.

The Campbell Bar
Grand Central Station
Level B
Just Off 43rd Street
New York City


Jannie Susan

Sunday, December 24, 2017

An Abundant Life - A Beautiful History

There is an area of New York City that I have loved visiting ever since I discovered it one day on a walk with a friend in my early years of city life. We had gone to Central Park for a picnic lunch and decided to walk downtown, and on the way we passed a sign in a window on Madison Avenue just below 34th Street for a carpet store that was having a moving sale. I was used to seeing those signs in those days, and usually when you went inside, the sale was not really a sale and the merchandise was standard merchandise that could be found in any number of other places that boasted the same signs and same sales. This type of marketing was common back then, and some of these stores were having moving sales regularly in the same location for years. But on that day my friend and I were in the mood to continue our adventure, and so we walked into the carpet store and discovered that it really was an interesting and beautiful place and they really were having a big sale because they were really moving. Years later I discovered them again in their new location and had the lovely opportunity to tell the owner how much my friend and I had enjoyed that day and still continued to enjoy the memory. We had both walked out carrying lovely Kilims that have continued to bring us joy all these years. Since that day, whenever I am in that area and have some time I like to wander into other carpet stores. The owners are often very busy, but they are so knowledgeable that it is worth waiting for their time, and when they understand that you're someone who is truly interested in the art of their business, they share information and history that can only be found in the rarest of archives.

Last fall I was invited to the 46th Anniversary of Persian Gallery New York, and when I saw that the address was on a higher floor of a building and not on a ground floor as many of the other carpet stores are, I wanted to attend because I had a feeling it would be a rare and exclusive experience to meet the owners and see their showroom. I had tickets to the opera that afternoon, an unexpected gift, and I had invited a friend to join me, and when we met, I told him that afterward I was going to rush the blocks downtown to get to this other event because I didn't want to miss it. We arrived very late, but the hosts were very gracious, and the visit was definitely all I could have hoped for and even more. Just after we arrived, they unfurled a Julius Caesar Tapestry that is believed to be one of the lost treasures from the Royal Palace of King Henry VIII and one of the rarest of all in the world, a viewing that would be extraordinary in any location and that was a very special and breathtaking one because of the intimate showroom environment. They had not been planning to show it that night, but that is the way that they are - their love of the pieces they collect is brought into the world around them, and they wanted to share their beauty. I explained that I had wanted to attend the event to meet them and that I hoped I could return and write a blog post, and they gave me their card and made an appointment with me for a day a short time later. It is rare to have the honor to visit with such knowledgeable people who are so well respected within their industry. Persian Gallery New York has a history of having one of the finest collections of antique and rare carpets and tapestries in the world, and the two brothers who founded it have together carefully curated and collected some of the most amazing pieces of functional art and design imaginable.

When I returned for our visit, Co-Founder and President Ike Hakim and Vice President Rodney Hakim sat down with me for a conversation. It was so interesting to listen to their history and the information they shared with me about the beautiful pieces of art all around us that I could have stayed with them for many more hours just listening and looking and admiring. There is so much to see and so much variety in style and weave and color, and so much to learn from such learned and dedicated collectors. My experience with them was so interesting it was better than a museum visit - there was so much more to see and things could be touched and experienced physically. At one point when I walked out into the showroom to take photographs, one of the carpets was laid out on the floor, and as I walked over it, Ike Hakim said, "Walking on history." My feeling was one of walking on luxury, walking on beauty, and yes, walking on history, and it is a feeling I could get very used to and that I would never tire of. This is art that is accessible, functional, historical, luxurious and educational. A walk into Persian Gallery New York is a walk into the world of fine craftsmanship, art and life.

Persian Gallery New York
36 East 31st Street
New York, New York

Vice President Rodney Hakim
Sharing The Story Of A Rare Julius Caesar Tapestry
Believed To Be One Of The Lost Treasures
From The Palace Of King Henry VIII

Co-Founder And President Ike Hakim
Remembering History And Looking Toward The Future

Co-Founder and President Ike Hakim And Vice President Rodney Hakim
Speak About The Many Illustrious Years Of The Family Business
And The Adventures They've Shared As Curators
Of Some Of The Finest Antique And Rare Carpets And Tapestries In The World

At The 46th Anniversary Celebration
Photographs Courtesy Of The Persian Gallery


Jannie Susan