Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mourning Pete's-A-Place

Pizza box from Pete's

On May 12th a terrible fire occurred in our neighborhood, completely destroying the Stuyvesant Convenience Store and Pete's-A-Place. Local television station NY1 provided coverage (click here to view the short video). Accounts of the fire also appeared in the NY Daily News, the Gothamist, and the Village Voice. Neighborhood blogger Ed Grieve posted loads of pictures. The best details about the cause of the fire came from the NY Post: a welding accident at Pete's ignited some cooking grease during the installation of a fire safety device. Ironic, isn't it?

We shall miss the Stuyvesant Convenience Store. It was open 24 hours a day. If you were catching an early flight, you could get a cup of coffee at 4 AM to sip in the cab on the way to the airport. If you were coming home late, you could pick up milk, orange juice, and cat food to ensure a smooth start to the next day. The Stuyvesant Convenience Store was the only place I could reliably find the correct battery for my now-outdated digital camera (which I may now have to replace). Day or night, the guys at the cash registers would often joke with us. "Where you been? I didn't see you for a while..." when you were there just yesterday. Or, ringing up the bill, they might say something like "That will be $100" to erase a preoccupied look from your face. We will surely miss the Stuyvesant Convenience Store. There are similar stores in the neighborhood, it's true, but in addition to the fact that they're all a little farther away, they don't know us.

The bigger impact, though, will result from the loss of Pete's-A-Place. When my husband and I moved into Stuyvesant Town in 1976, Pete's was already well established. We ordered carry-out pizza pretty regularly, as did everyone else in this end of Stuy Town. After our son was born, Pete's took on a different meaning. You could take a group of kids in there for pizza, and the owners and staff never complained about noise or mess. The arrival of Italian ices at Pete's marked the true beginning of summer. How our children would beam with pride when they were finally old enough to approach the counter, dollar in hand, and order their own "icie." It was a neighborhood rite of passage! For adults, pizza from Pete's became a point of reference -- the crust was thinner than Pete's (read: too thin), the sauce was spicier than Pete's (too spicy), there wasn't as much cheese as Pete's, etc. You could order off-menu too. If they had the ingredients, they would make whatever you asked for and price it fairly. My husband's standard order was spaghetti with mushroom sauce and one meatball. Along with an assortment of Italian dishes and pizza, they also served Jamaican meat patties with coco-bread, a favorite with my son. And let's not forget the buffalo chicken wings! Even though I've been a vegetarian now for about 2 years, I would occasionally "cheat" by having just one of Pete's chicken wings when someone else in the family ordered them. Pete's delivered food to our apartment at least twice a week -- because there was sufficient variety on the menu, because we enjoyed the food, because it was convenient, and because the guys at Pete's were like old friends. We have no idea what we will eat next week!

Losing Pete's will change character of the neighborhood. More personally, it will change our lifestyle, and I venture to say we're not the only family in this predicament. I have no idea how to contact any of the owners or employees at Pete's. I can only hope that somehow they will find this blog, because I'd like to say thank you. From our family and on behalf of the whole neighborhood, thank you for helping define this neighborhood. Thank you for making life easier. To the delivery guys, thanks for trekking through snow and rain with our dinner. To those behind the counter, thanks for enduring hordes of young children and for providing teens a safe haven. Thanks for converting cups of change into paper dollars for the homeless people in our neighborhood. Thanks for your kindness and patience with handicapped patrons. Over the years I've consistently witnessed all these things. We're all glad no one was hurt in the fire, and we hope Pete's owners can rebuild and come back from this tragic event.

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood
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