Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
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Entries in Westchester County (4)


Grand Opening: Fairway Market in Pelham Manor!

For many months, I’d stared at the shell of the building being renovated at the Post Road Plaza shopping center, and couldn’t wait for Fairway Market to open!


On April 14, with much fanfare, Irvington residents Howie Glickberg, and his son Dan Glickberg, ushered in a brand new era of Westchester and North Bronx retail history, with the opening of "the world's greatest food store" in Pelham Manor, New York.  I managed to have a front row seat (well, I grabbed a place in the line stretching around the side of the building), when the doors opened at 9 a.m.

There was an incredible turnout, under glorious blue skies.  Many customers in line had shopping carts at the ready, as they clutched flyers with advertised deals on organic produce, olive oil, and Murray’s chicken. Little Neck Clams, freshly harvested from Long Island's Gold Coast were also on sale.

Fairway Market, was founded in Manhattan in the 1930's.  There are now six stores throughout New York, and New Jersey.  The company prides itself as being family run (now in it’s fourth generation).  It had more than 12 million shoppers last year, ranking it as one of New York's premier artisinal food destinations.

After growing up in the land of huge corporate national grocery store chains, offering an array of average products, it was amazing to have so many extraordinary fresh food choices, all under one roof.  Howie Glickberg said, “Shop at Fairway once, and you’ll be a customer for life!”



In New York, Fairway has a legendary cult-like following.  Why would people from Westchester drive all the way to Harlem just to buy groceries?  Why were the local foodie blogs in a frenzied buzz over when Fairway would open in Pelham Manor?  At first, it really didn’t make much sense to me.  I had visited two of their stores- one in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which was in a converted Civil War era warehouse building, and the outpost in Harlem.  A cursory walk-through revealed yes, they had a lot of produce, and fabulous food, but I didn’t really appreciate that it was an extraordinary market.

I was sooo naïve.

However, times, and tastes change. After spending a few years volunteering on a few food systems initiatives, shopping at local farmers markets, and watching documentaries, I finally understood how important it was to have access to fresh food.  I saw the light. As a matter of fact, I also realized that buying food at Fairway is more of a culinary excursion than simply going grocery shopping! If cooking is an art, and baking is a science, then Fairway is the food university.

"This store is ginormous!"

The Pelham Manor store is a whopping 75,000 square feet, and has 400 employees.  At the door, employees handed out maps to navigate the aisles. At one point there was so much going on during opening day, that I found myself happily overwhelmed, and hit sensory overload.  Between the huge selection of coffee beans on display, the fresh mozzarella station, the sushi bar, the bakery, and the vast deli counter, I didn’t quite know where to look first.  The store also has 15,000 organic and natural foods available in the store. The staff was extremely friendly, and quick to answer questions.


There was a tremendous turnout, but I was pleasantly surprised at how fast it was to checkout.  Before leaving, I received a wonderful cornucopia of Fairway gifts, just for being among the first few hundred people to enter the store. 

The bag included a copy of The Food Life, written by Steve Jenkins, Fairway's former master buyer, and legendary cheese monger.  The book contains anecdotes from the man who personally brought so many of the world's greatest foods to New York and the United States.  It’s also a great primer for shopping at Fairway, as there are many stories about some of the store’s bestsellers. There are also many recipes by Jenkins's longtime associate, Mitchel London.

As great as opening day was, I had a chance to visit again a few days later, and there were just as many people there. However, I did get to walk around several areas of the store that I completely missed before, including the incredibly busy 60-seat café.  Some other must-sees include: 

  • 6,000 square foot produce section with both organic and conventional offerings
  • More than 100 varieties of domestic and imported olive oils
  • 70 different types of olives
  • Store roasts 2,000 pounds of coffee daily.
  • Cheese counter has more than 600 different cheeses and a mozzarella making station.
  • A fresh pasta section.

In May the Pelham Manor store will open a Fairway Wine and Spirits in 6,500 square foot space.  Fairway Market is open 8 am to 11 pm daily. For more information visit Fairway's website


Harmony Designs: Cosmopolitan Living with a Global Flair

[Mount Vernon, NY] I had the joy of visiting Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors, at the invitation of Robin Harmon-Myers.   She owns the striking furniture, accessories, and interior design studio, nestled in the heart of Mount Vernon’s historic South Fourth Avenue shopping district.  The retail store is located on the ground floor of a century-old, 12,500 square foot building owned by Robin and her husband Floyd. Directly above are three 2,500 square foot loft units.                                                                                                                             

Robin pursued an interior design career, and eventually opened her own business, after being a disappointed consumer in search of quality, culturally inspired designs.  “As a young African-American woman shopping for her first home, I kind of felt a void in the market. It was either completely ethnic or not at all.” 

Robin is an interior designer, whose diverse portfolio includes design services, for upscale retail spaces, and numerous residences, throughout the New York metropolitan area.   Her style is most accurately described, as timeless, giving a nod to tradition, while incorporating an amalgamation of modern, and cutting-edge, environmentally conscious décor. 

Proving that the world is truly a global village, Robin has traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, after being chosen to visit by the South African Consulate.  She attended the country’s handmade tradeshow, and is now featuring new inventory from her latest excursion. 

The six-year-old store, has also received its share of media buzz.  It has been featured in Black Enterprise, and Westchester Home magazine.  Robin also penned an article, for Sister 2 Sister magazine, about the various aspects of loft living.  

I first met Robin four years ago, when she hosted a gracious and wonderful benefit party at her store.   Harmony Designs, has been the setting for any number of community meetings, book signings, book club meetings, art exhibitions, cottage parties, and charity events since its founding.  I once described it as a modern day salon of sorts, as her events attract a vibrant cross-section of people from throughout the New York metropolitan area.  

Anyone who enters the store should do so with keen curiosity to learn about new products, while soaking up the beauty of the environs.  In an age where design is often cookie-cutter, and mass produced, Robin has assembled unique home, and gift items that reflect her impeccable taste. 

The shelter emporium is a well-appointed, transformative, and comfortable oasis in the heart of busy downtown Mount Vernon.   Harmony Designs is truly a standout, as it combines the vibrancy of store that one might find in the Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods, or Manhattan’s SoHo, but is convenient to those who live in Westchester County. What could be better than discovering the perfect find as a gift or for home, without having to travel!

One of Robin’s hallmarks has been to recommend environmentally sensitive products. The store is stocked with an eclectic variety of oversized vases, fine linens, candles, lamps, flatware, hurricanes, and many decorative accent pillows.   Contemporary furniture, wood-framed mirrors, and abstract artwork are among the many sumptuous accoutrements that are easily found.  Harmony Designs also carries items from the Carol’s Daughter beauty line.

Robin loves to impart her design knowledge to others through her in-store workshops, which are available to the public at least once a month. Robin takes pride in being a design educator, and offers a variety of classes ranging from archiving photographs, wine appreciation to design inspired by African American literature, textiles, and art.

(l to r) Erika Naughton, Robin Harmon-Myers (owner of Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors), Lucinda Sloan-Fullan, and Vanessa Thorpe at the fabulous workshop.

During one summer workshop, I had the chance to learn about the merits of decorating outdoor patios, and spaces to enjoy nature to the fullest. It was quite a convivial afternoon of creating decorative displays using mint leaves, and sprigs of pretty purple annual flowers to place in small silver vases.  
Robin served a fresh salad, cookies, seasonal fruit, and had a generous crystal carafe of mint flavored iced water. We all had such a fabulous time talking, and creating that the time passed by far too quickly. I even won a rose bush from a local nursery.  In the end she said that she hosted the event because, "We are so focused on the need-based things.  We must carve out time to nurture ourselves.”  

For more information:
Harmony Designs Furniture & Interiors
115 South 4th Avenue
Mount Vernon, New York

Young at Arts in action

Young at Arts is an extraordinary arts education organization, based in Bronxville, founded by Mount Vernon resident, Sharyn Pirtle.  Students from the Bronx, and lower Westchester, attend the selective after-school program, which seeks dedicated performing arts students by recommendation, and audition. Young people participate in full theatrical productions under the auspices of professional artists, directors, actors, writers, and designers.

On Friday, I received a note from Sharyn, who shared these fantastic photographs, from a June 2008 production of Once on This Island, Jr.  The musical is the captivating legend of romance between a peasant girl, and a rich city boy whom she saves from death.

In her note, Sharyn wrote, “These are all Mount Vernon students. They did such a phenomenal job, and were truly proud of this accomplishment. The costumes, lighting, choreography, direction and set, were all done by professional artists.”  Sharyn also told me that there were many talented professional artists from the city who were eager to work with the children, “to give back in the best way that they know.”

For more information about Young at Arts, please visit their website.  Thank you Sharyn for sharing the great news!




Modernism in Larchmont at Mango Mix

On Saturday, well in advance of tropical storm Hanna, I happened to be in Larchmont. Between the farmers market at the train station, and a sidewalk sale of epic proportions over on Palmer Avenue, it was quite the happening place. While I maneuvered past the throngs of shoppers fanned three deep, next to narrow racks, scouting out back-to-school discounts, it was nice to see so many out on an unusually steamy day.

I stopped by an eco-organic cafe called Mango Mix [130 Chatsworth Avenue]. Chances are that it is probably the only place in Westchester with Eames LCW Chairs (or at least great reproductions), vibrant lime green walls, and white birch tree trunks. It is without a doubt one of the most interesting retail space interiors that I've seen in a minute.

The menu is 100 percent organic, offering signature salads, panini, wraps, coffee, and a variety of juices. I had a delicious and refreshingly cool Berry Blast Smoothie, which came in a biodegradable cup made out of corn. Here are some more photographs that I snapped. It's a great place to check out, and is located directly across from the Larchmont train station. I’m still recovering from my small foray into the happy sensory overload zone.