“It’s like old New York,” says a happy customer waiting for her kitchen knives to be sharpened Saturday morning near Columbia University. The old red truck that serves as Dominic Del Re’s mobile store was parked on 111th street, just off Broadway. Around the corner “Premium Rush,” a film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was preparing to film, but Dominic was unperturbed. He drives all over the five boroughs, picking a good place to stop and ringing his bell to let people know he’s ready for business. Just like an ice cream truck….
The New York Times wrote about him in 1997, but we prefer to analyze the artwork on the truck. The stencil spraypaint lettering “DEL RE’S GRINDING” conveys the industrial characteristic of the job, but the clip art-like paintings of knives, scissors, lawnmowers, ice skates and axes demonstrate the range of items Dominic can sharpen for you. I love the simplicity and modernity of the artwork. Three colors: yellow, black or gray. No outlining, no shading, very two-dimensional. An urban Miro perhaps!
A few tidbits on Dominic: He’s from Italy, was a commodities trader in New York City and decided to get into the mobile knife sharpening business after the stock market crash of 1987. The truck is from his wife’s uncle, a knife grinder in Montreal, who also taught him the trade. He seems to be doing well. He started in Brooklyn and now goes all over. According to public records, he owns the building at 81 Dalton Avenue in Staten Island where his business is listed. He doesn’t like photographs, but will jokingly charge you $1 per shot.
Here’s a great little video of the Dominic and the truck in action.