You’ve Got Mail filmed on the Upper West Side. Image source: Moda Chicago.
“Do you know what? We are going to seduce them. We’re going to seduce them with our square footage, and our discounts, and our deep armchairs, and…our cappuccinos!” – Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) in You’ve Got Mail.
This was Fox’s animated strategy for attracting customers to his big bookstore, modeled after the Barnes & Noble’s on 66th Street and Broadway, in Nora Ephron’s 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, a version of the play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo. By the end of the film Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character) shuts down her small bookstore, “The Shop Around the Corner,” because she cannot compete with Fox and Son’s. The influx of big businesses into the Upper West Side is an important string of narrative in You’ve Got Mail, secondary only to the love/hate relationship between Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox. The battle between small shops and corporate businesses on the Upper West Side (and around the city) is one that continues to this day.
A week ago Bill De Blasio, a Democratic nominee for Mayor, was asked about what help he might provide to small businesses by Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York. In his reply the nominee alluded to the use of zoning laws and tax policies to back smaller stores. As reported by The West Side Rag, this existing regulation placed restrictions on the size of storefronts on Broadway, Columbus, and Amsterdam Avenues above 72nd Street to prevent landlords from linking spaces and renting them to larger businesses. Storefronts must not exceed 40 feet in width, though they can apply to extend fronts to 60 feet and existing large stores will remain as broad as they are now when vacated. In theory these zoning laws will prevent places like Big Nick’s, a staple on the Upper West Side since 1962, from closing. In practice it is a lot harder to protect small businesses from falling under to high real estate taxes and exorbitant rents.
In this film locations column, we look at the spots that were featured in You’ve Got Mail, and what they are today:
The Shop Around the Corner
106 West 69th Street
At the time of filming the shop was actually Maya Schaper’s Cheese and Antiques Shop, an equally neighborly and cozy establishment. This closed when Schaper was no longer able to afford the $11,000 a month rent, and it briefly became Cafe Sonatina. Today, the location of The Shop Around the Corner is and laundromat called La Mode Cleaners.
Fox and Sons Books
In the movie, Kathleen’s smaller bookstore was destroyed by the larger Fox Books. The building used in the film was a former Barney’s that had just been vacated when the upscale chain filed for bankruptcy. When the movie was filmed, Fox Books was a stand-in for the large bookstore chain Barnes and Noble that had entered the Upper West Side in 1995. Ironically, the locale on Broadway (between 66th and 67th) closed in 2011 and was replaced by an even more commercial Century 21. Barnes and Noble has been forced to close more than a hundred locations in the two years since, and is expected to close several more in coming years.
See more photos from the last days of the Barnes and Noble on 66th Street.
Cafe Lalo 83rd Street and Amsterdam
Walking into Cafe Lalo for the first time, the amount of pies, cakes, and tarts on display is frankly overwhelming. The patisserie, which opened in 1988, has European-style entrance facing 83rd Street. On its opening the Cafe was a sign of the gentrification of the Upper West Side. Now, it has become a staple of the area.
The bagel shop was also featured on the TV shows Seinfeld and Friends. The building now sells phones.
Joe’s ‘neighborhood bagel place’ was none other than H&H Bagels, the former titleholder of Best Bagels in New York City. The original H&H opened in 1972 on West 80th Street and Broadway, after Midtown Bagels was purchased by Helmer Toro and Hector Hernandez. Toro took control of the business on the Upper West Side, eventually opening up another store in Hell’s Kitchen and beginning to ship the now famous H&H Bagels worldwide. The bagel shop filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and last location closed in January of 2012. The name is kept alive with an H&H Midtown Bagels East on the Upper East Side, with different owners than the original two.
2239 Broadway is now home to a Verizon Wireless store.
This Upper West Side staple has also appeared on episodes of Will & Grace, The West Wing, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, and Castle.
Beware the weekend crowds at this Upper West Side delicatessen! Frequented for its bagels, smoked fish, and cheeses, Zabar’s has been in the neighborhood since 1934. It began as a counter at a market run by Louis and Lillian Zabar. Their children succeeded them, and Zabar’s has remained a family-run business. To find out what is happening at the store, check out Zabar’s Blog.
Image source: Stick Boy Daily.
The scenic ending of the movie takes place in the 91st Street Garden, a privately maintained segment of the Riverside Park. A volunteer organization called The Garden People tends to the Sharon treets, hibiscus flowers, and a multitude of other flowers that bloom from spring to fall. This particular garden has been in the Upper West Side since 1984.
Fun Fact: The apartment building where Joe lives was also used in the movie Baby Mama, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.