Still courtesy Chris Fox/The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side

If you need a very New York City-style pick-me-up, the Amazon docuseries The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side brings together all that you love and worry about in this city. The story, shot in a reality series style, follows real-life Jewish Orthodox business owner Sammy Gluck who is still running his father’s clothing shop, Global International Mens Clothiers on 62 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Business is tough though and Sammy is the first to admit the challenges. In fact, in the opening sequence, we see him putting up a sign to lease the store. But talking to his long-time core staff, Nat Panariello, an Italian-American associate, and Mario Janson, the store manager from the Bronx, and a colorful cast of real only-in-New York City characters, he realizes he wants to stay open. To retire is to die, he says, and he would be really disappointed if he couldn’t keep the store open for his father, who “was a man who hustled all his life.”

A lot of Sammy’s motivation also has to do with the neighborhood itself. He feels connected to the Lower East Side in a deep and unchangeable way, though his store and his presence now seems out of place. “The store is history,” he explains,” Our street was the busiest street a hundred years ago. Hundreds of people on the street. These days, it’s not the same. Putting this way, people used to come to shop. The street was packed.” Nat continues, “Every store on the block was a retail store, whether it was men’s clothings, ladies clothings, shoes, bags. There were lines outside the streets on Sunday mornings. It’s changed in the way there’s no traffic and the next generation is not the same.”

Global International Mens Clothiers at 62 Orchard Street. Still courtesy Chris Fox/The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side

Sammy walks with his nephew Max, a fashion graduate of FIT who emphasizes the need to re-merchandise the store and try new marketing tactics, around the neighborhood pointing out former synagogues that have been converted into condos and fancy retail. They stop at Bialystoker Synagogue, one of the oldest shuls on the Lower East Side, where Sammy points out that “this is going to be here forever. And I want to be here forever. We are not going to retire. This is the place to be.”

Bialystoker Synagogue

They make another stop at Economy Candy (Sammy is long-time friends with the owner Jerry and jokes how Sammy would fill his suit pockets with candy) and learn about how the candy store from 1937 has survived. “You adapt, you see your customer base changing,” and credits his daughter’s work on social media. It seems to be working – Economy Candy was just featured prominently in the show Billions on Showtime. And they stop at The Tenement Museum, which has guests milling about on the street waiting for their tickets – a testament of the widespread interest about immigrant history on the Lower East Side to this day. Sammy does a little of his own hustling here, talking about a visit to his shop with the guests.

Still courtesy Chris Fox/The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side

The Tenement Museum is housed in a 1863 building on historic Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Photo courtesy The Tenement Museum 

Economy Candy. Still courtesy Chris Fox/The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side

Other key characters who appear include rapper Supernova and his girlfriend Mona, who are friends with Mario, “Pattyboy,” the nephew of Nat who works on Wall Street, and Yenta, a Lower East Side historian, who all come by to help Sammy with the store’s reinvention. Yenta explains that the turnover of business on Orchard Street has been exacerbated by the fact that the scale of neighborhood change has prevented older businesses from “hanging on unless they own their buildings already and they’ve changed their business model.”

Still courtesy Chris Fox/The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side

But will the new ideas be too provocative for Sammy’s Orthodox Jewish heritage? You’ll see. This show is a pleasure to watch, a reminder of all the people still fighting to keep New York City not only a place for small business, but also retaining its historical and cultural identity. And for those that love the Lower East Side, you will see many of the shops and buildings you love.

Check out The Luckiest Guys on the Lower East Side on Amazon.