If you have ever been to a dinner party in New York City, you have probably eaten from a dish purchased at Fishs Eddy, a New York institution and family business dedicated to curating an “eclectic” selection of cookware and glassware. The shop’s products, often decorated with snappy sayings or adorable animals, stem from owner Julie Gaines’ passion for material culture and manufacturing history. Along with the store and its mini museum, Gaines released Minding the Store, a graphic novel about her life and how Fishs Eddy fits into it.
Our in-person Fishs Eddy tour has been so loved by the Insiders that we decided to let the owner, Julie Gaines tell her story and share her book, Minding the Store with our virtual members. On August 4, join Untapped New York Insiders for an exclusive Minding the Store Book Talk with Fish’s Eddy Owner, Julie Gaines.
Minding the Store Book Talk
The store — founded by Gaines and her partner Dave Lenowitz — was named after a small upstate New York hamlet called Fishs Eddy. The couple chose the name before they even knew what they wanted to sell. However, after Gaines and Lenovitz discovered the vintage-cookware-filled-basement of King’s Restaurant Supply, a store in the restaurant supply district in the Bowery, they realized they had a new mission to accomplish: find and save all the vintage cookware they could get from the Bowery’s rapidly dwindling restaurant suppliers.
The business started in 1985 when native Staten Islander Julie Gaines and her husband Dave Lenovitz rented a hole-in-the-wall shop in Gramercy Park. From there, they quickly moved to a busier street in the West Village and then, in 1990, to their current home in the Flatiron District just south of the Flatiron Building.
During the pandemic, Gaines decided to add a museum to her cookware kingdom. Objects on view in the tiny but well-loved museum contain references to society events, military history, and even corporate emblems. These historical items document lived histories of restaurants, homes, diners, and even train cars. The collectors formed their vision for this collection by viewing the latent histories contained within each of these objects: how they were used, who used them, and where they were made.
The story behind Fishs Eddy may seem inspirational, but it is also fantastical enough to belong in a graphic novel. Turning to herself and her family for inspiration, Gaines filled her graphic novel, Minding the Store, with “humorous characterizations” of opinionated relatives, nosy neighbors, and quirky employees. She did not spare herself or her husband from the spotlight: Throughout the work, she details life as a parent and a business owner in New York City. These gritty details aim to inspire the reader.
“Entrepreneurs will learn a thing or two about translating a dream into thoughtful business growth, and everyone will laugh, cry, and nod along with a woman who has chosen to live an extraordinary life amidst many piles of dishes,” Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack and author of the New York Times bestseller Setting the Table, wrote about the graphic novel.
Keeping with the family business practice, Gaines employed her son, Ben Lenovitz, to illustrate the graphic novel. Illustrating in the styles of famous cartoonists Roz Chast and Ben Katchor, Lenovitz brings Fishs Eddy to life on the page, while immortalizing his mother’s life and legacy. The “big story about small business” is also a story about family.
In this beautiful snapshot of Gaines’ amazing career, the magic and excitement of Fishs Eddy are captured in a 176-page book. T0 hear Julie’s amazing story about founding the retail icon, Fish’s Eddy, discover Julie’s treasure trove of historic china hidden in a one-room museum above her store, and listen to Julie talk about the creation of the graphic novel, Minding the Store, join Untapped New York Insiders for an exclusive Minding the Store Book Talk. You may even learn what’s next for Fishs Eddy and Julie as she ponders the creation of an official China museum back down on the Bowery.
Minding the Store Book Talk
Next, read more about Fishs Eddy, the smallest museum with the biggest gift shop!