What a fortuitous occasion. I have waited 2 years for the right day for shooting this chess shop. Chess is special to me - I played on a chess team in high school and spent many Sundays over the years watching masters and grandmasters playing in Washington Square Park - chess legend Bobby Fisher himself was a habitue at one time. I have posted previously the Marshall Chess Club - see it here.
When I took this photo, I had no idea one of the players was the original owner, George Frohlinde (the white haired player in the photo). When I went inside to discuss my intentions for this blog, I coincidentally met and spoke with the new owner, Lawrence Nash, Frohlinde's nephew.
We spoke of real estate and the precarious position a place like this is in. And, he confided, this place may not be around much longer. I have done many stories that I consider part of a an "end of an era" series. Unfortunately, the Village Chess Shop may be added to the fatality list some time in the not so distant future. I found Lawrence extremely likable and sensible. We both agreed that the problem is market forces as a result of the tremendous improvement and desirability of NYC and not, as is frequently alleged, any overt conspiracy by landlords. Most landlords do ask for market rents which do force many tenants out, but some landlords, as is the case in the Chess Shop, do give preferential rents to long term tenants. But it is still very challenging for a small niche business like this to survive, even with undermarket rent.
The Chess Shop was opened in 1972 by George Frohlinde. In the 1960s, he ran a shop owned by International Grandmaster Nicholas Rossolino. At the time, there were a number of chess shops in this area. Sometimes referred to as the "Chess District", only two shops remain - the Chess Shop at 230 Thompson Street and a new competitor across the street, the Chess Forum. The Chess Shop is opened 365 days from 11AM to midnight and provides a place for playing at a nominal hourly fee. They also are known for their selection of a myriad of unique themed chess sets, many of which can be seen in their windows - eyestoppers for most passersby. See them and learn more about the shop at their website. I suggest you visit soon ...