Neighborhood Profiles

Featuring long-standing neighborhood businesses.

Mugi Pottery Studio

Mugi Pottery Studio
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When did the business open and how was it started?

“The business opened on June 1st, 1983… Frank Edge and Sally Rothschild, who were two potters, homesteaded this space after this area was rehabbed from crackhouses into viable housing. The city made a deal with the co-op, by selling this building [cheaply] in exchange for repairs. At that point Frank and Sally found this space for their pottery studio, made a very inexpensive lease for it, and started the studio.”

“I bought in in 2004. I actually remember the date that I first walked in here. It was June 24th, 2004… I walked in here and I thought ‘Yes, perfect.’ By October, the sale was all settled and we were in business.”

What is Mugi known for? What unique services do you offer your customers?

“As a pottery studio. It’s a community. Where people come together from all different backgrounds and cultures and nationalities and the one thing that connects everyone is the love of clay.”

“We teach people happiness. It’s like playing an instrument. You start from learning the basics and being very frustrated, initially, because your skill level is not at the level as your desire to make these things. Then, as you get better, you realize that you’re never done. There’s always more to add to this craft. That’s the attraction.”

How has the neighborhood changed in the time that you’ve been here?

“Oddly enough, I don’t think [the neighborhood]’s changed a whole lot. In some ways, it’s very much a neighborhood that people have lived in for a very long time. One of the things that has happened is that the drug activity [has cleaned up]. There isn’t as much of that anymore. We have nice restaurants now. I’m glad that one thing has stayed here, which is the small businesses. We are always the ones pushed out. The buildings and the landlords have been accommodating. That’s a big part of this neighborhood. That we have small stores and small businesses that are catering to very specific needs.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I’m planning to be here for a while. I’ll be here for at least another 5 years. I signed a new lease recently. I love this. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to live than this, right now. Who knows what tomorrow has in store, but this is something that I will continue to do for a while.”

-Outi Putkonen, Owner

West Side Movers

West Side Movers
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When did the business open and how was it started?

“My husband started this in 1972… At the time, when he started this business, he wanted to take an industry that was a little sketchy – people were afraid that they would get ripped off, they wouldn’t show up, they would overcharge, they’d break your stuff – and make a quality operation. He went for all guys who had families and he hired a lot of people who were artists. This was their day job. That was in ’72… I was a psychotherapist for 25 years. 15 years ago, when Matt was 12, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and within 6 months he died. So I inherited the moving company.”

What changes have you made?

“I ran it and became the moving therapist because moving is very stressful… I brought a lot of empathy into the process. I started to study what the issues are in this business and people are very anxious. The people would say that they were packed and they weren’t packed or whatever… I would call the night before and I’d say ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ and they’d go ‘Oh my god I haven’t packed the kitchen, I’ve gotta…’ and I’d say, ‘No problem. Ok, what can we do to make this experience easier?’”

How has the neighborhood changed?

I think it’s on the way up. When we moved in here, there weren’t that many people here. Now, maybe it’s changed because a lot of the mom and pops are going out. Everybody’s buying online. We were the first in the industry to sell moving supplies to the public. There was a time when we had two delivery vans just coming and going and we had big revenue from that. Now, not so, because everybody sells boxes.”

-Joanne Fiore, Former Owner

How did you become involved with the business?

“I grew up hanging out here after school. This must have been when I was 8 or 9 – the photo. I just wanted to be like my dad. It was a really nice place for me to start working at a very young age. When he died, when I was like 12 years old, it was my dream to follow in his footsteps. I feel like a cliche – I’ve got big shoes to fill.”

What are your plans for the future?

“We really want to focus on the Upper West Side. Our slogan is “New York’s favorite mover,” but our namesake is West Side Movers and plans for the future would be to develop more business with newer buildings and existing buildings on the Upper West Side. We want more community effort with buildings here. Unfortunately, the classic American dream type of goal, of wanting to own this building that we work in, is just not possible. We want to stay a neighborhood staple.”

-Matt Fiore, Owner