What would Spy magazine think of Graydon Carter’s new store?

James Folta

April 22, 2024, 5:24pm

Image from Air Mail’s Instagram

The foibles and flailings of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very New York were once the targets of Spy, the pioneering magazine started by Kurt Anderson and Graydon Carter. Spy once sent 13-cent checks to rich New Yorkers and reported on who cashed them, a prank that was brash, smart, and funny—everything that the magazine was too.

Graydon Carter is now helming Air Mail, a plush newsletter for the “rich and boring” that has floated above the mucky struggles that have beset its media contemporaries since 2019, and recently opened a smattering of brick-and-mortar shops, including one in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The New York Times’ Style section referred to this shop as “newsstand-style”, which I guess might be true if the news can be found exclusively in residential interior design magazines. The Air Mail Newsstand is “newsstand-style” like Velveeta is cheese-style. Google Maps is a bit more accurate in classifying it as a “novelty shop.”

This is a shop very much at home on the chic and well-appointed Hudson Street, and as I walked over yesterday, I was worried I might have to chug my coffee before walking in, lest I spill on the news. But my worries were quickly allayed: two people were cradling tiny dogs while waiting for espresso, surely much more of a liability.

The shop was buzzing with conversation and upbeat music, full of downtown, weekend-morning athleisure and chore coats (I’m personally guilty of the latter). Parked out front was a branded Air Mail bike, but no actual bike racks. Lots of branded mech is for sale: Air Mail scissors ($75, huge) Air Mail playing cards ($35, cheeky), Air Mail hats ($30, David approved). There are plenty of handsome Objects: brushes, hand brooms, typewriter paper, wine keys, ashtrays, cufflinks, soaps, pocket squares, lotions, lighters, flasks, and other beautiful and upscale items.

The thing that really stuck in my craw was the “skipping rope,” which at $15 seemed weirdly affordable. But who’s buying a wood-handled jump rope? A nostalgic pugilist-in-training trying to get a Teddy Roosevelt body before summer? Does the sophisticated world traveler not use the term “jump rope”?

There are also some magazines and books on offer, though they are overwhelmed by The Objects. Carter is quoted towards the end of the Times’ article saying, “We love print, obviously,” but that’s not at all obvious from this store. There is an eight-page print edition of Air Mail to take home, featuring a good piece on Altman and Gould’s The Long Goodbye and two full-page Tiffany’s ads. There’s also a selection of glossy magazines, all with odd trim sizes and beautiful people on the covers, facing a leather armchair where you can sit and gaze upon the print.

To reach the rest of the beloved print, you have to walk to the back of the store (in fairness, there are also some coffee table books and luxe first-editions throughout, given pride of place in their own built-in display cubbies). In the far corner, behind the espresso bar, the books and novels are stashed on shelves below eye level, as well as in a small, curated collection of books themed around “women’s classics past & present.” The books are all good ones, but in context, it’s hard not to see them as another luxury object, to be displayed alongside your skipping rope, artfully teasing out from its wax bag.

I know I’m the arm-cradled lap dog barking up the wrong tree in the wrong neighborhood. This shop is a branding exercise that I’m sure sells very fine coffee, and offers the kinds of Objects that Air Mail subscribers like to buy.

But I think I wouldn’t mind a dumb shop like this so much if it really felt like it was celebrating the arts, or if Air Mail as a publication had a more noble mission. What if a newsstand-inspired shop could support things you might find on a newsstand, like scrappier, smarter, worker-owned publications and journalists? What if it could champion print and the arts in a city where libraries are now closed on weekends? What if you could just sit and read, without feeling like you were being charged by the hour?

I left the store imagining what the Spy “Separated at Birth” section might have to say about the shop: an image of the Air Mail Newsstand, next to a cover from the now-bankrupt SkyMall.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top