Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hinsch's Luncheonette

I'll go light on the text, partly because the photos can speak for themselves, and partly to heed my grandmother's advice that one with nothing nice to say might better say nothing at all. 

Say it ain't so, Hinsch's!  Amid its latest ownership change, this ancient but lately troubled Brooklyn luncheonette has ditched its spectacular, 65-year old neon projecting sign, according to photographic evidence circulating on Facebook.  A new sign in the shape of the old one has gone up in its place. (Hinsch's old script fascia sign is still there, but looking in need of a little help.)  Why anyone would forgo the incredible stand-out value of such a unique classic is beyond me.  

Hinsch's, before and after.  (T. Rinaldi, top; John Shea/BAY RIDGE/Kevin Walsh on Facebook, below)

The backstory: in late 2011, Hincsh's longtime ownership announced that it was calling it quits after more than six decades at its Bay Ridge location.  As eulogies poured in from all over town, word came that new owners had stepped in and given the restaurant a last minute reprieve.  But things didn't go as planned:  after about a year, the new management reported financial troubles, and reluctantly announced that they, too, would close up shop.  Then, just when all seemed lost, word came that yet another owner had stepped up to try to keep the old business afloat.

RIP: Hinsch's old sign featured deco details and pin-striping set in porcelain enameled steel, with exposed tube neon in two colors. (T. Rinaldi)

This latest turn of events has apparently brought about the demise of what was without a doubt one of the best old signs in New York.  Other changes are evident, too: the new sign suggests a name change ("Mike's Hinsch's"?), broadcasts the establishment as a "diner," and announces a new, 24-hour schedule.

(T. Rinaldi)

Nice to see new lifeblood pumped into an old neighborhood institution.  Not nice to see it done at the expense of what made this place so appealing in the first place, what made it stand out as something different.  In writing recently on the restoration of Circo's Pastry Shop's sign over in Bushwick, I opined that "inasmuch as a sign's job is to draw attention, nothing does the job like an old neon storefront today."  With every old sign down, the ones that remain stand out that much more.

• July 22, 2013, at the NYPL / Mid-Manhattan Branch.

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