Ten years after….
Somewhere in N. Moore street between Varick and Hudson is home to Playing Mantis. Behind the red framed door that chimes upon opening and closing are walls with carefully displayed wooden and woolen creations …it is where I welcome adults and children alike with a scent of honey beeswax candle burning while illuminating the leaves of fall. After a decade I am still enjoying every kid who walks in with thumping strides of a confident giant. They make the marimba sing, the tops spin and a marble run along a rainbow colored wooden spiral track making waterfall sounds. They come with different hats on winter time , tugging along happy and not so happy adults. Some a believer of whimsy …others eternally curious following the thread of yarn’s intersection with their fingertips or wonder about the mold of a wool into a tiger or a deer with antlers or horns from petite to majestic. Playing Mantis has grown and evolved into a destination place for those who still honor handwork as it weaves imagination into timeless tradition.
The store was born in Nyack corner Franklin and Main …inspired by my son Lucas who is now 16 and with a supportive husband who secured the place as a gift for Mother’s Day over ten years ago. My father and mother then on their mid-70’s were my first help, every morning they would sweep the floor and assist in polishing and pricing the wooden toys one at a time. We learned simple German and Hungarian animal names while my sister convert Euros to dollars. On winter, the back room’s busy with kids knitting or felting. At times we would have a puppet show about Jack Frost while outside the store was covered with snow. Then comes spring and those little-hands eagerly built fairy houses with moss and twigs. Between 2006 and 2016, some wood-workers and doll-makers have gotten too old to sew or carve. I have sold their last dolls and have found homes to the remaining painted ponies.
Playing Manti’s home is now in Tribeca with narrow hallways and high ceiling …walk a little further and you will see a salvaged grand maple tree hanging from above, covered with silk butterflies. Upstairs is a french family with fresh espresso and downstairs a plumber and a landlord from 3 generations. The characters surrounding Playing Mantis befits the children’s books of Swedish author Elsa Beskow. Here in this red tall building …Playing Mantis has found a little world of familiar and strange but never ordinary.
So next time you are walking in the streets of New York City, once in a while look up and see the world outside the tablets and iPhones in your hands …you might just bump into Playing Mantis from a different yet wonderful world of play and living. Merry Christmas and cheers to the next ten years. Thank you to all passersby….