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M. Steffan’s Sons, Inc

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This is Linda Steffan, fifth generation owner of M. Steffan’s Sons, she inherited the shop from her father in 1993. In the above photo she is holding one of the two leather camera straps she just made for me. Her business card states, in addition to her name, number, etc: Wholesalers and Retailers of Leather and Findings; Shoe Shiner and Leather Craft Supplies.

It’s interesting, I have lived in the neighborhood of this store for many years and have probably walked or biked past it literally thousands of times and often wondered about it, and also questioned whether it was still open. It is very much so.

Unhappy with a strap I had for my camera and wanting one specific, I thought I would stop by so I Googled the place for its hours and came across this recent article about her in the Buffalo News. When I went there a couple weeks ago on my lunch break it was like stepping back in time. I showed her my current strap and what I would like and questioned if she could make one for me, “Sure, why not,” is what she said.

While chatting with her and shooing away her tiny dog that kept nipping at my ankles I told her I read that she had ghosts in the basement which she kept at bay with salt on the stairs. “That’s right,” she said a matter-of-factly, “and there’s also a crucifix as well.” When I requested to see them she declined.

Over the course of three visits in the past couple weeks I was surprised how many customers came in. There was someone with a large leather chair having it repaired, someone purchasing strips of leather, and today a guy was picking up his shoes which he has shined there. In retrospect, I remember chatting with a late neighbor, who was repairing his own leather chair, who told be he purchased the leather their as it was the only place he could find in the city.

It really is an interesting experience doing business with Linda. Not only are you doing business with the owner—which is becoming a rarity these days—but she is polite and cheerful and the place is packed floor-to-ceiling with all sorts of tools and merchandise. What you won’t find are any loud or glaring screens, in fact I didn’t see any electronics at all. My receipt is hand written.

Yesterday when I got the call that my straps were ready I told her I would stop by the next day on my lunch hour, which was Wednesday. She mentioned that she was only open until 12:00 or 1:00pm on Wednesdays so I made sure to be on time. When I arrived, we fitted one of my cameras with a strap to make sure it fit correctly—it did—and then she punched a couple more holes in the leather to make it a bit more adjustable.

Thanking her for her work, before leaving I asked why she closed early on Wednesdays. She smiled replied simply, “Because I can.” Thank you Linda for such a pleasurable experience, I felt like an actual person and not just another customer while doing business with you. 

Urban Simplicity.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (No. 736)…

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On the bike, or at least being pulled behind the bike…$167 in groceries. (Note to self…don’t stop at the grocery store for “just a couple things” with an empty stomach).

Journal Entry, 6 February 2019

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Sometimes my heart becomes hardened in such a subtle way that I don’t realize, setting up a sort of invisible shield. Shutting the world out and me in. Then a chance encounter cracks its fragile outer shell, letting in light and love out. And in an instant I can see—am reminded—that is all there is. The most important thing. To love one another, no matter what. It’s so simple and equally difficult. But remembering is the most difficult part of all.

White Magic (seasoning)

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When I was a young cook coming up the chef that I trained under would make us mix bins of this stuff and we used it in everything. It is a general purpose seasoning mix and so easy to make but at the same time so flavorful. There are plenty of versions of this which one can purchase but it is very simple to make. At home I use the reduced salt version (which is posted here) but at work I up the salt to equal proportions with the other seasonings. Anyhow, adapt it to your liking, keep a small bowl or container next to your stove and you will always have a simple but flavorful seasoning at hand. 


White Magic Seasoning
Makes just shy of ½ cup

2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons granulated onion
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Things that can be carried on a bike (#735)…

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Nine cardboard boxes of varying sizes.

For more in this series, click here.

Stuffed Bread…

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This was delicious. There, I said it. If you notice I also used the past tense as it no longer exists. But yes, it was delicious.

Anyhow, this began as something else. I had a hankering for a vegetarian version of a Lebanese grilled pita sandwich (arayes) but it ended up being more of a calzone or some sort of savory stove-top pie. Anyhow, as stated, it was super delicious. Made with fresh vegetables and 100% whole wheat dough it is healthy, too.  Here’s how I made it…

Start by making a quick bread dough. Any one is fine so long as it is one you like. There are plenty on this blog from which to choose (click here for bread dough recipes). You will not need an entire recipe for a single pie; the rest of the dough recipe can be frozen or baked into a loaf of bread.

While the dough is rising make your filling. The pie can literally be filled with whatever you like; I choose all vegetables but meat is also acceptable. For this filling I sauteed (in olive oil) onion, mushrooms, garlic, hot peppers, kale, beet greens, and sun dried tomatoes. I also added cheddar cheese; I would have preferred feta but had none in house. After the filling is done, transfer it to a plate and allow to cool to room temperature.

Roll the dough very thin to a circle shape. Place the filling on half of the dough and fold it over. Crimp the edges to keep everything in. Heat a skillet to high, then lower to medium. Place the pie in the pan (without oil), press it gently, then cover the pan. After a few minutes turn the pie over and recover the pan. Cook and flip the pie a couple times to ensure it is cooked but the dough doesn’t burn.

The final instruction is the most important. Eat and enjoy.

Urban Simplicity

This is Ben

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This is Ben. I met him this afternoon on my way back to my hotel for a siesta. I was tired as I had been walking all day, as is my way when in an incredibly vibrant city such as NYC. It doesn’t help that in haste this morning I hopped on an express train that took me way out of the way from where I wanted to go. I only mention this to note that I had walked far and hard and was so looking forward to taking a break. Anyhow, as I crossed Cooper Square I saw Ben and a smile came across my face. Without even realizing the words were coming out of my mouth I found myself saying, “Excuse me, can I take your photo?” Then I was even more surprised when he turned and said yes. 

Ben grew up in London but has been living in NYC for some time, he’s also dressed like this for as long as he can remember. We chatted about a few of our favorite British punk bands and both agreed that the Clash is one of the best bands that has ever existed. After  taking his photo he asked if I would take one with his phone. After looking at it he thought it was too dark, so we moved to a sunnier spot, you can see the difference in the two photos. I have always been drawn to people that live outside society’s norm (whatever that is), and it’s interesting that after talking with Ben for a few minutes I felt invigorated (but still took a brief nap at my room). There are people of all walks of life in this world, and that is such a good thing. Life would be so boring otherwise.

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