“There is a hotel on Broadway that has escaped discovery by promoters.” A flash fiction for comment. Please offer your comments.
The Pearl on East Fourth
“What is this? You on a diet or sumptin’?” Alex Acacia spread a toothy grin to welcome his frequent customer.
“No, just some of your coffee this morning, Al. The coffee that doesn’t need a cup, just a handle to carry it,” answered Kyle Creswell. Kyle usually started his day with coffee and Greek pastry from the Acacia Greek Market on East Fourth Street.
“Very funny, mister! How’s the flea-bag today?”
The flea-bag was the Pearl Inn on East Fourth St. They advertised it as near Broadway; a half-block is technically near. The question is near what? NoHo was just a little north and east. The Bowery and numerous Off-Off-Off Broadway theaters and The Public were nearby. The ultimate destination is not the best way to describe this area at East Fourth and Broadway.
The best local color was an open-air market on Fourth, selling most anything you might want, somethings you might not want. A stroll through this market on an early Saturday morning might lead one to imagine a European or Mediterranean market. There were few caucasians. Language was not necessarily an easy clue to location. Indian, Slavic, Farsi, Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian, were spoken, to name a few.
A quick look around and one comes to the conclusion the area is struggling, happily, purposefully, but nevertheless struggling.
“Flea-bag! Gimme a break, Alex-”
“Gimme a local rate, Kyle!”
“Gimme a local rate on the coffee, Acacia!”
“Coffee is coffee. I lose money on coffee. It’s a courtesy for our customers.” Alex smiled, grabbed a pastry paper and wrapped up several Loukoumedes, small donuts, and put them in a bag. The snap of the bag woke Kyle from his daydream.
“For you, my friend. Specialty donuts of Greece. Eating is what you do, while you’re waiting to die! Be good, be happy, and run along.”
Kyle released a belly laugh setting free all those wonderful endorphins that make one feel good. He raised the bag in a salute to Acacia and grabbed the ubiquitous white styrofoam cup trimmed in a blue Greek-inspired trim, a kind of ocean graphic. Kyle pushed the door open and stepped into a flowing stream of people where he was swept up and Saturday morning on Broadway and East Fourth.
Christina Acacia rushed out from the back spewing Greek venom, chastising Alex for giving away pastry. He argued in kind, waving his arms as frantically as did his wife. They jawed for the next couple of minutes, before Alex threw up his hands and screamed. An accurate translation of the body language would be, “Get the fuck off my back! He’s a good kid who comes in here regular and I don’t know how long he’s gonna have a job!” Greeks are spectacular with body language.
Christina turned quiet muttering something and waving her hands like signing. Translation: “I’m sorry, but we could be out of business too, you know.”
A simple shrug of the shoulders and tip of the head said, “Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok” He leveled a steely look at her as to say, “Now, get back to your work my little honeyed baklava!” She turned and he slapped her on the rump. She turned momentarily, smiled, and rolled her eyes before leaving. She stopped at the swinging door and looked back. This time in English, “Why, Alex?”
“Why else? NoHo,” and he gestured vaguely toward the northeast.
“Get that pretty little rump back there before I-”
He was caught off guard by a melodic Greek verbiage spewing all over the store accompanied by waving arms. She disappeared through the swinging door.
Outside, Kyle pulled out his phone to check the time. It was Ok. He still had another twenty minutes before he went on duty. There was ample time to walk the half block down Broadway to Fourth St. At East Fourth St he would turn right and walk another half block to the Pearl, a forty-six room hotel where he worked as the manager. She was built in 1948 and since undergone a number of renovations by numerous owners. The current owner was Indian, Aarush Mohammed.
Kyle loved the hospitality business and loved the old girl called Pearl. Too bad she was sandwiched between a Subway and somewhat seedy department store called Hiram’s. Most buildings in the area had been a warehouse in a former life, much like NoHo to the north. NoHo was now becoming quite the upscale living location of renovated pricey lofts. Kyle loved this old world diversity in New York.
Mohammed barely looked up from the computer as Kyle approached the front desk.
“This month’s ADR is almost 12% lower than last year. Why is that?” Mohammed looked up from his computer and put on his dark framed glasses. “You giving the rooms away?”
Kyle took a sip of his coffee. Yes, sir, that was Acacia Market coffee. Any hair left on your body stands up straight. Coffee with a bite!
“Actually, boss, I’m holding the rates. You reduced them a couple of months ago, so we’re bound to have a drop in the ADR-”
“Get it up. Get what you can get. I want a twenty-five percent increase in gross receipts for this month. I’ve got to have it, Ok?”
Kyle always dreaded these kinds of conversations. In his mind The Pearl was a little gem, given some tender loving care, and 21st Century marketing. They do little with internet marketing; the website is minimal, at best, mostly a non-asset.
“We can do that with a little work, sir.”
Mohammed looked up from his computer, pushing the dark glasses higher on his nose. His eyes narrowed as focused on his young manager.
“I am not spending money I don’t have.”
“But, we could-”
“Get what you can! It is the art of negotiation Mr. Kyle. Mohammed always called him Mr. Kyle. He wanted to scream Creswell! My last name is Creswell!
“Boss! This is a little gem. We could grow a really good business with a little sprucing up and attention to detail. Sure the rooms are small, but there are a lot of people these days coming to the City on a budget. They don’t come to stay in a hotel room, they come here to be in the city. Jeez, where in the heart of the Off-Off Broadway district, close to the Public Theater, La Mama, NYU is growing this way! We should market to colleges and theater groups. Hell, lets go to the hot clubs and theaters and offer special rates for visiting patrons. We could fill it up!”
“That is for someone else; I want my money out of this flea-bag.”
“This is no flea-bag; I’ve made sure of that. I’ve run this efficiently with a minimal staff, sometimes doing the work myself to hold down payroll.”
“You won’t have to do that much longer, Mr. Kyle.”
Mohammed pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Kyle didn’t know what to say; he simply stared at Mohammed waiting for an explanation.
“I’ve been offered a substantial price for this building by a NoHo developer buying three buildings on East Fourth, Subway, Hiram’s, and the Pearl.”
“To do what?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter because the price is more than I paid for this flea-bag.” Mohammed stood up and put his hands on his hips. “We close at the end of the month. But I want what I can get out of it in the remaining weeks. See to it no furniture gets gone. I have a buyer for all of it. Any shortages and I’m penalized.”
Kyle found himself momentarily rooted to the floor. “We close the end of the month?”
“That is correct.”
Some of the best decisions are made in a New York moment.
“Good luck, boss. I’ll leave it with you. And for the record, my name is Creswell. Kyle Creswell.”
Kyle hurried out the front door before he changed his mind or was drawn into some discussion with Mohammed. He hurried down the street, impulsively turned left on Broadway to Alex Acacia’s Market.
“What are you doing, playing hookey?” laughed Alex, “or are you after more of those loukoumedes?”
“Need a refill on coffee, Alex. The Pearl is closing. I’m out of a job. Can’t afford to get drunk, but I can gorge myself on your coffee and baklava!”
“I am so sorry, my friend. I was afraid of that.”
“Don’t be. I’m free, Alex. I’m free to find what I really want.” Kyle pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and pushed it across the counter. “A refill on coffee and the rest in Baklava, Alex.”
Alex wrapped up the baklava, something more than the money Kyle offered. “Take care of yourself. Will you leave here?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that I’m free of Mr. Mohammed’s warped sense of values.” He waved and walked out the door. Alex followed him to the door where Acacia stood watching Kyle disappear in the crowd. He put his hand up on the door frame and smiled. He continued to stare at the crowd swallowing up Kyle, unaware of his wife’s approach. The light on Alex’s profile caught him in such a way as to mesmerize Christina.
“Alex?” He didn’t hear. “Alex, what are you thinking?”
Alex reluctantly turned to see who was speaking. “Christina. I’m sorry, I was thinking. I didn’t hear you. What did you say?”
“I asked what your were thinking.”
“Fishing. I was thinking about fishing.”
“You’ve never been fishing in your life-”
“I know. My father was a fisherman. I was just thinking about the ocean, the fish, the boat, and me…”
Christina shook her head. “We are almost out of gyros, Acacia.”