PAPAYA KING, 7th Avenue

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Just a few weeks ago I went to 7th Avenue and West 14th Street to shoot the old Hotel Jeanne D’Arc and the “Cool Whip” terra cotta building on the opposite corner. At the same time, I snapped some photos of the Papaya King on the ground floor of the old hotel. I was unaware at the time that the Papaya King CEO had already decided to close this location rather than pay a rent hike (rents on corner properties are always higher). Apparently a bagel shop will occupy its space, just as a bagel shop now occupies the old Billy’s Topless space at 6th and 24th. One tradition replaces another.

The Jeanne D’Arc Hotel, 7th Avenue and West 14th, now-shuttered Papaya King on the ground floor. You can see Joanie’s statue above the entrance on the 2nd floor.

I used this photo already for the title card, but I like the cigarette smoker and her headphones, wastebasket, newspaper boxes, subway entrance, Cougar Town. 2009.

Papaya King is not above hyperbole. Papaya juice is the King of All Drinks, and their franks are “tastier than filet mignon.” Since your webmaster has never had filet mignon, I cannot make a comparison.

Papaya King’s original locale, at 3rd Avenue and East 86th Street, remains in business and makes over a million dollars a year, not bad for a cheap lunch. It was opened by Greek immigrant Gus Poulos as Hawaiian Tropical Drinks in this location in 1932. How did hot dogs get involved? The story goes that this was still a German stronghold (the heart of Yorkville) at the time and the locals requested hot dogs or perhaps bratwurst or knockwurst as accompaniment.

Though Papaya King bills itself as the original and the best, several competing juice-and-dog imitators, such as Grey’s Papaya, Mike’s Papaya, and Papaya Dog have come into play over the decades. There will always be room for all of Ray’s pizzerias, the town is big enough for both Ronald McDonald and Burger King, and no matter how many juice and dog stands there are, New Yorkers will continue to enjoy all of them. But no longer at 7th and West 14th.

Photographed October 2009; page completed December 8, 2009





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