The Sunshine Girl
Marcy Kamer's little coffee shop is just big enough for her
by Margaret Mitchell
Marcy Kamer arrived in the city from Rockland County some sixteen years ago. She bought her two-bedroom apartment a little over two years ago, through LoHo Realty. Its terrace and living-room overlook the East River and the Williamsburg Bridge. It's a beautifully gritty cityscape, especially when a barge is floating unhurriedly under the bridge, on its way to the Atlantic ocean. And just before all that sweeping geography lie the tennis courts and the East River Park. Lucky for her, her view contains the just-renovated part of the park…
The only serious investment she's made in her apartment, other than the expected sanding of the floors and painting, was to break down the wall separating her kitchen from the living room. As a result the whole place is full of natural light and appears more spacious.
You get the feeling, after speaking to her for a while, that this is Marcy Kamer's real talent: introducing small, yet meaningful changes into her environment.
"I love it down here," she says, "it's great, it's changing… hopefully not too much…"
By "not too much," she means she'd like it to remain a small neighborhood. Not too touristy, not too glitzy, just a low key kind of place. And she'd like to see more small-neighborhood type businesses.
She happens to run one.
Marcy opened the much celebrated Sunshine Factory Caf? on 11 Essex Street (between Hester and Canal) in March of 2003. It's small and quaint, with original art on the walls and a hearty and uncomplicated menu. She also claims to know her regulars by name and, amazingly enough, during the lunch hour which ensued she actually greeted each and every customer at the counter - by name.
The Caf? offers fresh quiche every day, as well as home-made chicken salad, panini, prosciutto-mozzarella and egg and cheese sandwiches, omelets, scones and cookies. "Everything is fresh, fresh," she attests, and suddenly seems to channel the countless food joint owners who have been extolling their food on the Lower East Side since just after that $24 deal with the Canarsie Indians.
Incidentally, Marcy would gladly allow her kosher customers to bring in pastry from Gertel's next door, to eat with her own coffee or cappuccino. Her bagels are kosher, she says, and she's had some kosher folks relax with plain bagel and rich brew in her caf?.
The Sunshine Factory may be just a tiny breakfast and lunch spot, but it's already employing three workers alongside its owner: two counter people and a delivery person.
Yes, she confirms with unhidden pride, we deliver. Somebody should tell Citysearch.com, which recommended Marcy's place as "the last great undiscovered sandwich and salad oasis on the lower east side," exulting her "Excellent Food, Very Good Seating, Reasonably Priced," but also suggesting that her one drawback was "No Delivery."
Speaking of delivery, Ms. Kamer is an avid cyclist, and rides to work even through the terrible weather we've had this winter.
From its inception, the Sunshine Factory Caf? doubled as an art gallery. "I'm on my fourth artist right now," says Marcy. She was exhibiting works by Elliot Bassman (very Fernan Leger cubistic nudes, and lovely cubist interiors in soft pastels) until March 7. Her previous artist was Oded Shoshan, presenting digitally-altered photographs. She opened her gallery with "street artist" Dan Witz (check out his work at danwitzstreetart.com).
How big is this tiny spot of sunshine, you might want to know? We were there for the Bassman show's opening, and can attest that 30 grownups can fit comfortably in the Sunshine Factory, but 31 might pose a problem…
Occasionally the Sunshine Factory hosts poetry readings. Marcy is eager to make her place available to different kinds of artistic experimentation. She's definitely open to suggestions. As she put it, closing time is 5:00 pm, but she'd gladly keep the place open for artistic folks. Except, somehow, we didn't get the impression amateur night was what she had in mind. Her shows, like the d?cor and the food, are stylish and well thought out.