- November 11, 2021
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It’s Wednesday. Today we’ll look at grocery services that promise speed and convenience. We’ll also meet a car detailer who makes extremely expensive cars — and vintage models that have seen better days — look their best.
Don’t tell my editors, but I just went grocery shopping. No, go ahead and tell them. It was for a story. This story, about 15-minute deliveries.
I had just read a story by my colleagues Winnie Hu and Chelsia Rose Marcius. They wrote that the nation’s largest city has become the biggest laboratory for the latest step in the evolution of e-commerce, online companies promising groceries at your door in 15 minutes or less, so no one has to worry about running out of milk. At least half a dozen ultrafast grocers — Buyk, JOKR, Gopuff, Gorillas, 1520 and Fridge No More — have spread across Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx in the past year.
[15-Minute Grocery Delivery Has Come to N.Y.C. Not Everyone Is Happy.]
I decided to give one of them a try — Buyk, simply because a coupon had come in the mail last week. It promised $20 off my first order. That brought the total down to $4.78.
I ordered six items — a half-gallon of low-fat milk, four 700-millileter bottles of water and some salmon for dinner. Soon a message on the app said, “We’re packing your order.”
The stakes for companies like Buyk are high. Online grocery shopping accounts for 12 percent of all grocery sales nationwide, up from about 2 percent before the pandemic, according to Coresight Research, a firm that studies such things.
Superfast grocery companies have their fans. Nick O’Keefe, a construction project manager who lives in the East Village of Manhattan, signed up for JOKR and Fridge No More in August and now says he may never go back to the supermarket. “The convenience of it far outweighs anything else,” he said. “It’s the future.”
But the new services have drawn criticism. One concern is that they could siphon business away from local stores in a city where running to the corner bodega when you run out of orange juice or milk has long been a part of daily life. Some people also worry that online grocers will send more deliverers onto streets already crowded with food app workers racing to deliver takeout orders while they are still hot, or at least warm.
Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, questioned whether companies were pushing the need for speed too far. “Who the hell needs an apple in 15 minutes?” she said. “If you want something in 15 minutes, go to the store.”
But not this time, I thought as I placed my order with Buyk. That was at 1:28 p.m.
I did other things for the next 11 minutes, including calling John Donnelly, who tends the package room in my apartment building. I asked him to call me the moment the deliverer walked in. The next time I refreshed the app was at 1:39. It knew what time it was — it said “6 mins left.”
It also offered reassurance: “Buyker is on the way.”
I checked the app again at 1:42. It said “1 mins left.” It also said, again, “Buyker is on the way.”
At 1:43, I checked the app. It had gone into apology mode: “Sorry we’re running late.”
John called from the package room at 1:49. Picking out the items, bagging them and getting them to the building had taken 21 minutes. I doubt that I could have zipped to the market a couple of blocks away and found my six items that fast. But Buyk missed the 15-minute mark by six minutes.
A spokesman for Buyk told me that the company had seen “a steep increase in the number of orders in the past few days, and we are working hard to meet this incremental demand by hiring additional couriers” — as well as setting up more hubs. Since its debut in August, Buyk has opened 20 in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
It plans to have 100 across the city by the end of the year so Buykers will no longer have to go quite so far so fast.
It’s going to be a cloudy day with some sun, and temps in the mid-60s. Expect light winds in the evening with temps in the high 40s.
In effect until tomorrow (Veterans Day).
New York State announced plans to close six prisons next year, one of the largest closings as the prisoner population continues to decline.
The election was eight days ago, but Gov. Phil Murphy’s Republican opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, has not conceded in New Jersey. Trailing by about 65,500 votes, Ciattarelli is waiting until 70,000 provisional ballots are counted.
Larry Kosilla is not a doctor, despite the gloves he wears and the specialized tools he has for removing crusty, oxidized layers the way a dermatologist removes dead skin cells.
He is a car detailer who gives Ferraris, Lamborghinis and old barn finds the beauty treatment.
Those crusty, oxidized layers? Layers of paint. On any given day, Kosilla might be prepping a supercar like a Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 that is being sold to a billionaire. Or power washing a 1990s Jeep Cherokee that was baking in the Texas desert. Or de-funking a car like a 1969 Pontiac Le Mans that had languished in a garage, undriven for years.
Kosilla — and the spotless garage that is home to AmmoNYC — is known to two million YouTube subscribers who have watched him demonstrate such auto esoterica as the “needle and syringe” method for touching up the paint on a Ruf Slantnose Porsche. My colleague Steve Kurutz writes that Kosilla’s YouTube clips are essentially “cleanfluencer” content for car buffs.
The grungier the car, like a 1969 Mercedes 280 SL that moldered in a New Jersey garage for 37 years, the more satisfying it is to see Kosilla make it gleam. It’s probably not surprising that Kosilla says things like “vacuuming is the most therapeutic thing in the world.”
In the hierarchy of the automotive world, detailing ranks below body work and engine repair. Kosilla said that overlooks a basic fact: “Some of these cars are worth more than homes.” The owner of a $12 million McLaren once spent $50,000 to fly him to Pebble Beach, Calif., just so the McLaren would sparkle at a car show.
Kosilla came to detailing after working at the New York Mercantile Exchange in Lower Manhattan after college. By 2005, with money he’d saved from the Wall Street job and borrowed from his mother, he opened the New York Motor Club, a carwash in Harrison, N.Y., with two friends.
Kosilla soon developed a reputation as a master of detailing. “Anyone can detail,” said Matt Farah, 39, one of his partners who later became an automotive journalist and the host of “The Smoking Tire” podcast. “It’s not advanced labor to take the wheel off your car and spend three hours with a toothbrush cleaning it. It just requires the desire to have the end result be perfect.”
“It’s never perfect enough for Larry,” Farah said.
Union Square’s Republic shuttered its doors in 2017. Eater reports on how it revolutionized fast-casual dining.
With live theater returning to New York, the M.T.A. has revived its 1970s “The Only Sure Way to Make It to Broadway” ad campaign, Vulture reports.
A 32-foot-wide wall of clay will be on display at the Salon of Art and Design. Curbed has more about the inspiration behind the work.
On a trip to New York with our twins some years ago, my wife and I decided we should all take a taxi from our hotel on the Upper West Side to Midtown instead of the subway. We hailed a cab on Broadway and settled in for the ride.
At the first red light, our driver stopped, unfolded his newspaper, spread it out on the steering wheel, put on his reading glasses, picked up his cup of coffee and began to read the paper.
When the light turned green, he methodically folded the paper back up, took off the glasses, put them into his pocket, put his coffee in the cup holder and slowly accelerated.
My wife and I gave each other a look as if to say, “He’s not going to do this at every light, is he?”
Of course, that is exactly what he did at every red light we encountered. When we finally arrived at our destination, we all piled out of the cab and burst out laughing.
What else could we do?
— Richard Driscoll
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Isabella Paoletto, Jaevon Williams, Mae-Ying Lam, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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