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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Last Mafia hangout now dainty tea shop

It's the kind of rubout that every pinky-ring-wearing, espresso-sipping mobster would shed a tear over.
The Triangle Social Club in Greenwich Village -- an infamous Mafia hangout once run by Genovese crime-family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante and considered one of New York's last classic Cosa Nostra clubhouses -- has been turned into an organic, feel-good tea and spice store.
What was once a dark, purposely undistinguishable storefront at 208 Sullivan St., where Gigante and his minions plotted murders and extortion schemes, is now a bright hipster shop where upscale, tree-loving, organic-living wannabes can shop for natural teas, potted herbs and trendy handmade soaps.
Mob club
Mob club
Tea Shop
Tea Shop 
"[As] a Mafia social club, it looked like it was straight out of a Mafia movie -- and now, to see a flower store selling basil is kind of funny," said Michele Angerosi, 45, who lives upstairs from what is now the Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company.
"I miss them," she said of the social club's denizens. "It was authentic New York. One day all the guys were inside talking. Then the next day it turned into a flower shop. I guess most of them got pinched."
The storefront had been Gigante's place of illicit business for years.
"Mr. Gigante's mother lived down the street -- this was Vinny's neighborhood," said the tea-and-spice store's manager, who wouldn't give his name.
"Occasionally the door [to the social club] would be open, but you didn't see anyone inside."
Angerosi recalled that "the old storefront was completely black. They were all Italian-American, heavyset" patrons. "It looked like everyone had a role in a Mafia movie."
The Genovese boss died in prison in 2005 while serving a sentence for racketeering.
After the social club closed down, the tea company took over, and has been up and running for three months.
Employees said they are well aware of their workplace's unique legacy.
"There's definitely a different vibe here now. It took a lot to get this place looking like it does [now]," the shop's manager said.
The owner of next-door neighbor Ciao Stella restaurant said she appreciates the new storefront.
"The old place wasn't great for business. It was dark and boarded up. Homeless people would sleep on the steps at night," said Ciao Stella's owner, who also wouldn't give her name.
"Now it's flowers. It brings more happiness to Sullivan Street. It's a beautiful place."

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