NYC 24/7: Sleepless businesses meet a need in the night
NYC 24/7: Sleepless businesses meet a need in the night
By VERENA DOBNIK
Dec. 18, 2016
NEW YORK (AP) — Wake up New York, there's a whole hidden city out there in the middle of the night, at your service.
Even in an era when you can order just about anything you want by smartphone at 4 a.m., there are plenty of legitimate businesses in the "city that never sleeps" that provide service the old-fashioned way in the wee hours.
Just had an argument and need 1,000 red roses delivered at 2 a.m.?
Got an infestation of bedbugs that just can't wait until morning?
Need to hock your grandmother's wedding ring to pay off a pressing gambling debt?
Want African-style hair braiding but don't have hours during the day to get it done?
These are just a few of the businesses The Associated Press found on a few recent, sleepless nights:
Joel Fagin gets calls from movie theaters, boutiques and offices that often come in a whisper, "I think I've got bedbugs."
He has two bug-sniffing beagles — Norma and Cinema — that are ready to work through the night to track the critters. Then, Fagin fumigates and cleans up, hopefully before anyone is the wiser.
"We go in with the dog at, say, 3 or 4 a.m. — because they don't want anyone to notice there's a problem with their business," says Fagin, owner of the Dial-A-Bug Pest Control company.
Fagin says movie theaters call him in after the last showing of the night, when spectators leave. He's also gotten late-night calls from people who suspect the itches on their skin came from bedbugs crawling around the mattress.
Fagin wouldn't say exactly how much that might cost but like all such overnight services, it comes at a hefty premium.
FLOWERS IN THE NIGHT
Want to mend fences after a romantic rift? Manhattan's After Hours Flowers delivers — anytime.
An employee fields about a dozen calls a night in the shop's tight basement space on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Walk-ins are welcome.
"They come here, heartbroken, and say, 'Please help me!' And I end up being a sort of emotional counselor," says Youssef Hassan, a 23-year-old student who puts in 12-hour, dusk-to-dawn shifts.
Recent calls have come from Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Switzerland, the Philippines and Mexico. One man in Argentina requested 1,000 white roses for his wife in New York. A local man sent Lady Gaga two dozen white roses. Other orders have come from admirers of certain dancers at Manhattan strip clubs.
"We make it happen, whatever anyone wants," says owner Marlon Moctezuma.
That's also thanks to Manhattan wholesalers Moctezuma taps for sudden orders he cannot fill from his shop supply of florist blossoms.
There are occasional glitches.
A woman complained about a credit card charge she didn't recognize. After checking, Moctezuma was forced to say her husband bought the flowers — for another woman.
HOUSECLEANING WHILE YOU SLEEP
Can't handle the mess after a lively party?
A housekeeping service can spruce up your apartment, and if you're asleep, they'll skip the bedroom.
"One couple were having wild and noisy sex while we cleaned their apartment," says an amused Cindy LeBow, who started her Great Green Cleaning company more than three decades ago.
She sends out some of about 50 workers for $65 an hour each (with a two-hour minimum), plus a $50 emergency fee, tax, tip and taxi fares.
Clients have included a woman who made an emergency call to clean her alcoholic brother's apartment. It was filled with bottles, garbage and urine-soaked bedding. Neighbors were threatening to summon health officials because of the odor.
A panicked restaurateur who faced a city health inspection the next morning ordered up a crew, which worked until the sun came up.
Then there are the seemingly spoiled.
A call came from a Manhattan resident freaking out over a cockroach that suddenly appeared. Says LeBow: "If you need to have a roach killed at 3 in the morning, you have to pay the roach killer well."
NOCTURNAL PAWN SHOP
The door is always open to the Fast Cash Pawn Shop in Harlem.
The glass that separates jewelry, watches and electronics from the streets outside is bulletproof. Treasures are placed into a translucent window box opened from the inside by a shopkeeper.
The 24-hour, walk-in pawn shop serves customers who need cash — now. Many bring their gold, which is sold by weight for less money than the price for which the shop intends to sell it if owners don't buy it back.
"You get gamblers who run out of money, or junkies who run out of cash for their fix, or sometimes, a relative is arrested and they need to pay bail," says shop manager Victor Martinez. "We also get people who had a flat tire or ran out of gas."
Several customers who came by to drop off their treasures disappeared into the night, too skittish to speak about what brought them there.
HAIR BRAIDING IN THE NIGHT
This is no ordinary hair styling.
Debra Hare-Bey, a master at braiding hair in the intricate, African tradition, routinely takes 12 hours to work on a customer. Her record is a 30-hour marathon job.
So it's not surprising that her Brooklyn salon OMHH — for Oh My Heavenly Hair — keeps round-the-clock hours. Costs run into the hundreds of dollars per session.
"It turns into a girls' night in, dressed comfortably, with food and videos, and maybe a glass of wine," Hare-Bey says.
Kendra Lewis sat for 12 hours to get hers done — from 6 p.m., right after work, till 6 a.m., with a few breaks along the way for stretching.
Hare-Bey accentuated Lewis' small, elaborate braids by adding twisted yarn extensions in tinges of blue, turquoise, gray, yellow and pink.
"It sounds really far out, but it's really subtle," says Lewis of the style, which lasts a few months, with washing in-between. "You should see how fast her hands move!"