Tuesday, May 20, 2008

La Tercera (Third Ave)

by Ivelisse Robles Marrero

Fordham Road, Castle Hill, White Plains and Pelham Parkway, Westchester Sqaure, Bathgate Avenue; a few of the many shopping district that call The Bronx their home. You find everything from clothes to appliances, to the best pizza your money could buy. Prices are cheaper than going to 34th street and it was a walk or a bus ride away from where you lived.

Where I grew up, we had Third Avenue, also known as The Hub but better known to us Bronxericans as La Tercera which in Spanish means third. La Tercera was the place that my mom would take me to do my "first day of school" shopping, our Christmas shopping; we even went to there to buy our first washing machine. We could spend a whole day at La Tercera buying all we needed and wanted. As a teenager I would hook up with friends there, help them shop for a new pair of kicks (sneakers) or we'd go to the Easy Pickin's for the latest in spandex. Whatever we needed to buy, whatever we wished to have, La Tercera was the place we'd go.

As a child my mom and I would wake up early on any given Saturday morning and head out to La Tercera. My mom would walk many different routes to Third Avenue and if it was raining we'd take the Number 6 bus to Webster Avenue and there catch the Number 41. If we walked, the most frequent route was through the projects where we would end up on 152nd street and Third Avenue. There on the corner was the bacalaito man. He sold cod fritters for a dollar and they were the most delicious, greasiest fritters I've had. Right across the street from his cart was the famous Alexander's. This was always our first stop.

Alexander's was The Macy's of The Bronx. There were two, one at La Tercera and the bigger one at Fordham Road. All my Easter outfits were from Alexander's. If I needed a winter coat or spring jacket, Alexander's was where we got it. Pantyhose, dresses, patin leather mary-janes, jeans, shirts, every article of clothing I owned as a child most likely came from Alexander's. If my mom didn't buy my outfit at Alexander's then she made it from a pattern kit brought at the Woolworth and the yards of cloth from a mom-and-pop fabrics store.

After Alexander's we would head uptown, stopping by the many stores labeled "Gift Shop." We called these stores the Chinos and they had every knick-knack you needed. Flip-flops, bookbags, pencil cases, belts, scrunchies for your hair, baseball caps, baby strollers, novelty t-shirts, sunglasses, even the hard to find little round batteries for your hand games or digital watches. We'd head up to ThomMcAn on 149th and Third Avenue to buy my different color skippys or my mom a pair of sexy dance shoes. Our winter boots also came from ThomMcAn. I remember their sneaker brand was called Balloons. They had the same style and were out way before the Reebok's classics. If we didn't find anything there we'd try the Fayva, the original Payless. They were the first shoe store I knew of that had the Bogo, buy one get one half price. Here, mom would get my summer sandals and my easter purse.

As I got older, newer stores started to occupy lots in La Tercera. There was VIM and Dr. Jay's, the urban jeans stores. Mirage and Tic Toc had all the sexy clothing for girls. The Wiz literally started it all on that 151st street triangle and if the TVs at The Wiz were too expensive then you went to Crazy Eddie's a few blocks up. There was Youngland where every mother put all their kids clothes on lay-away and Freddies for those who didn't mind wearing the bootleg versions of the brand names in style. The scattered record shops were where my mom would buy the new salsa LPs and blank cassettes so we could record from the radio. Even Alexander's had competition with Ray's on Third Avenue below 149th street. That's where I brought my first computer desk. La Tercera was the first place I went to when I got my first check from summer youth. I bought a pair of navy blue clogs and brought my cousin Jessica an outfit at the Easy Pickin's.

When I was in high school my mom was employed at Lincoln Hospital on 149th street between Park and Morris Avenues. After school I would roam La Tercera for hours until she got off of work so we could walk home together. For my mother and I La Tercera held so much for us. Not just a place that held all the things we can buy, it became a meeting place where we'd sometimes go window shopping just to have an excuse to talk. La Tercera was a life-line for the nearby neighborhoods. We didn't need a Jersey Mall, or the bustling glamour of downtown Manhattan to spend our hard earned cash. If La Tercera didn't have it, then we didn't buy it, and that was that.