Billy’s Antiques was on the Bowery long before I. Proprietor Billy Leroy sold odd finds for nearly 3 decades at the crossroads of Bowery and Houston Street. His tent was a key location in one of my favorite movies, Kissing Jessica Stein. He was surly and at times indignant and I loved it.
This New York Times piece on Billy is among of my favorites, from 2007: “Looking wearily at the Whole Foods on the corner, Mr. Leroy noted that the site was once occupied by a parking lot with a bustling drug bazaar. Pointing to a metal hatch in the median on East Houston Street, he recalled that it had once led to a subterranean homeless community. Mr. Leroy himself experienced what he calls the neighborhood’s “dark side.” One of his employees shot himself in the basement of a nearby bar, and on another occasion two men got into a knife fight in his store.”
I’m sorry to see him go. Ever the huckster, he emptied out his tent and left nothing but this casket. A metaphor for the Bowery if there ever was one.