More on 176 MacDougal & Shakespeare’s Restaurant of Yore – Part I

Ed. note: I’m going to split this information into two posts today on 176 MacDougal Street. My ‘fears’ realized after wondering if Hong Wah Laundromat would return after the fire that occurred in February. I’m not sure if it is deemed suspicious or not but Hong Wah Laundromat is no more and 176 MacDougal street is for rent. More on that in a minute. First some filled in history of the space.

Outside Shakespeare’s Restaurant, 176 MacDougal, 1975

After my post about 176 MacDougal Street and Hong Wah Laundromat’s fire and speculation about the restaurant, Shakespeare’s, once in that location, a reader named Ellyn sent these photos of herself and friends in 1975 outside it! It’s interesting how some locations in the Village and the City itself have their history greatly cataloged, but, this building at 176 MacDougal, not so much. Ellyn’s recollections are pretty fantastic … they involve Ralph Waite — “John Boy’s father” from The Walton’s! From the photo, you can get a bit of a sense of what the location was like and see a glimpse of the sign up at the top …

Another look…

Ellyn writes:

I was very interested to see your post on 176 MacDougal Street, that lovely little gem of a building. I thought you might enjoy seeing the attached photos of two friends and me in front of Shakespeare’s in August 1975. We were on our way into or out of Shakespeare’s — I can’t tell which. While I do remember a good time was had by all, I actually can’t remember much about the restaurant except that it was a nice comfortable place to relax with friends. I believe at one time they served British fare such as shepherd’s pie, but I think they may have become a burger place later. It’s possible they changed hands soon after this picture was taken as I don’t remember going back much. What I can tell you is that there was some connection to the actor Ralph Waite who played John Boy’s father on the TV series “The Waltons.” It’s possible his brother, Donald, managed it and maybe Ralph owned it? As we sat there one day, a tall handsome man walked in, was greeted warmly as he sat down to talk and eat. It was, indeed, Ralph Waite, looking kind of weather-beaten and rugged in a John Wayne-ish sort of way (but minus the bad politics). As we were too “sophisticated” to approach him, we just oogled from afar. Thanks for this chance to reflect on some happy times!

P.S. While I don’t remember when it opened, for a number of years, the store on the corner was a Haagen-Daaz outlet.

Haagen-Daaz would have been in the spot that Stumptown Coffee is coming to at the corner of MacDougal and West 8th.

As I previously mentioned, the building is now owned by real estate company Buchbinder and Warren‘s (front?) company, Return to Home (they own much of the property around West 8th Street). I previously wrote about my confusion over the building address – on Property Shark, 30 West 8th Street turns up when you enter 176 MacDougal Street. I don’t know much about Buchbinder and Warren except their stated plans for 8th Street (Norman Buchbinder was the founder of the Village Alliance, formerly the 8th Street BID, and the real estate company seems to still exert much influence). They do not have a very good reputation on Yelp – 1 Star.

As it was…

Previous post: 176 MacDougal Street has fire; Hong Wah Laundromat Closed — Will it Reopen? | Some history

Part II can be found here.

Photo #1 & 2: Courtesy of Ellyn
Photo #3: Tin L. via Yelp
Photo #4: Cathryn

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21 thoughts on “More on 176 MacDougal & Shakespeare’s Restaurant of Yore – Part I”

  1. Shakespeare’s bartender–a very hip and fun moonlighting lawyer named Austin Myles Collins with a ponytail down to the middle of his back–later became the owner of a club on Canal Street called Smokestack Lightning.

  2. Hi Jodi,

    That’s very cool. I’ll see if I can find some more information on him. I didn’t realize that Shakespeare’s had a bar too!

    It’s gotten so far from this ‘vibe’ – the space – first this high end clothing store now a high end florist … previously a laundromat. I’m sure it will have more incarnations tho’.

    Thanks for the info!


    • I know it had been just about three years since you posted this but I also was a regular at Shakespeare’s in the 70’s. My friends and spent many hours siting at the bar and I remember Austin very well. We would drink Singapore Slings ( I cringe at that now). And he would always buy us a drink and say “this is the one” and it was just about pure alcohol. I later got married and some years later I took my wife to the bar I always hung at. I couldn’t believe it but Austin was still behind the bar. I didn’t say anything but I ordered a Singapore Sling for my wife and I. I was sure he would not remember me but he put down the drinks and said ” this is the one”. He was a cool dude.

        • Austin Collins passed away some time ago. He was partners with my former brother-in-law, Billy Russel, at Smokestack’s. His wife, Connie Russel who worked as waitress at both Shakespeare’s and Smokestack’s also passed away. My wife’s brother was the cook at Smokestack’s. I spent a lot of time at Shakespeare’s and Smokestack’s back in the day. We were just talking about the old days a few weeks ago when Connie’s sister, Madelyn came for a visit.

  3. Hello! I’m not good speaking english, but I read various of your articles about the history of the Laundromat Hong Wah and I resulted very interesting, I think that this place is a beautiful point in MacDougal. Really, I like know more about the history this restaurant (Shakespeare). I have a question:
    ¿What year was opened for the first time?

    Thank you for the information 😉
    Greetings from Colombia!

  4. Hi Laura from Colombia! Thanks for writing. I wish I knew more but I do not. Pretty much everything I know was in those posts. I am trying to think if I came across what year it opened. I do not think so but, if I find out, I will write again.

    Thanks for your interest! I am curious about it as well. Would love to see more photos as well.


  5. Fall of 1970, Shakespeare’s was looking for more customers, with a sign in the window offering first drink free for all those from north of 14th st!! Being a recent transfer from upstate NY, I gathered 7 more who qualified; 3 from Conn.& 4 more upstaters!! Showed our I D’s , 8 drinks & a large tip!!

    • Thanks, Kevin! That is another nice piece of the history and it sounds like they took up a huge amount of space on the block … closing in 1967. I will use some of that info in a post – it is fun to focus on that address for whatever reason. It’s a cool building with a lot of interesting history.



  6. I remember going to Shakespeare’s around 1973-75. They had some English dishes (always enjoyed the Shepherds pie) as well as the best burgers in the Village. I remember the waitress Connie who was always so sweet to us college kids. I think her husband may have been the manager/bartender. We had many a good meal and fun times at Shakespeare’s thanks to Connie and the rest of the staff.

    • Hi Bob, That is a nice recollection. It would be nice if that spot was a humble, neighborhood restaurant again … right now it is flowers (which are always nice, albeit these are expensive ones!). It would be great to find some of the original staff to get some more stories.

      Thanks for writing!


  7. Billy and connie russell.billy opened smokestack.connie involved in hoppers artist olivia b. Waitress. John hammond used to play at was very cool working there.watneys red barrel on tap….

  8. Thanks, Tony, for this somewhat stream of consciousness remembrance. 🙂 I dont know some of the names or places you mentioned but will look into them. Thanks!


  9. Hi Phil,

    Wow! We have all wanted to be in touch with someone who worked there. Do you have pictures by chance? Do you know what year it closed?

    Thanks for writing in!


  10. My parents Al and Maryann got engaged there in 1974! My mom has since passed but my dad recalls the waitress named Ellen who “didn’t take any sh*t.” Lol Sometimes he’d park in the alleyway on the side of the building when they’d drive from jersey city. He said they also hung out at Cafe Wah down the street. Many fond memories, so glad I found this page for him to reminisce.

  11. My dad, Cliff Bowen, worked at Shakespeare’s in the early-mid 70’s…at least he TOLD us he did. He was living on the upper west side at the time. It was a rough time in his life. Dad passed away in August of 2010 from Leukemia.
    Cliff the 3rd

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