DJ Nelleke and the girls of Dimes represent the latest Chinatown transplants attempting to occupy the neighborhood without compromising its character. For our third installment, Jayne interviewed Nelleke, Sabrina, Alissa, and Sophie to expound on the exciting present and uncertain future of Chinatown. Listen to the newest voices of Chinatown below.
For her entree into Chinatown two years ago, DJ and nightlife persona Nelleke McCowan also found it necessary to secure a crucial co-sign from the infamous Mr. Fong. “It seems like Chinatown is very closely guarded,” she explained of her difficulty finding a suitable (and affordable) apartment before Mr. Fong stepped in. In addition to her vinyl sets at Le Bain, Nelleke DJs a show for pirate radio station Know-Wave, a collective of artists, DJs, skaters, and general music-heads based in Chinatown. “It was started by OG New Yorkers,” Nelleke elaborated. “Now it's a little hub of culture and youth."
If Nelleke and her collaborators at Know-Wave are the musical apex of Chinatown’s youthwave, Dimes is undoubtedly its culinary center. Opened two years ago by friends Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner, Dimes specializes in simple, healthy fare like Halloumi sandwiches and chicken couscous punctuated by Chinese ingredients like pickled salmon and daikon radish. “We were nervous, because we didn’t know if the neighborhood would embrace us,” Sabrina confessed. “But it turns out it was much needed.” With the help of their new partner Sophie Helsby, this fall Sabrina and Alissa will open Dimes Deli and Dimes Market, two new additions to their burgeoning restaurant empire. In the wake of their unprecedented success, Alissa didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the profound responsibility businesses like Dimes have to the Chinatown community at large: “How can we seamlessly coexist with the people that have lived here for 50 years?”