WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU
April 30, 2010 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Father of the Anthora, dead at 87. Known to people outside of New York mostly from Law and Order episodes, the Anthora is one of the most recognizable symbols of the city, the blue and white paper coffee cup with a Greek design and "We are happy to serve you" written on the side. "The Anthora seems to have been here forever, as if bestowed by the gods at the city’s creation. But in fact, it was created by man — one man in particular, a refugee from Nazi Europe named Leslie Buck. " For use outside of NYC, you can order the paper version in bulk or get a ceramic replica from MOMA.
posted by octothorpe (61 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can also knit one (or a cup sleeve that looks like one, anyway).
posted by padraigin at 5:03 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by eriko at 5:13 AM on April 30, 2010


…or get a ceramic replica…

That is blasphemy, you blaspheming blasphemer.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:16 AM on April 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love those cups, even though I often hate the coffee that comes in them...
posted by Mister_A at 5:18 AM on April 30, 2010


I got a ceramic replica of one of these for my father-in-law at Christmas from Pearl River. It was three dollars cheaper.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:22 AM on April 30, 2010




.
posted by jquinby at 5:23 AM on April 30, 2010


That is blasphemy, you blaspheming blasphemer.

No, it's blasphemy to drink good coffee out of a paper fucking cup, you beanless heathen.

Oh, right. Carry on.
posted by loquacious at 5:31 AM on April 30, 2010


\_/
posted by fungible at 5:41 AM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Only an amateur (or a European) would be satisfied with such a small cup of coffee.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:42 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Coin purse.
posted by Morrigan at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh. Having never been in NY long enough to grab a cup o joe, I'd always assumed these cups were just a favorite of the prop departments of all the shows I saw it on. Kind of like the cups used from vending machines that have poker hands on them. Cool info.

Oh, and,

.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:49 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


That is blasphemy, you blaspheming blasphemer.

I move that "blaspheming blasphemer" be the penultimate insult on MetaFilter. Use it wisely, for there's only one answer to it.

DOODYHEAD!
posted by eriko at 5:54 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's raise a cup to an absent friend
Who served us til the bitter end.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:54 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am sorry that the man died, but you New Yorkers crack me up. Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:08 AM on April 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


Kirth Gerson: moments ago you crap all over Bill Murray, now on the Anthora?* If these are not Memorable and Significant, what is?

* P.S. Two dumps, one cup.

P.P.S. Sorry, "(*)(*)."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:17 AM on April 30, 2010


Clyde, somebody has to have standards. Sorry it's not you.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:23 AM on April 30, 2010


Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?

NO. NO THERE IS NOT. While living abroad, I even managed to become momentarily homesick for the overwhelming stench of wee on St Mark's between 2nd and 3rd. That passed immediately upon my return home to find that the entire block had turned into an NYU dorm/food hall.

It still smells of wee.

I HATE YOU NYU YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION UNTO NUGGAN. And stop asking me for alum donations.
posted by elizardbits at 6:25 AM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thank you, elizardbits. I was worried that I'd overgeneralized.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on April 30, 2010


Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?

For what it's worth, I'm not a New Yorker although I grew up about thirty miles west in Jersey. I'm just always fascinated by little bits of culture that are almost universal in a particular place and unheard of elsewhere. It gives me hope that the world is not totally homogenized.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Newsflash: New Yorkers are proud of being from New York City.

In brief, the story of Leslie Buck (his Americanized name).

Laszlo Büch was born on Sept. 20, 1922, to a Jewish family in Khust, then in Czechoslovakia. (It is today in Ukraine.) His parents were killed by the Nazis during World War II; Laszlo himself survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Since many of the city’s diners were owned by Greeks, Mr. Buck hit on the idea of a Classical cup in the colors of the Greek flag. Though he had no formal training in art, he executed the design himself. It was an instant success.

Mr. Buck made no royalties from the cup, but he did so well in sales commissions that it hardly mattered, his son said.



This is what I think of when I think of a great American story.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 AM on April 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


I have a small collection of Greek deli coffee cups. The Anthora (whose name I did not know until now) was by far the most popular, but there are many, many imitators. I have maybe eight different ones?

There was a slow but inexorable creep towards advertiser cups while I was living in New York, and although I certainly drank mys share, I'd purposefully go to the places with Anthoraesque, or I ♥ NY, rather than whatever crappy movie or car company.

Only an amateur (or a European) would be satisfied with such a small cup of coffee.

Or a person who likes hot coffee.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:38 AM on April 30, 2010


.

I never knew there was a name for those cups.
posted by mike3k at 6:40 AM on April 30, 2010


I am sorry that the man died, but you New Yorkers crack me up. Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?

If it makes you feel any better, I'm a native New Jerseyan, and these cups are Memorable and Significant for me, too. My parents picked their house in part thanks to its proximity to a New Jersey chili dog joint (Red Tower II in North Plainfield, also known as "Fat Boy's," in case you're wondering) because my father love love loved chili-dogs-all-the-way. He was a lanky, lean guy, yet could easily pack back four or five of them in a sitting. Chili dog places, like New Jersey diners, are traditionally owned by Greeks. I have no idea if that's the reason behind the Greek-styled cups, but I've always assumed it was.

So these cups signify fond paternal memories for me, of holding my daddy's hand while we walked two blocks and crossed the highway, of eating French fries and watching as he inhaled hot dogs and black coffee and smoked his camels. It wasn't a more innocent time, but for me, our trips felt almost mythical--special as the lights on Christmas.

I was thinking about this in response to the John Hovis thread, too. It might seem very capitalist, but I really believe that, like it or not, sometimes we connect emotionally with material things, commodities. After all, our world is full of them. I don't feel bad that a paper cup can rouse nostalgia in me. Instead, I feel bad for the people--wherever they're from--who don't have these small, but important, connections to their past lives.

Also: .
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:41 AM on April 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


This cup will always be associated for me with a particular kind of coffee you get on a cold morning on your way to work. The clerk asks you if you want sugar or cream, and if you say, "Both," she keeps it behind the counter where you can't see what's happening, and pours a godlessly liberal amount of heavy whipping cream and mounds of sugar into it. The resulting delicious concoction can be enjoyed guilt-free because, after all, you didn't do the damage yourself. Mmmm....

Thank you, Leslie Buck.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:44 AM on April 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm just always fascinated by little bits of culture that are almost universal in a particular place and unheard of elsewhere.

Me too.

I used to work for this company that represented designers and manufacturers of, more or less, tchotchkes. We had this product pitched to us that I didn't get at all, really, a coin purse designed to look like a New York coffee cup. I didn't get it, because I'd never really spent any time in New York City as an adult and I'd never really seen the coffee cups. My boss thought it was delightful and we ended up carrying the product.

When I went to the New York Gift Show and discovered by observation that these cups were often used by homeless people to collect spare change, I was kind of grossed out by the product and even more by the company's name, Lucky Beggar. Even if a small amount of the profits were donated to a charity to aid the homeless. I mean, $35? Can you even imagine whipping that out and taking money out of it to drop in a homeless person's real cup? Blech.
posted by padraigin at 6:56 AM on April 30, 2010


I drink tea out of my ceramic anthora cups every day. I bought a few at Pearl River years ago and got so hooked on them that when one broke my boyfriend ordered me two more as a gift. But the new ones are thicker and shaped a bit differently, so they hold about two ounces less than my original beloveds. It bums me out when I have to drink out of the new ones. We are happy to serve you.
posted by gingembre at 7:02 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


anotherpanacea- All you have to say is, "Light and sweet." And yes, on cold mornings on the way to school the stuff was like manna.
posted by Bromius at 7:11 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea- All you have to say is, "Light and sweet." And yes, on cold mornings on the way to school the stuff was like manna.

Man, the words "light and sweet" just make my mouth water. And I don't even take sugar in my coffee anymore.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:12 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clyde, somebody has to have standards. Sorry it's not you.

Just so I don't seize all the credit here, let me observe that the number of postings to MeFi that clear the "Memorable and Significant" bar wouldn't fill a small Anthora.

And believe it or not, nostalgia trends toward the Memorable, but not strictly Significant.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:26 AM on April 30, 2010


Well, I knew nothing about the man or the cups. Now I do, so I think it was a worthwhile post, whether or not it meets the capitalized Memorable and Significant criteria.

I'll certainly remember it.
posted by Malor at 7:35 AM on April 30, 2010


Interesting. I haven't spent much time in New York, and seeing this thing on TV all the time I thought it was some pre-product placement generic television brand. There used to be a fake blue, white and red beer can I used to see on TV a lot, I thought this was the same thing.
posted by marxchivist at 7:44 AM on April 30, 2010


PhoBWanKenobi: Pearl River has an online store? OMG. I never have to leave the house again.

The Greek Diner Cup (I never knew it had a name either) is just a nice ubiquitous symbol of the city, but I have fond personal memories of heading to my first job every morning clutching a "regular" in those pre-Starbucks days.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:05 AM on April 30, 2010


I have a set of the ceramic ones. I was raised a New Jerseyan and am Greek American at that. Whenever I was in NYC and would grab a coffee with the Anthora cup, it would be a nice reminder to me that, "yeah, we Greeks are everywhere in this town."
posted by deanc at 8:16 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have long marveled at the Anthora. I never knew that was its name and I didn't know who the designer was until today, but a giant among us, has certainly shuffled off this mortal coil, because a lot of things in New York City suck, and suck hard, but the cheery Greek columns and faithful ancient Greek citizens depicted on the blue and gold cup have never made me said, but instead thankful for the continuity and the connection to something permanent in town where everything is transient and disappears in a heartbeat.

You can still get a 75 cent cup of coffee (light and sweet, of fucking course), from the breakfast carts, and it's insanely righteous most of the time.

.
posted by Skygazer at 8:21 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


have never made me said sad
posted by Skygazer at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2010


This is great (not his passing, mind)-- I never knew it had a name.

.
posted by everichon at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2010


Kirth Gerson: I am sorry that the man died, but you New Yorkers crack me up. Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?

Yeah, it really sucks to live in a place where people find joy and beauty in everyday things. It's much better to have the Starbucks logo emblazoned there.
posted by mkultra at 8:47 AM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I am sorry that the man died, but you New Yorkers crack me up. Is there anything associated with the place that is not Memorable and Significant to you?

Rudolf "9/11" Guiliani, Tourists who have never been in a crowd or seen a tall building before, The Real Housewives, Donald Trump, Staten Island, Ann Coulter and Alain Ducasse.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


OK, maybe not Staten Island.
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rudolph? Rudolf? Rudy.
posted by zarq at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2010


This is what I think of when I think of a great American story.

Me too. :)
posted by zarq at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2010


Speaking as a NY'er, if you're not proud of and fascinated with the place you live in, you live in the wrong place.

.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I loved my ceramic version when I lived in NYC. Then I moved away and had a dishwasher for the first time; the dishwasher immediately erased the pattern from my cup. A lesser person would write some really bad poetry about this.

"Dishwasher safe," my ass.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2010


.

I've had the ceramic version given to me a present when I left the city, which I've carried across a few continents. That cup was one of those objects that was such a constant presence along the sidewalks and bodegas, I never really thought it came from anywhere.

Light and sweet. I'm overdue for a return visit.

Thanks, Mr Buck.
posted by myopicman at 9:35 AM on April 30, 2010


The Corpse in the Library Remembers the Anthora

I loved my ceramic version when I lived in NYC.
Then I moved away and
had a dishwasher for the first time;
the dishwasher erased the pattern.
A lesser person, would write some really bad poetry about this.




Sorry couldn't help it.
posted by Skygazer at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fantastic post. I always just called these "Greek Cups" -- what a cool story they turned out to have.
posted by zvs at 10:18 AM on April 30, 2010


Wow, I never knew there was a name for those.

.
posted by equalpants at 10:58 AM on April 30, 2010


.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:10 AM on April 30, 2010


Thanks Octothorpe, great post.
And no, for any New Yawker who has experienced living at the center of the known universe, and especially for those who no longer do, nothing is too small to invoke nostalgia. I still tear up when Billy Joel sings NY State of Mind.
posted by ahimsakid at 11:16 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


.

Grew up drinking hot chocolate out of these, then coffee.
posted by Never teh Bride at 11:28 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, it's blasphemy to drink good coffee out of a paper fucking cup

Man, who's talking about good coffee? The stuff you get in those is fuel, not food.
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is a great thread about a great thing in a great city. I have always hated coffee, but these cups and the words "light and sweet" make me long for it and bring me right back to my days of school and work and life in my beloved hometown before I moved away. I am always homesick when I see these cups and I am thrilled and even proud of how theyve gained such a cult popularity.

It also makes me absolutely beside myself with excitement that after 17 long, long, LONG years of living Elsewhere, I am finally moving back home to New York in two short weeks. I will once again live in a place that is so fucking awesome that even the goddamn coffee cups are famous. New York is awesome even when it totally sucks. There is nowhere on Earth like New York. Nowhere.

When youre talking about New York, "memorable and significant" is the bloody understatement of the year. Anyone who laughs at New Yorkers who are proud of being from New York only laugh because they have no concept whatsoever of what it's like to be that proud of where you are from and/or where you live, warts and all.



.

Thanks, Mr. Buck. <3 I hope that when I too finally shuffle off this mortal coil, part of my eulogy involves folks talking about how great New York is, and maybe even what a cool contribution I made to it, if I'm lucky enough to touch that particular star.
posted by perilous at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the story, and I am glad that this cup has so many happy memories for New Yorkers.

But I think the NYT is overreaching when it says that the cup is a hugely recognizable symbol of the city to people from elsewhere. (Caveat, I haven't watched Law and Order) If it weren't for an article about the cup somewhere a few years ago, I would have no idea where this cup was from.

But again, very cool story, and I'm enjoying the reminiscences.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2010


Rudolph? Rudolf? Rudy.

"Wudy"
posted by mikelieman at 12:26 PM on April 30, 2010


You know your city's coffee is bad, when you're more sentimental about the paper cups you use than what is actually inside of them.
posted by markkraft at 1:21 PM on April 30, 2010


What an amazing journey - from "Arbeit macht frei" to "We Are Happy to Serve You"
posted by ericbop at 1:23 PM on April 30, 2010


"What an amazing journey - from "Arbeit macht frei" to "We Are Happy to Serve You""

Well, to be fair, "We are happy to serve you" / "Wir sind glücklich, Sie zu dienen" was the original slogan of the brownshirts, but when the SS took over, Heinrich Himmler had the marketing department rebrand everything.
posted by markkraft at 1:50 PM on April 30, 2010


You know your city's coffee is bad, when you're more sentimental about the paper cups you use than what is actually inside of them.

I don't know where you're drinking, but if the coffee sucked I doubt I'd have fond memories of the cups it came in. :)
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:38 PM on April 30, 2010


I love NYC's local color (the Amphora, Joe Franklin, Gray's Papaya, the Yule Log, Coney Island, etc etc) but *hate* the way New Yorkers fetishize everything New York.

RIP Leslie Buck. Know that your design lived as far afield as South Jersey.
posted by whuppy at 10:31 AM on May 4, 2010


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