Brian Bustos is a Broadway costume designer and the CCO of LaDuca Shoes. Originally from New Mexico, he has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 14 years and enjoys the neighborhood’s excitement and energy. This is Brian’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I’m originally from New Mexico — I have been in NYC for 24 years and in Hell’s Kitchen for 14 years.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
I was a bus boy at Piñon Grill in Santa Fe in high school. It was a place where all the theatre kids from my high school worked — they were flexible with our busy “drama” schedules. Now I work as a Broadway costume designer and I am the CCO of LaDuca Shoes. I’m still doing both jobs, and I’ll be working as the Associate Costume Designer on the upcoming Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
I used to live in Carroll Gardens, and I got priced out, but it was also much easier to live in Hell’s Kitchen and be closer to the Broadway theaters for my work.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
There are so many… It’s mostly just the funny coincidences of running into people around the neighborhood. I wish I could say it was like, “I ran into my long-lost twin at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, and now we’re competing on The Amazing Race!’” But I’d have to say it was when Liza Minnelli cold-called the store and wanted to order shoes.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
The excitement and energy that is always around. You meet people from all over the world just hanging out here, and it really feels like a neighborhood, especially once you cross 9th Avenue.
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
The endless piles of garbage everywhere — it’s just a never-ending garbage day. And then there’s always someone who tears through your garbage and there’s trash everywhere and no one cleans it up.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
The ability to remember every component of every show I have worked on. A lot of times we’ll have a designer call and ask about something I worked on (either on the production team or with LaDuca) from long ago, and it pops in my head: “That was done at such-and-such with this fabric from this place —” you name it. Or I’ll get a new cast list at LaDuca and I’ll remember the actors from shows five and seven years ago and what shoes they wore, just because we’ve typed their names into our system so many times!
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
The old MSG being at One Worldwide Plaza — it really was so beautiful. I watched this documentary on the construction of One Worldwide Plaza and it was really fascinating to learn about how they built it, and unfortunately how they forced people out of their apartments — kind of like Lincoln Center. It’s all so multi-layered.
What’s the most interesting thing that you learned during the pandemic?
That we should be more patient with people in the service industry. Also, we have to stop and take time to enjoy our lives in HK and not just always work.
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Brian’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
LaDuca Shoes — 517 W45th Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
I genuinely love going to work.
The Palace Theatre — 1564 Broadway (bw W46/W47th St)
The Palace was an interesting, nice place to work. The costume shop was nice, but also the theater itself was great because everyone had space — it wasn’t one of those theaters where you felt like you were packed like sardines. And it’s cool that they’ve lifted it!
The Gaf West — 401 W48th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
My home away from home — it is a great neighborhood hangout. All the regulars there are great people and they have darts, comedy, trivia — a little bit of everything. They also host a yearly “Golden Gaf” award for regulars, and I’m proud to say that I’m a two-time Golden Gaf Award winner for Most Talented (2021) and Funniest (2022).
Tulcingo Del Valle — 665 10th Avenue (bw W46/W47th St)
It is the BEST Mexican restaurant in NYC. Eating at Tulcingo is like mom and dad cooking at home. It’s very old school and cool and you get great sized portions — you’ll get two meals out of your order!
Fine and Dandy Shop — 445 W49th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Fine and Dandy is good for hard-to-find men’s accessories — a market that is dwindling in the city.
Hell’s Kitchen Best Barbers — 319 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
I go here for haircuts — all of the barbers are great, and they have awesome owners.
The Waylon — 736 10th Avenue (bw W50th/W51st St)
I always order a beer and the Frito Pie.
Delphinium Home — 353 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
The place to go when you need a quick gift or just to browse all the novelties that you used to get in old stores at malls!
Turkish Cuisine NYC — 631 9th Avenue (bw W44/W45th St)
Just ate here for the first time recently, and loved it — amazing kebabs, falafel and hummus.
Having a large private backyard in NYC is a novelty and I love having one — in COVID it was a mental health life-saver. It was also really helpful to let my dog Bergdorf out more often during quarantine.
You can follow LaDuca on Instagram @laducashoes. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.