The Hotel Breslin has been slowly vanishing in the grip of its new owner, "mega-chain waiting to happen" Ace Hotels. For half a century, the Breslin has been a haven for "eccentrics"--artists, writers, transsexuals--who might not easily find a comfortable home elsewhere in the city. Chelsea Now recently covered the story of the remaining 90 or so tenants and their fight to keep their homes. Filmmaker Nick Schlyer profiles a number of residents in his film, Voices of the Breslin.
But what about the many street-level businesses that have vanished from the property lately, locked behind pink-painted shutters?
The Observer mentioned them back in January, saying, "Managers of three stores told The Observer they recently received termination notices, giving them 30 to 90 days to move out. 'It hurts,' said one shopkeeper, who’s been doing business on the block for almost 13 years."
Today, a walk around the building, counting as you go, reveals approximately 14 small businesses have been shuttered, while only 3 remain. Most of these businesses were perfume, jewelry, and clothing shops, part of the Wholesale District's hubbub.
In their place, we will have West Coast chain Rudy's Barbershop, Portland chain Stumptown Coffee, and another restaurant from Spotted Pig/Rusty Knot owner Ken Friedman. This area, quickly Vongerichtifying, has been dubbed SoMa, for South of Macy's. A cute real-estate nickname is the death knell for a neighborhood, more proof that many want to see this "seedy" and "unseemly" district be swept clean.
Interestingly, SoMa is also a San Francisco nabe nickname. With the coming of the West Coasters, is this all part of the ongoing Californication of New York City?
How long will the rest of the neighborhood's wholesalers last? Here are 2 of the Breslin's remaining 3:
They are not beautiful, but I like looking at the wholesale shops. I like their displays of tacky gold necklaces and wristwatches. I like the dark-haired girls who stand in the windows polishing the jewelry with soft cloths. I like the slick men dressed in faux ruby- and diamond-encrusted denim suits. I like the shops filled with tiaras, wigs, yo-yos, glittering baseball caps, baby dolls, and inflatable Spider-Men--all of it out of reach without a reseller's license. I like the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-story windows filled with strange junk, bare lightbulbs, turning fans, and men in undershirts sweating over unrecognizable labors.
I like it all much better than what's to come.