It's time to worry about the mom-and-pop businesses on Bleecker Street between 10th and Christopher as the Rodeo Drive machine steamrolls south with aims to conquer the block.
A recap of recent events nearby:
After losing two long-standing antique shops last year, Treasures & Trifles and Leo Design, both of those spaces have since been filled with luxury chain stores. Toons Thai restaurant and the Miracle Grill, both long empty, are about to get European luxury chains. The park has been closed for a high-end renovation.
Today, from 10th Street all the way northwest, the only businesses left on Bleecker that aren't high-end mall stores or intimately connected to Sex & the City are the art gallery A Clean Well-Lighted Place (since 1976) and the 22-year-old Arleen Bowman boutique. That's it.
Everything else has been replaced or still lies vacant, mostly in just the past 5 years. "Everything" means approximately 43 other businesses. Plus, a residence that was not a business is opening as a Jimmy Choo boutique, adding luxury retail where there was no retail.
Now the rampant mallification is barreling across 10th Street.
On the eastern side of that block there has been the closure of a little news shop known as Etc. Grocery Store. I took some pictures of it last year, figuring it would vanish at any moment. It was obviously too shabby to survive. Today the shutters are down and the inside is being outfitted with a chocolate brown pressed-tin ceiling and exposed brick walls. Artisanal ice-cream shop?
I liked Etc. Grocery's scruffy look, how the awning, with the postcard and sunglass racks, seemed to just flop out onto the sidewalk, an uninvited guest at a Hamptons garden party sticking its finger in the aspic and belching.
It always had a window full of porn. Now the only porn you can buy on this end of Bleecker is at the Marc Jacobs bookstore that replaced Biography Bookshop last year. And that's high-end porn.
Welcome to the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai in Greenwich Village.
Two doors down from the Etc. Grocery Store, French boutique chain Comptoir de Cotonnieres has opened in the space long left vacant by Village Cottage Restaurant--once the location of Abbie Hoffman's Liberty House, a crafts cooperative.
Next to that, another long-empty space is being gutted, too--it's covered by soft pink-painted plywood. No doubt for another Marc Jacobs or Coach or Ralph Lauren, etc. That will essentially luxurify the entire eastern side of this block.
With this flurry of activity, the western side of Bleecker between 10th and Christopher is looking very vulnerable. This week, upscale fragrance shop Jo Malone just announced its move to the former Bread and Pastry Cafe location here.
So what's left on this block to worry about? First, there's The Village Apothecary, a "community pharmacy" that specializes in HIV care and has been in business since 1982.
Then there's the Manatus diner, a spot often filled with gay men of a certain age. It's affordable and comfortable to eat here (you can't go to Fedora anymore), two things we're losing rapidly all over town.
There's also a dry cleaners (useful) and Your Neighborhood Office, run by a great lady who provides the most excellent notary services (also useful).
How long can they last? The luxury retail culture is closing in on both sides, coming from Christopher St. where the likes of Freeman's Sporting Club and Rag & Bone compete for those consumers looking to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pair of artisanal khakis. ("Conscientious clothing" is the new thing--get ready for very expensive artisanal underwear.)
Meanwhile, the leather shops, gay bars, and porno stores look on, trembling, waiting for their time to die as the armies of the New World Order come marching in their Louboutins. They will not rest until every last vestige of the old Village has been destroyed.
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