Someone started a blasphemous rumor on Facebook that the Gem Spa had shuttered. One Facebooker said it was "padlocked" last week. People flipped out, raining comments and tweets that cried, "WTF! thats crazy...the only question now is will it become a Chase or a Rite Aid" and "NO!" and "WHHHAAAATTTT?!?!?!?"
I went by to check this morning and am happy to report that the Gem Spa remains its usual self, open for business, overflowing with magazines and mixing up egg creams. People walk in and say, "We thought you were closed!" The Gem Spa men reply, laughing, "It was a joke! Someone made a bad joke on Facebook!"
egg cream, 2008
It's possible that someone stumbled upon this article from the Voice's blog Runnin' Scared and performed a panic posting: "Gem Spa Closes: Bye Bye, Miss American Egg Cream." The piece states, "Gem Spa is closed. The candy store which became a clearing house for the hip-yip-street freak festival in the East Village is now padlocked, its windows covered with newsprint and cardboard. The end came quickly and unexpectedly last week."
That article was reprinted from February 1972, when the Gem Spa did temporarily shutter.
Wrote the Voice, "It's too late in the day for the passing of Gem Spa to earn a place as a prophetic omen of the East Village-Lower East Side decline. Too many old scenes, like the Fillmore and the Electric Circus, have already folded." (The bemoaning has been going on for some time.)
New York Times, 1969
Disaster averted (this time), the 2012 Gem Spa false alarm is yet a good reminder to us all that now is the time to appreciate this East Village treasure.
Go for a magazine and an egg cream. (Check out this video of how it's done.) Grab a couple of those kosher raspberry "Jelly Rings" by the register. How about a Hav-A-Hank handkerchief or a nice, unbreakable plastic comb?
Ted Berrigan, 1972
Gem Spa may be the only newsstand in New York City with its own dedicated Wikipedia page.
Says Wikipedia, "From 1957 until at least 1969 the store was owned by Ruby Silverstein and Harold Shephard, who employed 11 staff to keep it open 24 hours a day--Silverstein estimated that every 30 seconds someone walked in the store. The clientele initially mainly bought Jewish and foreign-language papers, which began to change around 1963 as they sold more copies of the Village Voice and underground magazines. Silverstein and Shephard gave the store its current name, initially Gem's Spa--the name comes from Gladys, Etta, and Miriam, the names of the wives of Silverstein and Shephard and Shephard's ex-wife."
GEM = Gladys, Etta, and Miriam! Who knew?
New York Dolls, 1973
In 1969, Allen Ginsberg ended a poem with this line: "Back from the Gem Spa, into the hallway, a glance behind and sudden farewell to the bedbug-ridden mattresses piled soggy in dark rain."
What has changed? We're still going for egg creams at Gem Spa and dodging bedbug mattresses on St. Mark's sidewalk. Perhaps all is not lost.
Michael Sean Edwards, 1979