Since western Bleecker Street's unprecedented luxury boom began in 2001, approximately 44 small businesses have vanished and been replaced with upscale shopping mall chains. Let it sink in: 44 long-time neighborhood businesses, every single one of them gone, in about a decade. How did it happen? We've looked at it before, but I keep trying to get my head around it, so I made a timeline.
The Wave Begins
2000: Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw bites into a pink-frosted Magnolia cupcake--the cupcake that launched a thousand luxury boutiques.
2001: The New York Times reports on Marc Jacobs' arrival on Bleecker. Said Jacobs' president Robert Duffy, "If I could have 20 stores on Bleecker Street, I would." He plunks down three at a time. (Now there are six within a few blocks.) Later, a Marc Jacobs employee explains to the Villager, "Our goal was to take advantage of the huge concentration of young people who flooded into the area, especially with the ‘Sex and the City’ show."
2002: Ralph Lauren follows Marc Jacobs and opens his first Bleecker store. (Now there are three.)
2004: Intermix arrives, along with many, many more upscale shops. Several long-time businesses are pushed out by massive, incomprehensible rent hikes.
shirt by Mike Joyce
The Tipping Point
2005: The New York Times files a giddy report on the new Bleecker Street. Retail space is renting for $300 per square foot, up from $75 in 2002. Monthly rents are at $25,000. Says one realtor, "Marc Jacobs has done on Bleecker Street what it did on Melrose Place in Los Angeles."
New York Magazine publishes a major profile of the Bleecker boom in an article on micro-neighborhoods: "Soho took fifteen years to become a handbag colony. Bleecker took only three." One local shopper complains, "I’m not so happy about the Guccis and the Polos coming in here. It seems like we’re losing our neighborhood feel."
The Aftershocks Keep Rolling
2007: Condomania shutters after 16 years due to "skyrocketing rents."
2008: Nusraty Afghan Imports is pushed out after 30 years--the rent spikes to $45,000 a month (a Brooks Brothers moved in). Eve Salon closes after 25 years (Jack Spade moved in).
2009: Biography Bookshop is priced out after 25 years.
2010: Luxury gets a big second wind and rents along Bleecker climb to $500 per square foot. A Marc Jacobs bookstore moves into Biography's spot. Treasures & Trifles antiques shutters after 44 years. Leo Design antiques shutters after 15 years. Toons Thai restaurant closes after 25 years.
2011: Jo Malone and Freeman's Sporting Club open shop, pushing Bleecker's luxury wave well past the 10th Street borderline. Etc. Grocery newsstand shutters and becomes a Goorin Brothers hat shop. The park on Bleecker is shut down and renovated into something fancier.
2012: One of western Bleecker's oldest and last remaining holdouts, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place gallery and frame shop shutters after 36 years.
Look at those numbers. Rents shot from $75 to $300 per square foot in 3 years, then to $500 in another 5 years. Monthly rents went from an already elevated $25,000 to $45,000 in just 3 years (and the $45,000 was 3 years ago--how much is it now?). Over 200 years of combined business lifetimes were wiped out in 3 years--and much more I didn't cover here.
So when people say to you, "New York has always changed--it's normal, get over it," point them to the far end of Bleecker Street. Show them the numbers. There's nothing normal about it.