Da'Vinci Shoes has been on West 8th Street since 1980, opened by Israeli immigrant Evette Mansoor. Now we hear they will be vanishing.
A regular reader and long-time Villager writes in:
"My girlfriend was in there the other day and was chatting with owner. Rent going from $6K to nearly $40K. So they are looking for new digs. Or just may abandon ship altogether."
Da'Vinci's inventory clearance sale sign hangs below a "for lease" notice from Winick, where the listing--as they all do--celebrates the nearness of chain stores.
Our reader adds: "Same folks--Rudin family--who built the condos on St. Vincent's are raising the rent here."
I can't confirm the ownership, but I can make a prediction. The address 37 West 8th is shared by both Da'Vinci shoes and Uncle Sam's Army Navy, in business since 1969. If the owner is kicking out Da'Vinci, we should expect they will also be kicking out Uncle Sam's. That's just how they do it.
When these two long-time local businesses shutter, it won't be because of trends. It won't be because people don't buy shoes or Army/Navy gear. It won't be because people are shopping online. It won't be due to the "invisible hand" of "market forces." And it won't be because "New York is always changing."
It will be because the elite power brokers of this city made it so.
A few years ago, I wrote on the intentional hyper-gentrification of West 8th Street. At the time, the Marlton SRO was being turned into the boutique Marlton hotel by the BD Hotels chain, with hopes that it would eventually upscale the entire street. It was celebrated by the local Business Improvement District known as Village Alliance.
BD Hotels co-founder Richard Born told the Daily News: "We’ve had the experience of changing neighborhoods like with the Bowery Hotel, where we saw the area take off. We think that will happen here. I bet we raise square-footage prices by $100 across the street when we open... The beats hung out here, and in a way, hipsters of today are the beatniks of yesterday. I think Eighth St. will be as cool as Prince St. in SoHo."
At the time, the Village Alliance was also "talking with the city’s Department of Transportation about possibly putting in the kind of pedestrian plazas found in Times Square," according to the Times. Pedestrian plazas spike rents. In Times Square, they helped raise retail rents by 71 percent in just six months, according to then transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. It was, she said, “the largest increase in the city’s history.” No wonder the BID wants them.
In the end, local small business, the character and history of New York's streets, will be the victim of West 8th Street's enforced redevelopment. And so will all of us who want to live in an open, diverse, and affordable city that has not been curated by the 1%.
P.S. Take a walk on West 8th Street back in the day.