There used to be a laundromat on West 4th and Bank. I often took its picture because it seemed like a particularly poignant laundromat, especially at night. The laundress would stand working in the window, folding clothing. She had a habit of hanging the peels of clementines to dry on the window's grillwork, creating flowery shapes. At Christmastime, she'd hang candy canes.
One day, her window was gone. The Marc Jacobs children's store next door expanded into it. And then, this past spring, the whole laundromat vanished.
Its boutique replacement is called Le Labo, manufacturers of fine perfumery.
Everything is faux rustic and old-timey artisanal, right down to the "lab technicians," who wear waxed canvas aprons imported all the way from Brooklyn.
They've got a scent diffuser made from an Edison bulb and a hunk of wood that's been "forged from the reclaimed wood of New York’s water tanks." It sells for $590. Everything in Le Labo is pricey. Like their Concrete Candle, "another result," they say, "of our obsession with craftsmanship. It has been poured in our lab in Mississippi and its concrete vessel has been handcrafted in California." It comes in a shipping crate "inspired from shipping crates." It sells for $450.
If you find the prices shocking, you can't say you weren't warned. On their window, Le Labo sports the following quote attributed to Thomas Edison: "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."
Yankee Candle proves that wrong, but it's not the actual quote. Edison wasn't trying to elevate the candle's socioeconomic status. What he originally said in 1880 was: "After the electric light goes into general use, none but the extravagant will burn tallow candles."
Since I wrote up this post a couple of months ago, the Marc Jacobs children's store--the one that encroached into the laundress' space--has shuttered. It sits empty with windows blackened.
Across Bank Street, a space that was most recently--and very briefly--Hamilton's soda fountain also sits empty and for rent.
And next to that is yet another empty space. This one was a coffee place that took over when the great Left Bank Books got the boot, along with its laundromat neighbor. Now the coffee place is kaput.
Left Bank moved a few blocks away, but couldn't make it and shuttered that spot last year, just like many displaced small businesses. They've been replaced by a designy shop "born out of a palpable void in the lifestyle market for quality, accessible, home goods." And how long do you think that's going to last before high-rent blight comes to claim it?
So, to circle back, we once had a bookstore and a couple of laundromats that served a necessary function and had been around for ages. And now we've got three empty shops next to a shop full of extravagance that will likely be empty in another year or two.
Meanwhile, I miss the bookstore. And the woman with the orange peels.