Monday, December 3, 2018

Uncle Sam's Army/Navy

VANISHING (for now)

Richard Geist has run Uncle Sam's Army/Navy store on West 8th Street since 1998. The shop feels even older, a place reminiscent of the lost Village, the lost city, when people thrift-shopped and so much more felt scrappy and surprising, before it all became so sanitized and predictable. And boring.

This week, Uncle Sam's is closing shop.



Geist told me the closure is by choice, mostly, and that 8th Street just isn't 8th Street anymore.

It hasn't been for a long time. High rents wiped out the shoe businesses here, leaving a blighted ghost town about 10 years ago. The storefronts sat empty for awhile, and then a few mediocre restaurants moved in, along with a bunch of nail salons. Geist says there's no foot traffic. The street is dead.

As he told the Times last year, "Gentrification is killing us. Eighth Street has lost the magic and we want to bring that magic back, and bring traffic back to help business.”



With his former neighbor, the artist and small business owner Storm Ritter, Geist tried to rename the block for Jimi Hendrix, who had his Electric Lady Studios there, but the BID wouldn't go for it.

"They told me, 'What did Jimi Hendrix ever do for 8th Street?'" Geist said, incredulous. That was the last straw. He realized that he and 8th Street had to part ways.



On the scaffolding that blocks his shop, Geist has hung a banner that reads:

"Small businesses are more important than we all realize. Employers (first timers), employment tax payers, social security contributors, sales tax collectors, property tax payers, service and product providers, community builders and merchandisers, and new & old customer appreciators."

He wishes the city and state would do something to help small businesses to thrive.



This week the shop is in its final days and everything is being sold at deep discount -- up to 90% off. 

As for the future, Geist plans to take some time off and then look for a new space for Uncle Sam's on the Lower East Side. He says there's plenty to choose from there and fully expects to return. Until then, you can find them online at Army/Navy Deals.















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