Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Chase Sign

Back when Union Square's Coffee Shop shuttered for Chase Bank, thanks to a massive rent hike, we heard that the bank might be keeping the antique neon sign and re-doing the letters so it spelled out CHASE instead of COFFEE SHOP.

Last month, the antique sign was removed. We wondered if it would come back--refurbished or repurposed. It has not.

Yesterday, New York filmmaker Amy Nicholson tweeted a photo of the replacement:

Thankfully, it's not a Frankensteined mashup of COFFEE SHOP and CHASE. That would be unbearable. It's also not neon and it's not faux antique.

It is instead a sanitized, zombified, half-hearted riff on the old Coffee Shop sign.

It's vertical and two-sided, like the old sign, and the word JOE (the name of the coffee chain inside the bank) is at the bottom, enclosed in a rectangular ring of yellow lights, also (sort of) like the old sign.

I'm sure the PR people at Chase will call this an "homage." They might even call it a "loving homage," as if banks are capable of such emotions. But we know better, don't we?

And what is the fate of the original sign? It went back a long way -- and it should have been left right where it was, untouched and intact.

detail of photo by Karen Gehres, via Flaming Pablum

Friday, January 10, 2020

Neir's Tavern: Saved!

Good news! After an outcry from the public and small business activists, Neir's Tavern has received a new lease. One source in city government informed me that the owner of Neir's will receive 5 more years on the lease and right of first refusal to purchase the building should it go up for sale.

The #SaveNYC rally to save Neir's will now be a celebration--and a rally to fight for commercial rent regulations in New York City. Because there are many more small businesses being crushed by landlord greed.

Come out to Neir's tomorrow, Saturday, at 2:00pm--bring signs, make noise, fight to save NYC!

View the Facebook invitation here

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Neir's Tavern


After nearly 200 years in Woodhaven, Queens, Neir's Tavern will shutter.

photo via NY Times

Owner Loycent Gordon sent an email to his customers to share the sad news. He says:

"Yesterday I was forced to make one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. Sunday January 12th I will have to step down as owner of Neirs Tavern and I have no one available to replace me. I’ve been unable to obtain an affordable long term lease to reach our goal of the 200th anniversary in 2029. I’m operating month to month with an unaffordable rent and insufficient sales to overcome a year of losing money every month...

I hope my Neirs Team will be here until Sunday in the event a miracle happens. But I have no more money after Sunday. I’m sorry i let you down. I’m sorry I couldn’t get landmark status. I’m sorry I couldn’t buy the building."

Neir's has been fighting for its life; recently, the Landmarks Preservation Committee rejected its application, though it's been around since before the Civil War. Founded in 1829, Neir's is greatly beloved--but love can't save our historic small businesses. Only a policy that ensures commercial rent regulation can. But we don't have that in New York City. So this will keep on happening. Over and over and over. Until nothing authentic remains.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Chelsea Flea Market


The Chelsea Flea Market on 25th Street between 6th and Broadway has been in business since 1976. Now we hear it is coming to an end.

I went by one evening a few weeks ago and heard the rumor that the lease is up and the owners aren't renewing. Now a couple of tipsters confirm: Next weekend, December 28 and 29, will be the last for this popular and long-running flea.

Paul Jeromack writes, "There is a possibility it will get a reprieve," hoping someone might take it over from the current managers, Alan and Helene Boss -- a couple that the Post has said "rules city flea markets with an iron fist." However, he adds, "the church next door," which owns the parking lot "does not want to renew the lease."

That church is St. Sava Serbian Orthodox, burned down in a massive blaze in 2016. Around that time, there was also news of an 850-foot commercial tower going up on the flea's parking lot.

It doesn't look good.

Jeromack notes, "Some of my vendor friends told me if need be, they would migrate to the Columbus Avenue schoolyard market on 77th Street," but this may not be the solution for all the vendors.

"There are guys who are rag-pickers with piles of old clothes and pots and pans, who I am sure would not be approved for the uptown space. Where are they going to go?"

This is sad news for flea market fans. We already lost the great Antiques Garage in 2014 when their building was demolished for a luxury hotel tower. Not to mention the little Chelsea flea on 17th and 6th, shuttered in 2009.

Every day, in every way, we're living in a more and more overpriced, hollow, and disposable city.

photo via Joseph Burns Instagram

Monday, December 9, 2019

Colony to CVS

When the great Colony Music was forced to shutter in 2012 by a massive rent hike, after 60 years in Times Square, its space in the Brill Building was gutted and turned into a revolving door of random businesses.


There were Christmas and Halloween stores, a Build-A-Bear Workshop, and some other crap. That's what happens when the new landlord quintuples the rent to $5 million and there's no commercial rent control or any other policies protecting the small businesspeople of this city from unregulated greed.

Now, after 7 years of high-rent blight and unstable pop-up ventures, the space has been taken by the only kind of retailer that can afford such millions--a giant chain store.

Colony is now a CVS.


To add insult to injury, the owners of the landmarked Brill have decided to obscure this gorgeous, historic building with digital screens. (How was the Landmarks Preservation Commission okay with this mess?)

Seven years. What a long, sad trip it's been.

a more beautiful past

New Chase

When Coffee Shop on Union Square closed in 2018, we heard it would be turned into yet another Chase Bank branch.

That signage is now up:

We also heard the rumor that Chase might be keeping the antique neon sign and re-doing the letters so it spells out CHASE instead of COFFEE SHOP.

That signage is now gone. Whether or not it returns is anyone's guess.

Monday, November 4, 2019



Guest post by Larry Baumhor

The owner of the first punk rock boutique in New York, Mariann Marlowe is packing her bags and ending decades of selling and designing clothes in NY city. Her current store Enz’s boutique in the East Village is closing after 14 years. Mariann knows the history of punk and the changing scenes of New York and London.

photo: Larry Baumhor

Mariann Marlowe: “My original store, Ian’s, opened in 1972 at 49 Grove Street in Greenwich Village. My rent was $100.00. I brought back mostly Vivienne Westwood stuff and a few other things. My influence was Vivienne. She would make anything out of anything. The neckline could be two inches off the shoulder. That was my inspiration. Also, living on the streets of London. We were poor and we used to eat beans on toast for ten days in a row. I lived with all artists and we all shared a house in Earl’s Court. I would go to the Sex Pistols rehearsals on Lots Road before Sid was in the band.”

“I made a shirt for Johnny Thunders and it had the word rock on the shirt with chicken bones. My dog Ian didn’t know it was for Johnny Thunders and he ate the chicken bones off the shirt. CBGB was a big part of my life just like the way Rodeo Bar is now. I saw Iggy being carried out on a stretcher. The ambulance used to come and pick up Iggy. Andy Warhol came in with his wolf coat and a bag. He asked me if I wanted an Interview magazine and he gave me a signed copy.”

“Some of my patrons were Cherry Vanilla, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Mike Quashie who just passed away and was good friends with Lou Reed, Robert Gordon, and Bruce Springsteen. I used to also have a store on the Upper East Side. It was like Liza Minnelli, Mick Jagger, Scavullo who was Sean Byrnes’ lover, Jerry Hall who still shops in this store.”

“Francesco Scavullo used to come into the store all the time. We have five Cosmo covers from that. But the thing I am most proud of is Willy DeVille. “I made his snakeskin jacket. You know the jacket he made famous?” “I made Pat Benatar’s zebra catsuit, but I’m more impressed with Willy’s snakeskin jacket.”

“There was no cooler place than New York in the ‘70s in those days. The days of Television and the Ramones, New York Dolls, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Richard Hell. Marc Jacobs would come in. Sylvain was my friend from the New York Dolls. People would come from all over the world to check out the store. Maybe groupies would come in the store. That was saved for CBGB and Max’s. In those days before AIDS, at the end of the shows, everybody would go home with somebody. That’s how it was. There was a clique. Everybody’s ego was out of control. People wouldn’t talk to you if you weren’t cool.”

photo via Enz's Facebook page

And now we must say goodbye to Mariann Marlowe, a living legend, who promises to still be around whether it’s New York or London. We thank you and pay homage to your legendary life.

Post Script: E.V. Grieve reports the shop has closed as of yesterday.