Wednesday, March 19, 2008

8th Street Ghost Town

Back in 2006, The Real Deal covered the demise of 8th Street's shoe stores, reporting that "Since the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, 24 of 54 shoe stores have closed, a devastating percentage." Since then, that number has most certainly gone up.

The street is a ghost town of soaped-over windows, for rent signs, and going out of business banners. Rugged Sole is currently holding a "Business Sucks" sale. The sidewalks are empty, which actually makes 8th Street a pleasant route for walking unmolested by jerks with giant shopping bags, drunken college students, and entitled Wall Streeters. It's a place to be (almost) alone. But that is going to change. Fast.

After the onslaught of rent hikes, the street has been in a holding pattern, waiting for super-gentrification to wash away the urine and incense vendors. Recently, the luxurification arrived.

In a space once occupied by a club called 8th Wonder, where Jimi Hendrix used to play, upscale restaurant Elletaria just opened. The crowds are pouring in for pigs feet and sweetbreads--washed down with the 8th Wonder cocktail--and I predict that its presence will tip the scales on 8th Street once and for all.


Anonymous said...

I was so surprised by the sudden arrival of Elletaria. I poked my head in there a few weeks back during its hopping business hours and it was mobbed. I was also *INSTANTLY* put off of the idea of ever eating there. Think: Meat Packing District clientele and price tags.

I know I said in that post that I don't mind 8th Street development (being that it's a bit of a ghost town at the moment), but this isn't really what I had in mind.

Anonymous said...

Guests from out of town often ask to be brought here so they can buy funky shoes that are impossible to find elsewhere. I usually end up bringing them to Broadway instead; and they end up not buying anything.

Suzannah B. Troy artist said...

8th Street Ghost Town
The Village East and West is becoming a ghost town post 9-11.
I am in shock.
It never occurred to me to leave after Sept. 11 and in fact we all banded together in unity.

Now the soul has been sucked out of the neighborhood...

I kept writing I thought I lived in the East Village not a bad xerox of midtown but it is worse than that and soulless.

Anonymous said...

Alex in NYC is right. Unfortunately, the MePa crowd is everywhere...but 8th Street has defied gentrification forever and between the greedy landlords and the entitled greed-heads who are buying up all the apartments in the neighborhood, the odds of the Central Village becoming anything other than another playground for a-holes are slim to none

Anonymous said...

Your comments are entirely misinformed and biased. You really think the MEPA crowd is going to 8th St. to eat Pigs Feet?? How clueless could you be? You obviously know nothing about the restaurant, its employees, its clientele, or about the actual MEPA crowds. Take a trip down there and do some research.

Ellateria is actually the first restaurant of a NY chef who's been working in the area for a LOOOONG time (he was the head of Craftbar than the EU before, look it up).

Second, I don't know if you've ever wandered down 8th St. after dark in recent years, but it's been a total ghost town for a while. Maybe you haven't noticed, but shoe stores don't stay open very late. Ellateria, along with Pio Maya, Yawa sushi, 8th St. Winecellar, and IsWine have gone way out on a limb, opening up nightlife in an area that's essentially been cursed, neglected, and avoided for many years.
They've put both their money, livelihoods, and their reputations on the line by opening up on 8th St. Idiotic misinformed comments like yours and your readers only reinforce that the right thing is being done. BTW, I live on 9th st, so don't bother with the non-local nonsense. You can kiss my ass.

Jeremiah Moss said...

dear anon, you seem very angry. it makes me wonder what your personal investment might be in this case. but allow me to respond to your points:

1. pigs feet is a dish featured on the menu, so i must assume people are eating them there.

2. craft, the first restaurant that began the whole craft chain, began in 2001. the chef to whom you refer began working in nyc in 1998. either way, that's not a "LOOOOONG time."

3. while i am sure your ass is utterly smoochable, i'd rather not kiss it, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I think you're misinterpreting the points.
The B&T MEPA crowd is *not* the type that eats Pig's Feet and Sweetbreads. Maybe they'll come down to 8th St. the first week the place is open because their friend read it on Eater, but the people going to that place are foodies and locals. And as time goes on, it'll be more locals.

Your commenters seem to have some deep-seated economic resentment of everyone else, and display it by incorrect stereotyping. And they obviously have no idea what goes into opening a restaurant, pricing menu items, and keeping it open.

Ditto for the 8th St. Winebar. That place is full of locals nearly every night now. You might call it 'gentrification' but the rest of the neighborhood is glad some locals had the balls to put it on the line and open something useful on that street.

I'm not sure what kind of place WOULD make your commenter's happy....another SUBWAY or DOMINOS chain because its cheap? Ten more Gray
s Papayas/Papays Dog/etc.. or Ray's Pizza's? Another sleazy store selling bongs and crappy leather goods? I remember 8th St. from the mid-80's when I grew up here.....and I really have no desire that it comes back. I'm sure there are plenty of places that are still not "playgrounds for a-holes," as your reader put it. I suggest possibly Jerome Ave. in the Bronx. They'll love a little whiny white boy! Especially one without taste!

ps. I have no vested interest in anything on 8th st. I'm just someone who lives in the area, and appreciates its "gentrification".

Anonymous said...

I've been walking down 8th street for over 10 years and there's no question something happened, especially in the last 2 years. Looks like rent increases are to blame for the retail exodus, but that is just a hunch. I dont really care what stores move in next but the empty store fronts we're seeing now are not good for the street.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, more NYU offices, halls, dormitories will be built here. I was surprised to see that BBQ(which I was never a fan of, but somehow misses it, at least the one on 8th street) is being replaced by Capital One bank.

The whole 8th street (including St. Mark's have changed). Coney Island High is gone, Continental sold out to the yuppies and yunnies. And there was a falafel joint right next to the Afghan restaurant I used to go, which is no longer there (replaced by a pizza place). It would be the death of St.Mark's and I definitely am moving out of NYC once JulesBistro, and St. Dymphna's close down.

Laura said...

It's strange. I went to school in NY about 4-5 years ago and lived at Marlton House on 8th street (which back in the day was a house of ill repute and where Andy Warhol's would be assassin lived.) It was like living in a fantasy world to walk down that street and peek at the shoes and go to the comic store. It was one of the many reasons why New York stifled my creativity- I was too busy drinking it all in to actually be bored enough to invent things: and I will never regret that.

But when I brought my sister there last month to show her the block, it was depressing. What happened to TLA Video rentals?
Where's the goth clothing store that was at the end of the block near the hot dog place? What is going on?

Anonymous said...

I remember reading an article two years ago that explained that the owner/manager of all those stores made a conscious decision to get rid of all/ most of the current tenants and shift the types of businesses there to upscale wine/ restaurants. He planned to do this by not renewing leases and searching out the specific types of businesses he wanted. I'm not sure if he did actually jack up the rents, because he was trying to induce types of businesses who hadn't been there to come to 8th st. While I do find it amazing that Jeremiah's sentiments of the yunnification of NYC entirely match my own - I do think 8th st could have stood have gained a little more commercial diversity. Unfortunately, this is going to the extreme and I'm very sad to see some of the shoe stores, head shops, and especially the comic book store leave.

laura said...

heres my unique take on 8th st. i remember it when it was little boutiques, owned by artisans. a bohemian creative street, similar to what bleeker was before the chain stores. i was a child @the time. later it began to change. by 1963 there were only a few stores left. sam kramer closed (the famous jeweler, his "eye"pendents were all the rage in art circles). fred braun leather shoes/bags closed around 1964 or so. ("the" handmade shoe for beat chicks). these were hold overs from the beatnik days. by the mid 60s, girls from brooklyn (my classmates) were having their sweet sixteen parties on 8th st. it got commerical. w/the opening of whelans all night drug store (corner of 6th), the street took a dive down. that corner became a drug dealing place, dealers & customers from harlem. quite frankly i found the tacky "shoe store" era depressing. so much like w/34th st. (which btw, was elegant @one time). if you compare ugly 1980s/90s 8th st to the 1950s- early 60s, you would see what i mean. some nice new cafes & bistros would be more like the old village. maybe not the same patrons, but really. that streets been the pits for 45yrs!!! i saw no redeming social value. if anything it brought hoards of shoppers to the the village. just what you like to conplain about.

Juliette said...

I've lived in NYC for over 32 years now, love the way you're documenting it's changing nature. I'm wondering if anyone here can help me with something that's been stirring in my head all night: What was the name of that amazing video store that was just a quarter block east of 6th Ave?? I think it was on 8th street (that's how I found this post, looking on the internet for what used to be on 8th street) but am not positive. It was that amazing video store where the staff would actually mock you if you rented something less than cool and they had EVERYTHING. If anyone can tell me what it was, it would help me get some sleep tonight!
(Raise your hand if you miss the independent video store!)

And that anonymous person who went off on you has issues.