Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Where once were gorgeous hats, there will now be Slurpees and Big Gulps.

The former Arnold Hatters spot is going to be a 7-11. The "Coming Soon" sign is up and workers are pounding away inside.


I have been following the Arnold Hatters story since they left 620 Eighth Avenue in 2003. That's when the Bloomberg administration seized their property via eminent domain and used the land for the New York Times tower.

The Hatters moved farther south, to 8th and 37th, where they managed to survive for awhile. I talked to the owners there in 2007 about Bloomberg, eminent domain, and the hat business.


But in the spring of 2009, after three generations, Arnold Hatters closed with a sad shuttering. They had weathered numerous dips and shifts in the economy, but they never recovered after losing their prime location.

Some people like to say, "Oh, well, the city always changes," as if these losses are nothing, as if they're normal. But this is how the city is changing: A 50-year-old local business makes it to the 21st century, then turns into a suburban, Dallas-based, mega-chain.

In this way, every day, we are trading in this city for nothing more than trinkets and beads.

Dallas, Texas: from 7-11, Oh Thank Heaven!


EV Grieve said...

An aside from the sad Arnold Hatters closing. Why is NYC getting invaded by so many 7-11 stores? I understand why tourists would be pleased to see a 7-11, a comforting, familiar store in a big city... but is anyone else actually pleased that there is a 7-11 nearby?

Paul said...

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. "We" aren't trading anything for anything else. The person who runs the hat store is vacating his/her lease because — let's face it — the market for natty hats isn't what it used to be. Also, in this post and others you talk about eminent domain as if it's a modern-day phenomenon, a Bloomberg-inspired gambit. That is definitely not true, either. If anything, the city's use of eminent domain has grown significantly more restrained in the past century.

While I respect your adoration for long-standing businesses, certain aesthetics, and kitsch, I can't help but notice you're ignoring another time-honored part of New York's evolution: rapid-fire creative destruction. That 7-11 might not do it for you, but a) it's in Midtown, where presumably a 7-11 has more utility than a hat shop, and b) it's not going to be there forever. Nothing is.

Melanie said...

NO NO NO ....awful in so many ways.

David Savage said...

It just makes me sick, Jeremiah. This is not what NYC is supposed to be. What many people don't understand is that chains are fast becoming the only businesses who can afford commercial leases, even operating at a LOSS so they can expand their "imprint" in a n'hood, even with plans to close in less than a couple of years. Meanwhile there's no bringing back the 50+ year-old mom & pop that was part of the fabric of the original n'hood. Best to you. -DAVID SAVAGE, Manhattan.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I think the problem is people don't wear hats. Sure, there are baseball caps and the resurgence in the pork pie and fedora, but hats are not a part of the everyday wardrobe anymore.

Oshidori said...

I really loved that place! I had no idea about it getting pushed out before (I discovered it at it's 37th street location), and I had found it trying to find a hat for my brother's birthday. I was so impressed by their level of service, I went back to buy a ladies fedora and a few newsboy caps for my husband from there.

Haven't been by for a while, and now I regret it. Such a shame. This city is becoming so homogenized it really kills me.

David Savage said...

Hey Paul,
Please define what you mean by rapid-fire creative destruction. I think i know what you mean, but i'm interested in hearing your definition. On your last point, I believe you are ignoring the fact that, up until 10 or so years ago, there was no perceived need or "utility" for a 7-11 in Midtown Manhattan. How did New Yorkers go without them for so many decades? Hm, let's think about it. Now of course that they have spread throughout the city like a cancer, a false sense of "utility" surrounds each of them so that recent suburban transplants to NYC believe they can't do without them.

Ed said...

In this case, the store might well have closed anyway because people just don't wear hats anymore. So its not a great example of what is happening to the city.

But what you do have is commercial rents going up to the point where only chain stores can operate in some parts of Manhattan. Then the rents go too high even for the chains. There are blocks in good neighborhoods with shuttered storefront after shuttered storefront. The economy is bad, but for some unknown reason there is an incentive for landlords to have no one renting a place instead of lowering the rent. So you could have parts of Manhattan look like Detroit while rents continue to increase.

These things Jeremaih points out are manifestations of serious problems, but to understand you have to dig a little deeper than, "oh that was a cute hat store that is closing."

Laura Goggin Photography said...

AS Ed points out, landlords would rather have no one renting than lower the rent for a business. I'd like to hear a landlord's point of view because this is something I really don't understand. If a chain store can't afford a retail space, what are they holding out for?