Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bleecker's Luxe Blitz

It's time to worry about the mom-and-pop businesses on Bleecker Street between 10th and Christopher as the Rodeo Drive machine steamrolls south with aims to conquer the block.

A recap of recent events nearby:

After losing two long-standing antique shops last year, Treasures & Trifles and Leo Design, both of those spaces have since been filled with luxury chain stores. Toons Thai restaurant and the Miracle Grill, both long empty, are about to get European luxury chains. The park has been closed for a high-end renovation.

Today, from 10th Street all the way northwest, the only businesses left on Bleecker that aren't high-end mall stores or intimately connected to Sex & the City are the art gallery A Clean Well-Lighted Place (since 1976) and the 22-year-old Arleen Bowman boutique. That's it.

Everything else has been replaced or still lies vacant, mostly in just the past 5 years. "Everything" means approximately 43 other businesses. Plus, a residence that was not a business is opening as a Jimmy Choo boutique, adding luxury retail where there was no retail.

Now the rampant mallification is barreling across 10th Street.


On the eastern side of that block there has been the closure of a little news shop known as Etc. Grocery Store. I took some pictures of it last year, figuring it would vanish at any moment. It was obviously too shabby to survive. Today the shutters are down and the inside is being outfitted with a chocolate brown pressed-tin ceiling and exposed brick walls. Artisanal ice-cream shop?


I liked Etc. Grocery's scruffy look, how the awning, with the postcard and sunglass racks, seemed to just flop out onto the sidewalk, an uninvited guest at a Hamptons garden party sticking its finger in the aspic and belching.

It always had a window full of porn. Now the only porn you can buy on this end of Bleecker is at the Marc Jacobs bookstore that replaced Biography Bookshop last year. And that's high-end porn.


Welcome to the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai in Greenwich Village.

Two doors down from the Etc. Grocery Store, French boutique chain Comptoir de Cotonnieres has opened in the space long left vacant by Village Cottage Restaurant--once the location of Abbie Hoffman's Liberty House, a crafts cooperative.

Next to that, another long-empty space is being gutted, too--it's covered by soft pink-painted plywood. No doubt for another Marc Jacobs or Coach or Ralph Lauren, etc. That will essentially luxurify the entire eastern side of this block.



With this flurry of activity, the western side of Bleecker between 10th and Christopher is looking very vulnerable. This week, upscale fragrance shop Jo Malone just announced its move to the former Bread and Pastry Cafe location here.

So what's left on this block to worry about? First, there's The Village Apothecary, a "community pharmacy" that specializes in HIV care and has been in business since 1982.

Then there's the Manatus diner, a spot often filled with gay men of a certain age. It's affordable and comfortable to eat here (you can't go to Fedora anymore), two things we're losing rapidly all over town.

There's also a dry cleaners (useful) and Your Neighborhood Office, run by a great lady who provides the most excellent notary services (also useful).

How long can they last? The luxury retail culture is closing in on both sides, coming from Christopher St. where the likes of Freeman's Sporting Club and Rag & Bone compete for those consumers looking to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pair of artisanal khakis. ("Conscientious clothing" is the new thing--get ready for very expensive artisanal underwear.)

Meanwhile, the leather shops, gay bars, and porno stores look on, trembling, waiting for their time to die as the armies of the New World Order come marching in their Louboutins. They will not rest until every last vestige of the old Village has been destroyed.

See Also:
People Are Weird
More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs
Cupcake Trash
How the Cupcake Crumbled


chummy's mum said...

I WILL LOSE MY MIND, if Manatus were to shutter. There are soooooo many memories in there for me. I feel a tad queasy.

Writer Artist said...

This makes me ill.

Uncle Waltie said...

"They seek him here, they seek him there,
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him so he's got to buy the best,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

And when he does his little rounds,
'Round the boutiques of New York Town,
Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
He thinks he is a flower to be looked at,
And when he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight,
He feels a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
There's one thing that he loves and that is flattery.
One week he's in polka-dots, the next week he is in stripes.
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

They seek him here, they seek him there,
On Bleecker Street and Sheridan Square.
Everywhere the Fashionista army marches on,
Each one an dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
His world is built 'round discoteques and parties.
This pleasure-seeking individual always looks his best
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
He flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly.
In matters of the cloth he is as fickle as can be,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.
He's a dedicated follower of fashion.
He's a dedicated follower of fashion."

With much respect to Ray Davies and The Kinks.

Melanie said...

On my way to get my hair done, I passed Bleeker St. and peered down it and hardly recognized it at all. Sad.

maximum bob said...

Sorry, but that guy with the dog
looks like a friggin' retard.

L'Emmerdeur said...

maximum bob: that isn't a guy, it is a girl... yes, a sign of advanced civilization decay is when your women become square-jawed testosterone junkies who are mistaken for men.

Jeremiah: I've been saying this for years, we are peaking here, this is the last gasp, the financialization of the global economy has reached endgame, Wall Street will shrink by at least half in the coming years. All this ticky-tacky luxury claptrap will quickly follow the Wall Street Douche Army into the dustbin of history.

Americans today re doing what Greeks were doing for the last couple of years - increasingly depending on their credit cards to make up for the income deficit, in order to eat and buy gas.

People in Greece were wondering how luxury shops were still open in the last two years, and how prices weren't collapsing on both basic goods and luxury goods. It turns out people there were making up the difference with credit cards. THAT PARTY JUST ENDED. Stores are closing en masse, and those still open have finally started reducing their prices drastically. My father just told me that he went to a store that sells barbecues, and high-end models that used to sell for 1700-1900 euros now sell for half that - these are not advertised as "50% off sales" but are permanent re-adjustments of pricing.

We are heading to this point NOW. Credit card usage last month in the US SKYROCKETED. When those get maxed out in the coming months, IT IS OVER.

Here's a prediction: by the next election, every single new-age luxury store on Bleecker will be shuttered. Every. Single. One.

glamma said...

wow jeremiah, what a piece. you have outdone yourself! we need more reporting like this in NYC! you should print this and plaster it all over bleecker!

David Dust said...

I don't know what I would do if the Village Apothecary closed. Last year when I found out I was HIV positive, the extremely kind and knowledgeable staff at Village Apothecary allowed me to start filling prescriptions before I even had my ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) card. I literally walked in with my membership number written on a sticky note, and they didn't blink an eye. It was love at first sight.

The Village Apothecary is a gem that we simply cannot lose.

maximum bob said...

I remain unconvinced that the person in question is female. It could also
be a semi-cross dressing guy.
Guess we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

L'Emmerdeur, interesting post. The Great Recession may indeed go into a second, more intense phase very soon and prove you right. However, I suspect that your diagnosis and hence your forecast is only half-correct. Yes, the aspirational yet heavily indebted middle classes (including the yunnies) are probably maxing out their AmEx's and VISA's to finance tasteless luxury shopping, but the quite rich, definitely rich, and ultra rich have gotten richer through this crisis -- most or many of them, anyway. And they come from all over planet bourgeoisie to shop here -- a la Dubai (of recent vintage). The next stage of the international economic smash-up may not diminish their appetites. I do wonder how the 20-something iPod-people can continue piling into the panoply of overpriced and mediocre bars and restaurants, though.

Jeremiah Moss said...

we should be so lucky to have crossdressers hanging out on Bleecker St. again. unfortunately, it's just a young woman with a very expensive bag and who looks like Reese Witherspoon.

i'll keep my fingers crossed, too, for the Apothecary and Manatus. this is probably a good time to give them our business.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Wow. Bleecker used to be one of the most interesting streets. I could spend an entire day walking from one end to the other, patronizing so many different businesses. Now, it all kind of runs together - bland and generic end to end.

@L'Emmerdeur - When the market tanked almost 3 years ago, I expected people to buckle down, get creative and resourceful. I thought we'd (as a nation) stop spending so much and return to our individual skills and talents (making clothes, cooking food, creating art, making furniture) to build our lives rather than buying things. That hasn't happened and, like you said, people used credit cards even more. As I look around and see "luxury" this and "artisanal" that, all over-priced and irresponsibly marketed, I have to wonder if we can ever sustain ourselves.

Anonymous said...

J, with all the debt crisis chatter going on, I've wondered how NYCers have remained crisis-immune. Basic living costs have increased sharply and every store has gone luxury. The mind set has not realized that trees do not grow to heaven. As a former West Villager, the Bleecker St. mall is sad to read about.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i don't know how it hasn't crashed. the jimmy choo shoe store just opened in this stretch of bleecker. it looks like a diamond store, with a big, beefy security guard at the door and glittering chandeliers.

one pair in the window goes for $1495. for a pair of shoes. and i guess people will buy them.

Jeremiah Moss said...

oh, and that's not the most expensive pair. another, made of "crystal mesh," goes for $2095.

some of their handbags are over $3,000.

Jeremiah Moss said...

one other thing--the bag that the girl with the dog is carrying costs about $1,000.

Ed said...

Emmerdeur and Anonymous, I think the idea is that we are heading into a world with some rich and a lot of poor, and not much else in between, and the only cities that will do well economically are the places where the rich choose to live. Bloomberg seems to be determined that New York will be one of those places. As I said in early comments, it looks like it will be either Dubai or Detroit, and while I'd rather have Detroit, I can understand why people and particularly politicians prefer Dubai.

I don't know if they will make it happen. I've noticed that the prices of things are actually starting to drop. If only the rents will drop too. It could be that there will not be enough rich people in the end to sell luxury goods to, even if they all choose to congregate in just a handful of cities.

Anonymous said...

I've been living in the far west village for over thirty years and despair over the loss of the meat market (since Florent closed down I've been down the block once) and the continuing loss of Bleecker street from 8th avenue west to Christopher Street. The designer stores are a blight and I can barely walk down the street without a sick feeling and avoid it when I can. I feel my neighborhood has been hijacked by the rich and greedy.

To the poster who predicts all the designer shops go under within the next year--one can only hope.

L'Emmerdeur said...

To quote some TV scifi: "This has all happened before, and it will all happen again". If you want to freak out read the first sections of the following fascinating, frightening essay on the Great Inflation of Weimar Germany. You will be horrified by the dozens and dozens of similarities with our time.

One of the lessons from the Weimar inflation is that a vast majority of those who made their fortunes during the bubble years - the speculators, the service industry types, etc. - those whose businesses only existed because of the money bubble - were utterly ruined by the resulting crisis.

I know Bloomberg is trying to turn Manhattan into an island-oasis-fortress for the rich. He is succeeding, but even that has an endgame. A friend reminded me that in St. Petersburg, every time there was a peasant revolt in the countryside, they would raise the bridges to block the revolt from reaching the affluent city. We all know how that ended - St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad.

Let's remember, an infrastructure-heavy urban zone like NYC requires heavy tax income to keep things in order and repair, to pay for the cops and firemen, etc. A ravaged middle class will pay no taxes. Poor people pay no taxes. And in corporate-Bush-Obama Amerika, the rich certainly don't pay many taxes. This is not sustainable. Add to that the fact that Giuliani and Bloomberg spent the "Golden Age" of NYC tax revenue driving our debt up to dizzying heights instead of preparing for the eventual downturn by using the excess income to reduce our debt load, and you have a perfect storm coming.

A third of all NY state income comes from the finance industry. When this goes, the collapse will be swift and brutal.

A new money market crisis is brewing across the planet, much like 2008, only now, sovereign states are thrown into the mix - and unlike 2008, governments and central banks are tapped out themselves. You are seeing the first drops of this perfect storm falling on our windshield these last couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

This discussion gets better and better. I won't add to it, only point out a strange irony. As Manhattan becomes an enclave of the junior luxe, luxe, and super luxe, the increasingly dominant presence on Manhattan streets are the frat boys in flip-flops, the SATC girls with handbags, the iPhone-bearing dog walkers. These vapid people are terribly annoying of course, and their pervasiveness reflects cultural shifts of which the pyramidized distribution of wealth is a part -- but they are not themselves rich. The rich hide away. At the level of surface appearance (not deeper explanation) anyway, this is a paradox.

Jeremiah Moss said...

true about the changing demographic. the frat boys and the SATC girls--i often wonder: how much money do they really have? i suspect they come from solidly middle and upper middle-class families. but the uber-rich, you're right, they're not as visible.

you can see them in the Meatpacking District, though, and on Bleecker. the beer-sloshing flip-floppers aren't over there like in the East Village. over there, it's Beverly Hills. unbelievably posh. the air smells of expensive perfume. and many French accents, too.

Caleo said...

L'EMMEDEUR makes excellent points that anyone interested in the future of this town would do well to take to heart.
I don't know if it will all shift as quickly as the next Presidential election, but it will shift, and potentially faster than most are prepared for. And by most I mean the middling rich and faux rich who have flooded into the city.
The obscenely wealthy are not only largely unseen, they have much more than enough to cover them in the event of large crisis.
It's the hordes of upper middle class consumers with not so disposable incomes that are living on borrowed time.And that includes state and city governments.
The pendulum always swings back in the other direction. ALWAYS.

Lux Living said...

This type of rabid gentrification is like feeding a body nothing but sugar.

New York City was special because it offered it's residents and tourists unique experiences, businesses, neighborhoods, etc. Yes, past tense.

Watch what happens to the local economy in a few years when people are not willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money on rent and food to have the same strip mall lifestyle they had cheaper in the suburbs.

The city can't sustain itself on chain drug stores, bank branches and Marc Jacobs SATC shoppers.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the NW corner of Bleecker and 10th, formerly Kim's Video and Bleecker St. Books.
Formerly Kim's is "opening soon" as some kind of Louboutin (not bothering to look up spelling--ugly French shoes) wannabe, and Bleecker St. Books, most recently "Brush" spa (did they mean "Blush"?) is, I think, still empty. I believe there's a tree in front of it. Maybe it's not visible enough for luxe retail, so probably the tree will have to go.

esquared™ said...

"Those who don’t live in such threatened districts nonetheless have a stake in this quarrel and some skin in this game, because on the day when everywhere looks like everywhere else we shall all be very much impoverished, and not only that but—more impoverishingly still—we will be unable to express or even understand or depict what we have lost." -- Last Call, Bohemia