Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bleecker Timeline

Since western Bleecker Street's unprecedented luxury boom began in 2001, approximately 44 small businesses have vanished and been replaced with upscale shopping mall chains. Let it sink in: 44 long-time neighborhood businesses, every single one of them gone, in about a decade. How did it happen? We've looked at it before, but I keep trying to get my head around it, so I made a timeline.

cupcake dancers

The Wave Begins

2000: Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw bites into a pink-frosted Magnolia cupcake--the cupcake that launched a thousand luxury boutiques.

2001: The New York Times reports on Marc Jacobs' arrival on Bleecker. Said Jacobs' president Robert Duffy, "If I could have 20 stores on Bleecker Street, I would." He plunks down three at a time. (Now there are six within a few blocks.) Later, a Marc Jacobs employee explains to the Villager, "Our goal was to take advantage of the huge concentration of young people who flooded into the area, especially with the ‘Sex and the City’ show."

2002: Ralph Lauren follows Marc Jacobs and opens his first Bleecker store. (Now there are three.)

2004: Intermix arrives, along with many, many more upscale shops. Several long-time businesses are pushed out by massive, incomprehensible rent hikes.

shirt by Mike Joyce

The Tipping Point

2005: The New York Times files a giddy report on the new Bleecker Street. Retail space is renting for $300 per square foot, up from $75 in 2002. Monthly rents are at $25,000. Says one realtor, "Marc Jacobs has done on Bleecker Street what it did on Melrose Place in Los Angeles."

New York Magazine publishes a major profile of the Bleecker boom in an article on micro-neighborhoods: "Soho took fifteen years to become a handbag colony. Bleecker took only three." One local shopper complains, "I’m not so happy about the Guccis and the Polos coming in here. It seems like we’re losing our neighborhood feel."

The Aftershocks Keep Rolling

2007: Condomania shutters after 16 years due to "skyrocketing rents."

2008: Nusraty Afghan Imports is pushed out after 30 years--the rent spikes to $45,000 a month (a Brooks Brothers moved in). Eve Salon closes after 25 years (Jack Spade moved in).

2009: Biography Bookshop is priced out after 25 years.

2010: Luxury gets a big second wind and rents along Bleecker climb to $500 per square foot. A Marc Jacobs bookstore moves into Biography's spot. Treasures & Trifles antiques shutters after 44 years. Leo Design antiques shutters after 15 years. Toons Thai restaurant closes after 25 years.

2011: Jo Malone and Freeman's Sporting Club open shop, pushing Bleecker's luxury wave well past the 10th Street borderline. Etc. Grocery newsstand shutters and becomes a Goorin Brothers hat shop. The park on Bleecker is shut down and renovated into something fancier.

2012: One of western Bleecker's oldest and last remaining holdouts, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place gallery and frame shop shutters after 36 years.

Look at those numbers. Rents shot from $75 to $300 per square foot in 3 years, then to $500 in another 5 years. Monthly rents went from an already elevated $25,000 to $45,000 in just 3 years (and the $45,000 was 3 years ago--how much is it now?). Over 200 years of combined business lifetimes were wiped out in 3 years--and much more I didn't cover here.

So when people say to you, "New York has always changed--it's normal, get over it," point them to the far end of Bleecker Street. Show them the numbers. There's nothing normal about it.


City Of Strangers said...


What's most curious is how this trend is totally recession-proof. The economy tanks, the trend accelerates. Shows you to what degree Manhattan has become the repository of the super-rich, who are not affected by 'little people' concerns like the recession/ depression we've been living through for the last five years or so.

An almost identical process has taken in London, where rents have gone dramatically up since I left in 2008.


Melanie said...

The power of the cupcake is surreal. Hypergentrification kills small businesses and lays the ground work to displace poor people.Feh meh.

Anonymous said...

The demographic shift that went along this...could that also tie in to the news today that Houston is now the most diverse metro area in the USA? Our last number 1 boast is gone now...and I think I know who to blame.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jeremiah.

My stomach turned as soon as I scrolled down and saw the photo of the "Cupcake Dancers" at play in the streets.

I'm not even from, nor do I live in New York, but it makes me ill.

Keep up the great work.


Anonymous said...

Leo design didn't shutter it is now on Hudson street bet. Charles & Perry

Anonymous said...

So terrible.

Marc Jacobs is a POS.

John A. said...

Since I'm the guy who usually says "New York has always changed--it's normal, get over it," the least I can do is acknowledge it when I think you get it right. I like positions that are supported by data. I also agree with the first two commenters, for what it's worth.

While there's a lot of money in NYC and a few other pockets in the country, I suspect that we're also seeing the tourist effect. People think we're glamorous, so tourists from Wisconsin want a piece, and tourists from Berlin and Osaka think it's fun and affordable so they'll take a bite too. It's hard to imagine a New Yorker -- even a rich one -- shopping in a Brooks Brothers or a Marc Jacobs on Bleecker Street.

The challenge: what to do about it? Ultimately, the answer is probably: move somewhere other than the West Village or London.

I'm checking them out
I'm checking them out
I got it figured out
I got it figured out
There's good points and bad points
Find a city
Find myself a city to live in

Jeremiah Moss said...

Nusraty Imports and Biography Bookshop also moved, but they shuttered on western Bleecker because it's totally unaffordable for anyone but the big luxury chains.

Caleo said...

It is rather stunning that NYC seems immune from the recession/depression that affects the rest of the nation.
In fact, rents continue to climb all over the city. There appears to be no ceiling. The wealthy, and their adult children, keep flowing in and landlords keep raising the rents. Working people get pushed to the outer rim, or the older suburbs that surround most major urban areas. And I see no end in sight for the time being.
Apparently, there is an enormous amount of disposable income in the country, and the folks who have it want to congregate in NYC and intend to stay awhile, thus transforming everything to make themselves feel comfortable.
The 70's through the 90's was really just a bizarre blip of chaos and creativity and affordability and the wealthy have reclaimed this city as their own. The whole damn city.

PJS said...

I lived on Christopher , just off Bleecker, from 2002-07. Due to general apathy, I don't get too hopped up about neighborhood changes, but the speed of the transformation was shocking. Never seen it happen so fast. From old queens checking out antique lamps to $500 jeans in a flash.

Suffice to say, we left.

Marty Wombacher said...

What a horrible timeline. I first heard about Bleecker Street from a FM radio station in the 70's. I couldn't wait to see it on my first trip to New York in the '80's and it didn't disappoint. It does now. I wonder when they'll install the first cupcake ATM on Bleecker St?

Fosterdeux said...

Jeremiah - thanks for this timeline. There was also a Great bodega in the middle of the block between w10th and Charles, and the card shop next door both gone. Also Miracle Grill, one of my favorites gone along with Toons for the upscale fnch clothing lines. But I don't think it's totally recession proof City of Strangers, there is still a lot of opening and closing, and even designers shuffling which lines they are show casing. I live on Bleecker in this area and I long for shops that I can actually frequent. Guess it will continue to be just wishful thinking.

BKElan said...

I'd like to print the URL of this page on a t-shirt and go out in the Village and just start handing them out to me. In an ideal world...

Laura Goggin Photography said...

44 businesses - whoa.

The fact that the recession has not had an affect on this trend is really disturbing. Back in 2008/9, I waited for the nation to come together and tighten things up, get resourceful and responsible. I've not seen a single attitude change. As the middle class disappears, more high-end hotels, businesses and condos pop up like mushrooms. I keep thinking there has got to be an end to this, but is there? If money is no object, when will people tire of living in an expensive beige world?

Anonymous said...

I've lived here for 25 years. You want to know what's vanishing next? ME! This town is DONE, I'm outta here, and fuck all these A-holes that have ruined it.

Dave - Everywhere said...

I used to love Bleeker from 7th Ave west in the '80's. On a Saturday night buy a beer in a paperbag and just stroll. Enough music and other street activity to entertain anyone for a couple of hours.

Not that we will ever know but I wonder how many of the high-end stores that have taken over Bleeker actually generate enough cash to cover the idiotically high rents? Or are the loss leaders that are designed to highlight the image?

Ken Mac said...

Rebel Rebel and Blausteins must be next? God, I hope not. I have frankly lost all hope. 8th street is a planned "foodie corridor," smaller buildings are dropping all over the Village, and I've never seen so many furs and leather handbags. Gag me.

Anonymous said...

The frame shop actually moved across the street. We love his work.

Jeremiah Moss said...

the frame shop moved across the street? that's remarkable--and i missed it. i'll go check it out, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm a born and bred New Yorker. I'm appalled at what's happening to my town and I don't want to live in a city that allows neighborhoods to vanish because of free market rules. The identity of these hoods is what makes NY what it is (was). I'm accepting of change, but not to replace the old with name brand boutiques whose owners make no profit off these stores and only purpose is to claim it's name in the area.

mingusal said...

People wondering why the recession seems to have had no effect on hypergentrification may have missed the fact that part of what caused this recession is an enormous upward transfer of income. Manhattan has increasingly become the playground of the very rich because the very rich have more money than ever before. While everyone else has seen stagnating or declining real incomes. And now we have a "recovery" that is providing fewer jobs at significantly lower pay than the ones that were lost.

As Manhattan has become increasingly attractive to wealthy people from everywhere else, and less affordable for regular New Yorkers and people with regular jobs, this sort of gentrification. It is now only their tastes that matter, and the city is essentially being wiped out to serve them.

Warren Buffett said it: "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."

Ed said...

I agree completely with mingusal. I've been worried for several years that what we have been seeing is that New York is simply one of the handful designated areas for the superelite to live and to turn the screws on everyone else. It appears now that this has been exactly the case. Its taken along time even for opponents of this sort of thing to catch on.

SR said...

everything changes. the outskirts of new york are not high end. i have shopped on bleeker & i am a new yorker. it was 3 years ago on a bitter cold night & no people. there were a few more small business then, but i know the weekends must have been awful. in spite of this many great people live in the west village.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember when Magnolia was a bird store..? Was just thinking about Miracle Grill and the old Paris Commune. And a couple of other places that are now Juicy Couture's and the like. A simple affordable bite in the hood is still possible but far fewer options.
Wish the bird store was still there. Though Carrie Bradshaw would have surely bought a bird.. maybe there's no stopping fate.

Thankfully Hudson Street squeaked by and maintains some wonderful independent stores.

Anonymous said...

Lived for years just north of Abingdon Square. Reading this time line made me ill; glad I left. Check out the April issue of Vanity Fair; editor writes of change in NYC. Many of his remarks echo those of mingusal. Wonder when Bleecker will become a self parody; understand this happened to Rodeo. Sadly, NYC is no longer a home for Little Rickies. Goodbye to all that.

Barbara L. Hanson said...

Ninth gen native. I can't take what is happening here. Unutterably depressing for those of us who know nowhere else. I have no so-called hometown to go to. This gentrified, frattified, SATCified version of a once magical city breaks my NY heart.

Barbara L. Hanson said...

Ironic, one of my code words was "buywas."

mch said...

Reminds me of global warming. I mean, at first serious scientists say, well, there have always been fluctuations in the earth's temperature. And then they look closely at the long history and say, well, yeah, there have always been fluctuations, but never change at anything like this rate.
Like others here, I would have thought the great recession or whatever this is would have made itself felt. What happened to that retail real estate crisis that was supposed to follow the home mortgage crisis? Megan McArdle's world still rules, I guess.
I've used up my space -- many Bleecker Street memories, my own, others I inherited....

Anonymous said...

i own a small shop on w 10 st, off hudson st. my lease is up in aug. and my rotten landlord has already told me he is going to raise my rent double.... greed

Grumplestiltskin said...

The shop owners who want landlords to forego income -- do they forego income themselves? I don't think so.

The people who want the neighborhood preserved in amber by the city -- at the expense of property owners, presumably -- who's going to pay for that? Property tax payers throughout the city? Pixies?

Jeremiah could make a map without much difficulty showing how "high-end" shopping districts have migrated all over Manhattan over the past 150 years. The only difference today is that people pretend the past was always fixed -- and they whine more, because they're like that.

16th generation New Yorker

Jeremiah Moss said...

mch, so true about hyper-gentrification being like global warming. the deniers keep saying, "it's normal, it's always been like this," and soon we'll be under water.

why people need to deny that hyper-gentrification is happening i don't understand. what's the benefit to denying it?

i also wonder if climate change deniers and hyper-gentrification deniers are the same people. and if they are more right-wing. studies show that right-wing people tend to be more fearful, in which case, denial is a common, though harmful, defense to use.

Joe said...

MY father opened a business on Bleecker in 1975. After 30 years, we had to move. Business was great and the neighborhood loved us. Why did we move? Because the landlord wanted an amount of money that only a multi-national corp could pay. This is what we get. Free market fanatics should never complain because this "what the market will bear."

Crazy Eddie said...

@16th generation New Yorker-always nice to have a Lenape Indian chime in. Who knew that back in the day, Native American real estate trolls were active as well.

Anonymous said...

Apartments' lease need to be for 5 or 10 years just like stores, so change will be very very slow.

thepete said...

Seems pretty normal to me. Money and greed have this effect on things. It absolutely sucks but it happens everywhere--not just in NYC. I lived in LA for over a decade and saw a huge number of local businesses quit due to big chains moving in. None of the businesses that I frequented in the heart of Hollywood when I got their in 1994 remain. They were replaced by all the familiar corporate names. This happened along a similar timeline. Maybe a few years longer. I think it's definitely a capitalism thing. Give it enough leash and it'll wipe out anything. I think the main people to fault, though, are the landlords. No one is FORCING them to be so greedy...

Grumplestiltskin said...

Crazy Eddie --

Thirteen generations from Plymouth, more from New Amsterdam. It must have been a sex thing. But it's also the usual count. Which I wouldn't expect you to know.

And no, I'm not any sort of landlord. And my family as much as any has given away more to the City than any of the contemporary scum who go to parties at the Met.

But it's no good at all to start bitching about the profit motive. It's no good at all to think that odd shops deserve a living. I like all those places, too.

The question is, Who leaves money on the table? Your answer seems to be, the people who have the money, and not the people who want the money. Good luck with that.

Crazy Eddie said...

@Grumplestiltskin-I’m only 4th generation of mixed shanty Irish and peasant Sicilian stock so who am I to mince words with a true Wasp like you, my Bill the Butcher clone. However, I will leave quotes from two of my favorite movies:

Gordon Gekko: You see that building? I bought that building ten years ago. My first real estate deal. Sold it two years later, made an $800,000 profit. It was better than sex. At the time I thought that was all the money in the world. Now it's a day's pay.

Jake Gittes: How much are you worth? Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you want? Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million? Noah Cross: Oh my, yes! Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?

Dylan said...

The Village Nursing Home conversion just West of Abbington Square illustrates these points. That entire building is converting to just 10 apartments, the smallest being 3,300 square feet.

James C. Taylor said...

I happened to find myself walking down Bleecker from Abingdon Square to Seventh Avenue yesterday evening, and was struck by what is -- at least to me -- a new phenomenon: doggie bowls.

It seemed every other boutique had positioned a stainless steel dish of water outside its entrance, presumably to provide customers' pets a refreshing pause (paws?) while their owners browse the racks inside.

I guess we've reached a point where every West Village shopper comes with a four-legged accessory whose needs must be taken into consideration. Sometimes Manhattan feels more like Munchkinland.

Mayo Roe said...

The Paris Commune restaurant is kicked to the curb after 25 years. Sunk without a murmer or notice really. The Villager didnt even bother to mention it. I guess 25 years feeding the neighborhood isn't significant enough to warrent attention.