Thursday, March 29, 2012

Soy Cafe


After about a decade on Greenwich Avenue at Jane Street, Soy Cafe is closing on April 14 due to rising rent.

click to read Soy's goodbye note

I like Soy Cafe, in part, because they hate cell phones and they have signs like this:

It was also the first (and only) place where I saw the great "More Jane Jacobs, Less Marc Jacobs" postcard on display, which led to the slogan getting on t-shirts.

But the winds of the new New York blow fierce. No matter how hard you fight them, the relentless forces of Marc Jacobs, Inc., and the iPhone zombies just keep coming. And they love a prime corner spot.

P. S. Most mornings, a clock repair man sits on one of the benches outside Soy Cafe. He reads a book in an Eastern European language and waits for the workday to begin next door at Timepieces, the watch and clock shop. He isn't overtly friendly. He doesn't smile or make conversation. He just sits and waits for the moment when the shop opens so he can get to work repairing clocks and watches.

I guess he won't be sitting there anymore--and I wonder if now we should worry about the clock shop, too. They have the same landlord.

P.P.S. I know it looks like a candidate, but Soy Cafe was not the original location of Hopper's Nighthawks diner.


c.o. moed said...

This, in simple language, blows.

EV Grieve said...

Foodies want their bacon and heritage pork. And some HOT CELEBRITY buzz.

JAZ said...

We must sound like a broken record at this point, but it still needs to be said again; Why does a landlord HAVE to raise rents to the absolute maximum penny he can get? Don't they understand that this will absolutely assure the death of the small independent business in this city?

I'm sorry, but there is a medium between squeezing every last rent penny out of a space "because why shouldn't I get as much as I possibly can?", and asking property owners to lose money. The same small businesses that helped define a neighborhood's character ended up raising the value of the properties they occupy. In my opinion, the property owner OWES a significant part of that increased value back to their small business tenant. I wish someone smarter than myself would run with this idea and figure out a way to incorporate it into actual practice.

Anyone who loves their local independent candy store, bodega, hardware store, diner, bookstore, butcher, etc. needs to make as many of their purchases there as they possibly can. In addition to helping them, any small movement away from putting cash in the pockets of the chains makes it that much less attractive for them to want to expand here. If Starbucks is seeing decreasing revenue in a store month after month, they will have to think about closing the location, or at the very worst it will stop them from growing in that neighborhood.

esquared™ said...

Hasn't vanished yet, but I have this eery feeling that the Papaya Dog on 6th avenue/Cornelia St./West 4th st. will soon vanish. Like you said, high-end restaurants and retailers love prime locations especially if it's in a triangular building on a catty corner having three streets in its address.

Marty Wombacher said...

I'll definitely stop in for a last meal. That sign is the best, I guarantee whoever moves in here won't keep this tradition alive.

laura said...

the landlords dont owe small businesses anything. this is not a legal matter. its their choice to do what they do. they dont care about character or convenience. but exactly where would someone go to repair a clock? or have shoes fixed? it seems like its all about tourists & party & la de da. J, can you do a post on the new locations for shoes, laundry clocks if necessary & other services who have folded?

randall said...


I think one of the problems with chains is that they are not wholly dependent on local business. They can allocate resources from other sites around the US/world (although admittedly I'm not too sure how this might work with a franchise)and use economy of scale to their advantage in competition. As has been pointed out on this site in the past is that there is a certain cache in having your business in NYC that you can use your New York stores as a loss leader.
I agree with your sentiment 100% that just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean that you should.

DrBOP said...

I have been meaning to write you (and all of the NYC Blog Mafia :+)) about this Bloombergification that has attacked the EV and other parts of Lower Manhattan. I live in a small city (Kingston, Ontario) with about 100,00 pop., 2 universities and a community college, with history and historical buildings up the yinyang. I also travel quite a bit t/o the US and Canada.
The main point I want to make is that, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This SUPERyuppification seems to be happening EVERYWHERE.
On our main street downtown, the local muckymucks are actually CELEBRATING the 3rd Starf*cks to open in the last 4 years within TEN blocks of each other. As of 20 years ago, there was nothing but local businesses, many of them mom and pop operations on our main street. Except for the local hardware store which has gone upscale, NONE of those businesses exist any more. It literally feels like you are walking through an upscale suburban mall.....the character of the city is GONE, along with the old Kingston characters that used to give the city it's funky flavor. Most of our centrally located historical buildings are under constant threat of developers who want to erect WAY out-of-place hi-rises with exhorbitant prices/rents.
Unfortunately, this is a pattern I see just about everywhere I go. Either the towns have completely tanked, or they have gentrified beyond all recognition.
One of the things that adds to the burden of these municipalities (and for sure Kingston) is that at some point in time (usually decades ago), they passed a city by-law which gives landlords a tax break if their storefront properties stand empty. I have had personal experiences with at least 6 businesses who had their rents quadrupled or MORE after their initial 2 or 3 year leases.
I'm wondering if this type of by-law exists in NYC?
I'm also stating that what is happening to your city is a perfect reflection of what is happening ALL OVER our fair lands. I think it's time to "Occupy Our Minds"....we HAVE TO organize and teach people about what they don't realize about their own cities. If they care a whit about their children's and grandchildren's lives, they will hopefully get involved. If not?.....