Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gene's Coffee Shop


A few weeks ago, while wandering around the east side of midtown, I found myself for the first time in Gene's Coffee Shop on 60th Street between Park and Madison. One of those overlooked treasures of the vanishing city, Gene's felt like a real find. An endangered species. A good old New York City coffee shop. Excited to be there, I thought: Now I have a place to eat in this neighborhood.

Well, call me a jinx.

photo via Yelp

Reader MM writes in: "On Thursday, there was a sign that they were closed for the day because of a gas cut-off. This seemed plausible, there's a huge building going up directly across the street. Today there was an eviction notice in the door."

Is this yet another case of death by gas cut-off? It almost happened to the B&H Dairy. It did happen to The Stage restaurant in the East Village, La Taza de Oro in Chelsea, Mariella's Pizza in Gramercy, and possibly several other small and older restaurants.

Businesses struggle without gas, lose money, and fold. Or the landlords take advantage of stricter gas codes, tightened since the Second Avenue explosion, and use them to evict. We don't know if that's the case here, but it's a growing problem in the city that no one in the mainstream media is reporting on -- and it is killing local businesses.

For some time, Gene's has been buried under scaffolding, which may have been a contributing factor to the closing.

Writes MM: "I work in this neighborhood, a lot of the diners have been dispossessed, usually because their buildings are knocked down. In this case, Gene's was suffering a little from the construction, but I figured they'd do okay when the new building went up. You could order and have things delivered in less than 10 minutes. The restaurant was always sparkling clean, with friendly staff of Greek and Spanish guys, dishing out food for people who worked nearby and for tourists. Eviction papers indicate the lease goes back to 1983, though the restaurant may be older."

Unless there's hope for Gene's, another authentic New York coffee shop vanishes--in a city where we are losing them by the day.

via Facebook


Squach said...

A depressing development, one of the few remaining places near my office that wasn't awful. Guess I can look forward to Panda Express.

James said...

Coffee shops (as I prefer to call them, hailing originally from the Midwest) were always the one constant comfort of New York City. They're often family operations, and they see regular clientelle. The owner is often right there greeting people or punching the register. I've watched half the places I know (or is it much more) disappear. In one sad chapter, around 2005, I was handed a check for a cheeseburger deluxe at the Star Diner (not to be confused with Ellen's Stardust Diner) in the Theater District. My eyes widened when I saw the $19 total. What on Earth?? I had expected half that.
The woman at the register moaned a bit about the sudden rent increases, and I informed her that customers couldn't bear this. Even tourists would balk. Sure enough, the place was closed perhaps a month later. I understood, with sadness, that a strangulation had taken place. The victim was helpless. I moved on to other coffee shops, but I never forgot the way that business struggled to stay alive, in vain.

Brian said...

I would bet on a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins place.

Ken Mac said...


Downtowner said...

I had a relative visiting the city once. For a quick dinner, I suggested we go to a great diner on the West Side. She said, "I don't want to go a diner. Let's go to TFI Fridays."

I said, "You can take the train home now and go to the Fridays by the train station. I'm not going to a Fridays in Times Square."

Unknown said...

"genes" was a good place to eat when going to barneys. there was another place, really tiny across the street. madison ave eastside somewhere between 60th & maybe 62nd. is it still there? i would have a grilled mozarella cheese on whole grain toast coleslaw, & coffee. plain simple food. place was mobbed w/barneys shoppers. even the very wealthy would have lunch there. coffee shops cross all social lines. we cant just eat sugar donuts, frozen yogart & cupcakes. can we??? wake me when its over.

Giovanni said...

Sad to see another coffee shop closing, but Millenials want rolled ice cream and sushi tacos and food that no diner will ever serve.

After closing In 2012, then reopening in 2013, The Lyric Diner on 22nd St and 3rd Ave also closed again without any notice a few weeks ago. The Lyric's owner George told DNAInfo that he was retiring, but he still owns the RItz Diner on the Upper East side, and he also just opened another new Greek restaurant called Under The Bridge on 59th St., so something sounds fishy.

rongee said...

Where Have You Gone Mom & Pop
Factoid: By a recent count, here are some interesting numbers. Number of retail locations in NYC (5Bouroughs) by chain;
Dunkin Donut - 515
Subway - 467
Duane Reade - 318
Starbucks - 283
Metro PCS - 261
McDonalds - 240
Baskin's & Robbins - 202
Rite-Aid - 190
TMobile - 161
GNC - 138
TD Bank - 126
7/eleven - 124
Total for selected Retailers = 3,025 !

Brian said...

Dunkin is everywhere, must be 5 within a block of my apt.

Theodore said...

This sucks. Gene's was an oasis in an otherwise barren stretch of upper Midtown and much better than the overpriced, surly Viand on Madison and 61st. It was always full when I was there.