Monday, September 18, 2017

Native Leather


On Bleecker Street since 1968, Native Leather is closing.

photos courtesy of Carol Walsh

Owner Carol Walsh writes in:

"Native Leather, formerly Natural Leather, has been a constant on Bleecker Street for 49 years. I was heartbroken when the landlord told me that he would not be offering me a new lease. The last lease expired 2 years ago and since then he has been trying to find a tenant who will pay double what my rent was."

The shop was originally started by sandal-maker Dick Whalen in a basement on MacDougal Street in 1962. (For more history on the shop, see Mitch Broder's account.) Since then, it's been a favorite of locals and tourists.

Carol notes, "A day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear from someone 'I’m so glad you’re still here,' or 'I was so worried walking over here that you would be gone.' It wasn’t because they needed me to make them a belt or sandals, or they needed a new hat. It was the comfort of knowing that this little plot of Greenwich Village was impervious to the 'progress' that has afflicted so much of New York and notably the Village. I have customers who started out window shopping on their way home from elementary school across the street at the Little Red Schoolhouse."

The high-rent blight that afflicts western Bleecker Street is creeping east. More and more, we see For Rent signs in the windows of shops shuttered by impossible rents and denied lease renewals. They are unprotected by the city. The Small Business Jobs Survival Act would have helped.

Carol says, "The 'Commercial Space for Rent' sign has yet to appear in the window. I expect it any day. 203 Bleecker is destined to join the many empty storefronts which populate Greenwich Village and beyond. The future is still uncertain, but I know that I will need help if this business is to survive to start a new legacy somewhere else in Greenwich Village."


Pen said...

I just walked past this place on Saturday and was glad to see it still there.

They've destroyed Bleecker completely. I don't even recognize it anymore.

Jeff said...

Only 14% voted in the Democratic primaries last week. Other candidates were in favor of protecting small buainesses, but no obe came out to stop Bill "The Wrecking Ball" DiBlasio.

Polly said...

in response to jeff, i came out and i voted for pro-small-biz candidates! in response to this story, BOOO!!!!! i got my first belt custom-made there when i was 17 and working next door at porto rico, and i still have it and wear it! dick whalen is the best, as is carol! special shout-out to franklin, who no longer works at the shop, but provided me with a whole summer's worth of entertainment watching women of all ages flock to his beautiful ass! whoever let this one-of-a kind shop go is a stone FOOL!

RMAN said...

I bought my father a custom belt and buckle here, it lasted for decades. The closing is sad news, yet another piece of Village soul being ripped out.

Scuba Diva said...

I too voted for pro-small business candidates—for what good it would do.

More importantly, I voted against Margaret Chin, who is hell-bent on destroying the Elizabeth Street Garden. Doesn't matter; she got elected anyway.

Rose Hall said...

Natural Leather (later Native Leather) was a whole world, a singular outpost of individuality and rugged charm.
Dick presided in his own natural way - wearing sandals even in winter. I was told that members of the Bolshoi Ballet
came regularly to get sandals made, and I still have my own pair from the 80's. Bless it for lasting this long, and a curse
on the forces that caused it to change locations.

Mister C said...

NATIVE LEATHER has not closed. It Moved!
Find Carol at 46 Carmine (more or less around the corner.) The black awning has "Patchouli" written in white, but look inside. No kidding. I bought some gloves this afternoon. P