Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cornelia Street Cafe

After more than a year of speculation, Cornelia Street Cafe has announced they will be closing.

PRLog reports the cafe "will close its red doors permanently on January 2nd, 2019."

Owner Robin Hirsch wrote, "I am sad to say that I am losing my oldest child. Cornelia has brought me both joy and pain, and it is with a broken heart that I must bid her adieu."

The reason for the closure has not been revealed. Last year, the Times reported on the cafe's troubles: "Their rent for the restaurant and basement space, at $33,000 a month, is 77 times what it was when the club opened (that’s not adjusting for inflation — but, in the name of consistency, they’re not charging $77 for a croissant)."

DNAInfo noted that the cafe was struggling--especially with landlord Mark Scharfman, "a frequent fixture on various 'Worst Landlord' lists." Hirsch told the blog at the time, "If I'm 10 minutes late with my rent, he threatens me with eviction."

Cornelia St. Cafe opened in 1977 and is beloved for its poetry readings, music, and other cultural events. As PRLog notes:

"The CafĂ© has been the site of many firsts – it is the place where Philippe Petit ('Man on Wire') strung a wire from the tree outside the cafe and danced across it juggling, where The Roches, a vocal group comprised of three Irish-American sisters started out; where Suzanne Vega sang her first songs, where Eve Ensler launched The Vagina Monologues."

Monday, December 10, 2018

Moishe's Bake Shop

Earlier this year, I shared a real estate listing on Moishe's Kosher Bake Shop in the East Village. At the time, a call to Moishe Perl got a laugh and the statement, "People always put up these things." He said he wasn't closing.

Now the reader who sent me that listing has sent in a report far more alarming.

The Real Deal states: "Investor Jay Schwimmer just inked a 21-year lease for the entire three-story East Village property that’s anchored by neighborhood institution Moishe’s Bake Shop... The lease begins in March and includes an option for Schwimmer to buy the building."

Moishe's owns the building and has been in the East Village since 1974. As the Times once reported, "he hasn’t changed his menu or his recipes one iota in 42 [now 44] years — everything kosher, no dairy except for the cheese Danish and strudel. His bread slicer, which was there when he bought the place, a former bakery that had been closed for a while, is 80 years old, Mr. Perl said. It rattles like a gas-powered lawn mower."

When I heard the real estate news I went by Moishe's and bought some hamentaschen. Mr. Perl was not in. When I asked the women who run the place about the listing--and the bakery's possible closure--they laughed.

"Where'd you hear that?" one asked. On the Internet. More laughter. "People put all kinds of stuff on the Internet," said the other. So everything's fine? "Yeah, yeah."

But you know how these things happen. If I were you, I'd go enjoy the great Moishe's while you can.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Uncle Sam's Army/Navy

VANISHING (for now)

Richard Geist has run Uncle Sam's Army/Navy store on West 8th Street since 1998. The shop feels even older, a place reminiscent of the lost Village, the lost city, when people thrift-shopped and so much more felt scrappy and surprising, before it all became so sanitized and predictable. And boring.

This week, Uncle Sam's is closing shop.

Geist told me the closure is by choice, mostly, and that 8th Street just isn't 8th Street anymore.

It hasn't been for a long time. High rents wiped out the shoe businesses here, leaving a blighted ghost town about 10 years ago. The storefronts sat empty for awhile, and then a few mediocre restaurants moved in, along with a bunch of nail salons. Geist says there's no foot traffic. The street is dead.

As he told the Times last year, "Gentrification is killing us. Eighth Street has lost the magic and we want to bring that magic back, and bring traffic back to help business.”

With his former neighbor, the artist and small business owner Storm Ritter, Geist tried to rename the block for Jimi Hendrix, who had his Electric Lady Studios there, but the BID wouldn't go for it.

"They told me, 'What did Jimi Hendrix ever do for 8th Street?'" Geist said, incredulous. That was the last straw. He realized that he and 8th Street had to part ways.

On the scaffolding that blocks his shop, Geist has hung a banner that reads:

"Small businesses are more important than we all realize. Employers (first timers), employment tax payers, social security contributors, sales tax collectors, property tax payers, service and product providers, community builders and merchandisers, and new & old customer appreciators."

He wishes the city and state would do something to help small businesses to thrive.

This week the shop is in its final days and everything is being sold at deep discount -- up to 90% off. 

As for the future, Geist plans to take some time off and then look for a new space for Uncle Sam's on the Lower East Side. He says there's plenty to choose from there and fully expects to return. Until then, you can find them online at Army/Navy Deals.