The East Village’s Gem Spa first opened in the 1920s on the corner of St. Mark’s Place and 2nd Avenue and received its current moniker in the 1950s. The shop became famous when it was frequented by Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and featured in a painting by Jean-Michelle Basquiat and then later as an all-night punk hangout and tourist stop for egg creams. Today, however, the store is struggling to stay afloat due to the ever-increasing gentrification of the neighborhood and losing its cigarette and lottery licenses in the spring. In an effort to save the icon, small business advocacy group #SaveNYC is hosting a cash mob this Saturday. In preparation, a faux storefront was installed that reads “Schitibank coming soon,” in reference to rumors that Citibank is trying to take over the storefront.
From Brooklyn Blackout Cake to Eggs Benedict, New York City is filled with gastronomic firsts. But while we have a clear origin for most of our foodie favorites, the New York Egg Cream is not one of them. This frothy sweet beverage is made from Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, seltzer water, and a splash of milk, which makes its story even more confusing since the beloved drink contains neither eggs nor cream. There are a few theories currently in circulation about the name and origin of the Egg Cream, each varying in time and circumstance, but most confirming that the drink originated on the Lower East Side among Eastern European Jewish immigrants.