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.
Mom and Pops
Photo © James and Karla Murray
A free photography exhibition highlighting mom-and-pop shops of New York City opens in the East Village next week. Photographers and award-winning authors James and Karla Murray hosted two workshops earlier this year on using photography and oral history to “raise public awareness, build community, and encourage advocacy.” The free exhibition, “Capturing the Faces & Voices of Mom-And-Pop Storefronts,” shows off the photos and interviews from the workshop’s participants, as well as large-scale photos of now-shuttered East Village shops, taken by James and Karla.
Photo by James and Karla Murray of the store in 2015 after the original signage was replaced following the East Village gas explosion nearby.
“Formerly Moishe’s” is the strangely straightforward name that may soon christen the beloved East Village Kosher bakery. A local tipster and friend of long-time owner Moishe Perlmutter told EV Grieve that Moishe recently let him know that a new group of bakers would be taking over the location. He said they’ll still serve baked goods and coffee and he may stay involved in some limited capacity. After 42 years in business, the bakery closed its doors in March after Moishe decided to retire.
Image via Google Earth.
A planned expansion by Target into several Queens neighborhoods has run afoul of politicians and community groups. The chain store hopes to open new stores in Astoria and Elmhurst by 2022, but activists in the borough have been fighting to stop the new additions, objecting to the fact that they’ll replace mom-and-pop stores and concerned about the effects of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Another concern is that Target’s non-union workforce will replace union jobs, The City reports.
Image courtesy of Bookbook.
Independent Village bookstore Bookbook–born Biography Books–at 266 Bleecker Street will be closing its doors on May 15, according to owners Carolyn Epstein and Charles Mullin, who say a rent hike was the final straw in the shop’s 35-year run. The shop was known for its packed bookshelves and browsable book table beneath an outdoor awning. The book-selling pair plan to pop up at various locations, including the Abingdon Square Farmers Market in the neighborhood–but you won’t find them selling books online.
Photo by James and Karla Murray of the store in 2015 afte rthe original signage was replaced following the East Village gas explosion nearby.
Moishe’s, the beloved kosher bakery on 2nd Avenue, instantly recognizable by what the New York Times called its “stopped-in-time storefront,” has served its last hamantaschen. Owner Moishe Perl told local photographers James and Karla Murray that yesterday was the bakery’s last day, and that the entire building has been sold. In business since 1977, everything was baked on the premises daily. Moishe’s challah bread, rye bread, hamantaschen, rugelach, babka and sugar kichel were legendary.
McNally Jackson bookstore on Spring Street. Image by Carl Mikoy via Flickr.
As one of New York City’s finest all-around independent bookstores, McNally Jackson booksellers on Prince Street is a literary standby for the latest bestsellers as well as thought-provoking political non-fiction, art books, cards, magazines, readings and more. Though the shop occupies a spot on one of the city’s most highly-trafficked “High Streets,” it has endured for 15 years, long enough to be taken for granted. But that would, of course, be a mistake in the city’s current environment of empty storefronts in high rent neighborhoods because only Amazon can afford the rent. And right about the time Amazon has opened a storefront in Soho, the beloved bookseller is moving out after the rent was raised to $850,000–a 136% increase. Fear not, the owner is opening again in a new location, but unlike other, less gutsy mom-and-pop proprietors, she has no fear of being very vocal about the issue, Fox5 NY reports.
6sqft has been closely following the progress of photographers James and Karla Murray‘s Seward Park art installation “Mom-and-Pops of the LES,” featuring four nearly life-size images of Lower East Side business that have mostly disappeared. The pair, who have spent the last decade chronicling the place of small neighborhood businesses in 21st century New York City, was chosen for the public art project by Art in the Parks UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant Program and ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the wood-frame structure’s build out. James and Karla will be having a free public exhibition of their photography for “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York” at The Storefront Project (@thestorefrontproject) at 70 Orchard Street from July 25-August 12, 2018, with an opening reception on Wednesday, July 25th from 6-9 PM.
Video © Michael Ursone Films
6sqft has been excitedly following the progress of photographers James and Karla Murray‘s Seward Park art installation “Mom-and-Pops of the LES,” from the announcement that they’d been chosen through the Art in the Parks UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant Program to their wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the wood-frame structure’s build out. And now the piece, featuring four nearly life-size images of Lower East Side business that have mostly disappeared, is finally complete. James and Karla shared with 6sqft an exclusive time-lapse video of the installation process and chatted with us about why they chose these particular storefronts, what the build-out was like, and how they hope New Yorkers will learn from their message.
Photos © James and Karla Murray
The new exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society, “The Business of Brooklyn,” celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and tells the fascinating story of the borough’s 100 years of business, detailing its industrial past, large companies, as well as its preponderance of mom-and-pop shops. It also showcases many objects and artifacts, which have their origins in Brooklyn, demonstrating the significant “role that Brooklyn has played in American consumer culture.” The exhibition is on view at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s landmark building in Brooklyn Heights located at 128 Pierrepont Street until Winter 2019. From those iconic yellow pencils to Brillo pads to Cracker Jack, you may be surprised to see what has been made in Brooklyn.