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Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village’

Bleecker Street: cupcakes, coffee and guitars

In beauty, business, cities, culture, life, travel, urban life, US on April 26, 2014 at 3:07 am

By Caitlin Kelly

When people dream about visiting New York City, they usually think of Times Square, (noisy, dirty and horribly jammed with other tourists), or Fifth Avenue, (now depressingly lined with Big Box retail names, with a line-up to get into Abercrombie, selling the same schmatte you can find in Iowa or Kansas), or maybe 42d Street — all movie theaters and junky restaurants.

I always urge visitors to head instead for one of my all-time favorites, Bleecker Street.

It runs the width of the city through Greenwich Village and goes from a north-south axis on the west side to a west-east, (or vice versa!) route after dog-legging at Seventh Avenue.

Those of us who’ve lived here a few decades remember the old, funky, dusty Bleecker, with the Japanese store and Afghan store, Nusraty’s, filled with jewelry and rugs and Leo Design, now a few blocks west on Hudson Street, which sells a wonderful mix of early boxes, mirrors, pottery and decorative objects, much of it English.

Here’s how bad it’s getting:

Bleecker Street Records was reportedly ousted from their space at 239 Bleecker by a rent increase that would have required the store pay $27,000 a month in rent. Fortunately, the store has found a new place in the neighborhood—no small feat given the escalating rents and the competition from stores intent on replicating the vibe of an outdoor shopping mall or a high-end highway rest stop: the advertisement for Bleecker Street Records’ former space boasted of its proximity to Amy’s Bread, David’s Tea, L’Occitane and 16 Handles.

Here’s an excellent post from one of my favorite blogs, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, detailing the huge and rapid gentrification of this once charmingly bohemian street:

New York Magazine publishes a major profile of the Bleecker boom in an article on micro-neighborhoods: “Soho took fifteen years to become a handbag colony. Bleecker took only three.” One local shopper complains, “I’m not so happy about the Guccis and the Polos coming in here. It seems like we’re losing our neighborhood feel.”

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Today, the western bit of Bleecker is crazy expensive, a long line of spendy designer shops like Ralph Lauren, Lulu Guinness and New York jewelry-maker Alexis Bittar, whose distinctive work is beautiful indeed; here’s a pair of his earrings.

Here’s a blog post naming it one of the world’s best shopping streets; true if you’re planning to drop serious coin. If you like perfume, French perfumer Annick Goutal recently opened a shop on the street.

The original Magnolia Bakery — which opened in 1996 purveying cupcakes — is still there.

But stay with it and head east, and you’ll find the block between Seventh and Sixth a fabulous mix of food to buy and food to eat: Murray’s Cheese, Amy’s Bread, Rocco’s pastry and Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, in business since 1907, with the most wonderful store interior — enormous battered tins of tea and dozens of huge burlap bags of coffee beans beneath a pressed-tin ceiling.

Don’t miss it! You can find every imaginable kind of coffee bean and loose tea, mugs, string shopping bags, even some spices and candy. It’s one of my favorite places anywhere.

And Blind Tiger, an ale house I used to drink in in the 1990s when it was on Hudson Street.

At the east end is this theater, which I recently visited for the first time.

And this elegant restaurant, Saxon and Parole, where Bleecker ends at the Bowery. It’s a great-looking space but expensive; the cheapest entree was a $18 hamburger.

Here’s one of my favorite songs, by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, about it:

Fog’s rollin’ in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Hides the shepherd from the sheep

Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand
On Bleecker Street

A poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street

I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin’
It’s a long road to Caanan
On Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street

Here’s a fantastic, photo-studded blog post detailing Bleecker Street.

 Is there a street in your city or town that you especially treasure? (In my hometown, Toronto, I like Queen Street, East and West, Kensington and Yorkville/Cumberland.)

Tell us about it!

Manhattan — With A Cane

In cities, travel on May 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Bleecker Street, the old one — the bit that runs east-west is the place to be. Many benches, like every block. Two lovely little pocket parks right at 6th. Avenue. Whew!

Being able to sit down and rest is a blessing, and a rare one in Manhattan. It’s either that or fall to the pavement, not a good look.

Everyone was nice, wishing me the best, wondering why a relatively young-looking woman is clicking along with a cane; the arthritic hip is out of control, a knife twist almost every hour this week, so I finally said the hell with it and took it with me into the city today. Now carrying three kinds of pain relief in my bag: patches, cream and gelcaps of Advil. So fun.

The city is full of tourists for the holiday and lots of sailors in their gorgeous, crisp whites because it’s Fleet Week. Plenty of street parking as everyone flees — I waited for 10 minutes while some poor local wrestled a surfboard onto the top of his already-crammed minivan — to claim his West Village spot.

Distances, certainly in the Village, aren’t far so I managed to have lots of fun within a six-block radius: found a summer cologne for the sweetie at Avignone, a terrific old, privately-owned pharmacy; bread at Amy’s; coffee and tea from my favorite purveyor, Porto Rico; a haircut; lunch at Cafe Angelique and an Asian dinner at a sidewalk table.

A Legendary Manhattan Street, Ruined

In business, cities on May 3, 2010 at 7:50 am
NEW YORK - MARCH 20:  Cars are parked near the...

This is what's left of the real Bleecker. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Hey, if you love Marc Jacobs, you’ll love the new, shiny Bleecker Street, that odd dog-leg of a street that starts out running north-south in the West Village before turning east-west. He’s got five stores on this strip, leaving some street-lovers, like me, mourning the old Bleecker.

I’ve been loving that street since I moved here in 1988, but have watched its hideous yuppification over the past decade with dismay. Nusrati — that crazy corner emporium of jewels and tunics and rugs, out — Ralph Lauren store, in.

Gone is the great Japanese store, several antiques stores, bookstores. Now it’s all faux hipsters and cell-phone-photo-snapping tourists thrilled to be able to shop all the Big Name Designers they can find at home in their malls in Shanghai and Rome and Tulsa, but still cop a Magnolia Cupcake a block away.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

Other retailers that recently signed new leases and are open or expect to be operating soon include: menswear shop Freemans Sporting Club, French retailer A.P.C. and a bookstore from fashion designer Marc Jacobs—his fifth shop on this stretch of Bleecker. Molly’s Cupcakes and Echelon Cycles have also closed on deals.

Even the William Gottlieb estate—the area’s largest private landlord and one with a reputation for letting leases expire and stores remain vacant for an extended time—is aggressively courting new tenants. It recently hired brokers Ripco Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis. Spokeswoman Lin-Hua Wu says the estate “has signed a number of new commercial and residential leases in the past several months.”

Not everyone, of course, welcomes the influx of retailers. The makeover of Bleecker’s once sleepy stretch of antique shops, pet stores and dry cleaners began when Marc Jacobs arrived in 2001. Even before the area’s newest retailers open their doors, they are already generating angst among long-time West Village residents.

“I hear more complaints about gentrification than about the boarded-up stores in the neighborhood,” says Kim Herzinger, owner of Left Bank Books, who decided to relocate his shop to Eight Avenue from West 4th Street off Bleecker after his lease expired in January.

When the lease for a Laundromat or deli expires and is handed off to a fashion accessory shop, residents complain their quality of life suffers. “Everybody misses the services,” says Marilyn Dorato, a local resident who presides over the Greenwich Village Block Association. “You can’t get a pair of shoes repaired around here anymore.”

If you’ve never heard it, play “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.” by Simon and Garfunkel, on which they memorialized the street in this beautiful ballad:

Fog’s rollin’ in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Lies the shepherd from the sheep
Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand
On Bleecker Street
A poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street
I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin’
It’s a long road to Caanan
On Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street.

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