Perhaps things will improve for retail in the Village: A bill in the New York City Council, which proposed raising the threshold for the Commercial Rent Tax (CRT) from $250,000 to $500,000, now has enough bipartisan supporters to override a mayoral veto. The law came into effect 54 years ago and requires commercial tenants below 96th Street in Manhattan who pay more than $250,000 a year in rent to pay a 3.9% tax on their annual lease payments. When this bill was enacted, a rent of $250,000 was considered quite high, but with rising rents, the number of businesses affected by the tax has grown. The City Council is concerned with the retail landscape in the City and this has led 41 out of 51 members to support the bill. However, the mayor opposes the bill because of its negative impact on tax revenues. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear when or if this bill will come to a vote this year.
The summer continues to be a slow time for openings with just three this month. All-day restaurants are gaining traction, and Asian-themed spots come and go. Big changes have taken place at Chelsea Market, and the closing of the Riviera Café has been reported on widely. (See George Capsis’ article on the Riviera Café on page 10 of this issue.)
Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market
Chelsea Market (75 9th Avenue, at 15th Street) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and has become so popular that it has outgrown its original space. To accommodate more shops, the Jamestown real estate company has added a lower concourse called ‘The Chelsea Local.’ Buon Italia and Manhattan Fruit Market (formerly Manhattan Fruit Exchange) have moved downstairs. Dickson’s Farmstand Meats has a second butcher shop downstairs but no prepared foods. Ronnybrook also has a retail store selling ice cream in pints. Joining them are two new vendors, Heatonist , a purveyor of hot sauces, and Saxelby Cheesemongers , whose only other retail location is a small stand in the Essex Market on the Lower East Side; this location will carry craft beer and cider. Indie Fresh has closed their stand in the market, and will be replaced by a bigger Very Fresh Noodles. Over at Gansevoort Market (353 West 14th Street, at 9th Avenue), my favorite stand, Bangkok Bar, is gone. Also gone is Delicatessen Taco. Joining the new line-up is Waffle De Lys , which seems similar in concept to the Wafels & Dinges trucks. A 2 Dough Boyz cart has recently staked out a spot in front of Gansevoort Market. There, it sells raw cookie dough in different flavors and configurations (in cookie sandwiches, with ice cream, in a cup, etc.).
Sweet Time Dessert Café (171 West 4th Street, near Jones Street): This very pink, Asian-style tea and pastry shop recently opened on West 4th Street. One of the walls is completely covered in pink roses, and a pink tree stands in the middle of the space. There is a selection of cream puffs with fruit and cream filling, rainbow rolls, matcha red bean rolls, and other pastries similar to what you’d find in Koreatown bakeries. Custom cakes are available for order, and the space can be rented out for parties. The store’s mottos are aptly ‘I am a dessertarian!’ and ‘Have a Sweet Time!’
Pokerice (162 West 4th Street, near Cornelia Street): The latest poke spot to open has a DIY option where you pick a base (rice or shredded zucchini), protein, mix-in, flavor (sauce), toppings, and crunch from a large list of options. If you would rather go with the tried and true, there is a list of ‘Classic Bowls’ to choose from, ranging in price from $12 to $18.
Zuri (363 Bleecker Street, near Charles Street): While traditional fashion houses continue to close their stores on Bleecker Street, one unusual brand has just opened there. American designer Sandra Zhao could not find a dress she felt would be convenient for travel, so she designed and madet one for herself. While in Nairobi, she met fellow American Ashleigh Gersh Miller who was taken with the dress, and from there they started a business. There is still only one dress (available in different patterns): It is made of Dutch wax fabric from Africa and comes in brightly colored patterns. Zuri partners with organizations that help women in Africa who have few job prospects to make the clothes. The Bleecker Street location is their first real store. Until now, they have been selling their dresses online and in pop-ups.
The Riviera Café (225 West 4th Street, at 7th Avenue South)will close on August 31st after a 48-year run. This sports bar was popular with Boston fans, and the outside tables were popular for people- watching. The owners are not saying exactly why they’re closing, but it’s possible that rising rents are not a factor this time; they may have just decided that 48 years is long enough. The Dessert Kitchen (192 Bleecker Street, near Macdougal Street), an Asian dessert spot where people could also play games and which served items like ‘Ice Stream Ramen’ and egg waffles with ice cream, has closed. Tabwa (66 Greenwich Avenue, near West 11th Street) which had been at that location since 1959, suddenly disappeared. When it first opened, the store used to sell modern Scandinavian furniture, but by the early 1970s, it had become a source for ethnic handicrafts from Asia, Central American, and Africa. Steven by Steve Madden at 355 Bleecker Street (between Charles and West 10th Streets) is the latest casualty on Bleecker Street. A sign in the window advertises 50% off everything. Brooklyn Industries at 500 Hudson Street (at Christopher Street) has shut its doors. This Brooklyn-based clothing store with the motto ‘Live, Work, Create’ still has a number of stores in Brooklyn and one in SoHo.
David Chang, of Momofuku fame, launched Ando , his delivery-only service about a year ago. The deliveries were made from a Midtown kitchen, and the reviews were mostly negative. Now, Chang has hired a new CEO, done a complete menu revamp, and moved the operation downtown; he will also add a pick-up option. The new location appears to be 31 West 14th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) , where the Asian spot Qi used to be. While the windows are still covered in paper, if you peer in, you can discern what looks like a large commercial kitchen. Also, folks wearing hats with the Ando ‘A’ logo can be seen coming in and out of the space. One of them told me that they are aiming for a late August/early September opening. Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, partners and joint owners of Via Carota (and separately of I Sodi and Buvette ) are planning to open Pisellino , an Italian-style bar at 100 7th Avenue South (at Grove Street) in the space that most recently housed Mirage Kitchen, and before that, Mercadito Grove . It will be open in the morning for coffee and pastries, and then throughout the day for more coffee, light snacks, and drinks; more snacks will be offered in the evening. The space is small and there won’t be much seating inside, but in the warmer weather there will outdoor tables as well. There is a sign in the window of 502 Hudson Street (near Christopher Street) , the space that used to be Hudson Bagels, promising that Black Stone Coffee Roasters will be opening soon.
Gabe Stulman, who has a number of restaurants in the Village, moved Perla from Minetta Lane to West 4th Street in March 2016. However, according to a letter he sent his customers, the new location was never as popular as the original. In addition, Stulman cited the increased number of Italian restaurants in the neighborhood, which made it more difficult to attract customers. This led him to change Perla into Fairfax , an all-day dining venue and wine bar. Perla closed for four days this month while the staff painted and moved in new furniture. Couches in the back give a cozy lived-in feel. After breakfast, an all-day menu is offered which includes a $20 glass of wine and one dish option available from 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Uncorked Wine Company closed a while ago at 98 Christopher Street (between Bleecker and Bedford Streets) , but Pride Wine and Spirits has opened in the same space, and is offering an opening special of 10% off three bottles of wine.
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All photos by Darielle Smolian.