By Gordon T. Hughes
Peter Allen co-wrote a song titled “Everything Old Is New Again.” The song was a hit and used in a show which made it to Broadway when Hugh Jackman played Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz.
But let me get to the subject at hand, Bleecker Street. I have lived on Bleecker Street (and also on Perry Street) for the past 20 years. I witnessed Bleecker as a fun Village street with a variety of stores and restaurants over those years. Businesses
such as Condomania, August, and Miracle Grill (a favorite of mine) are now gone. As the neighborhood took off, with the advent of the Magnolia Bakery, brands such as Mark Jacobs and Ralph Lauren moved into the spaces vacated by quirky village haunts. Then about a year ago, maybe more, I was walking home one evening and realized that a large number of stores were vacant. It wasn’t long after my walk that the New York Times and other media outlets were telling the story of Bleecker Street’s demise. Well, around this past November while walking down the same street I noticed some new—and I must say, exciting—businesses were filling up those vacancies. Now, being the snoop that I am, I started poking my nose into those new retail stores and asking questions. Well, did I get an earful. Since I am more a chronicler than a reporter I’m not going to do a column that the New York Times has done a lot better than I could do about “Better Bleecker,” but rather talk about something that will give anyone over 45 a smile on their face.
I won’t name the stores which I visited nor the people I spoke to, but all shared the same basic premise. All the stores/brands were about 10 years old and not from NYC. All had a remarkable online presence—some with blogs—rich websites that had driven the brands to real success. So now is where you 45-year-olds will begin to smile knowingly, maybe even giggle a bit. I was told at each and every store, proudly as could be, about why they had picked NYC—and, in particular, the West Village—and why Bleecker Street, to open (OMG) a store. Yes, a store! It was a kind of new concept for these young folks. Can you imagine that customers could be met at the door by young, bright, attractive servers with in-depth knowledge of the products being offered? They could, as we used to say in the dark ages, “feel the goods.” Shoppers could even try on the goods they were looking at. Can you imagine that? What a revelation to the 20-somethings. What would Mr. Macy or Mr. Bloomingdale or even Mr. Saks think of that concept? Today it’s called brick and mortar. Well, yes, that’s another way to say retail store. Well, I say who cares what you call it. All I can tell you and them is, welcome to the West Village and welcome to Bleecker Street. You make the neighborhood look just a little bit better. And, from what I hear from the 20-year-olds, these stores were just coming in for the holidays but now most, if not all, are looking at the Village for a long haul.
So, Peter Allen would be very happy, very happy indeed.