THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It is, at this point, a story so common, the difference in details so slight, that even the most heartfelt of tributes can take on the tone of cliche—yet another beloved independent business shouldered out by a rent increase, yet another loss for a neighborhood in danger of losing its soul.
But at least this once, the ending is bittersweet rather than tragic. Bleecker Street Records, where music lovers, vinyl aficionados and NYU kids on the hunt for posters to lend their dorm rooms an air of authenticity have congregated for the last 20 years, is losing its home to a rent increase. The good news is that it’s relocating to a space nearby, on West 4th, between Sixth and Seventh, reports Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. The move is more than a little unfortunate given the business’s name, but it’s a far better fate than the one that befell Bleecker Bob’s Records, which lost its lease to a frozen yogurt joint this spring and despite some talk of re-opening elsewhere, has yet to do so.
As more and more New Yorkers find employment in low-income jobs (35 percent of all New Yorkers now work jobs that pay $27,000 a year of less, according to a recent study), one of the most perplexing questions is how the city should grapple with what seems like an increasingly unworkable reality. How to address a growing percentage of New Yorkers working in jobs that don’t pay enough to live in the city?
Should the city just admit that we require the services of workers who will need some kind of public subsidy to remain in New York? Try to build enough affordable housing to meet anything close need in this city? Good luck. But what if low-income New Yorkers solved the problem of not getting paid enough by going to work for themselves?
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It’s news certain to bring despair to vinyl aficionados, Village old-timers and anyone with a soul: cluttered, beloved West 3rd staple Bleecker Bob’s Records has closed down after 46 years. A frozen yogurt chain is slated to open in its place.
The legendary music store sold its last record this Saturday, DNAinfo reports. Which would be bad news even if the Village weren’t already inundated with frozen yogurt shops and if the funky culture purveyors that make the Village the Village hadn’t been bloodying their fingernails trying to hang onto increasingly unaffordable leases for more than a decade.
New Yorkers are accustomed to sharing things; that’s the bargain of the city—the source of its energy and so many of its frustrations. We share our ceilings and walls, our commutes and our living rooms, the meals we eat and the relatively modest patches of green that constitute our nature.
Now, because of huge rent hikes throughout the city, our businesses might need to start sharing, too. New Yorkers have long mourned the disappearance of mom-and-pops, the stores and restaurants, dive bars and old haunts that gave the streets their chaotic splendor.
When Aaron Hillis and his wife bought Cobble Hill’s Video Free Brooklyn—a well-loved but somewhat dingy relic from the age of VHS—they had rather lofty plans for the store. They would transform the outmoded space into hub of film culture that would redefine the role of the video store in the time of Netflix. It would be both a boutique offering personalized service and an event space (thanks to collapsible shelves) with screenings and discussions. But like many fledgling entrepreneurs, their plans far outpaced their pocketbooks—Mr. Hillis figured he would need about $50,000 to revamp the space.
They might have tried for a bank loan, or made do until they saved enough for the renovation, but neither option was very appealing, so the Hillises did what everyone with a creative vision and a lack of cash seems to do these days: they launched a crowdfunding campaign.
“I don’t think it’s any different or less valid than when PBS or NPR ask people to donate for a free tote bag, or the Kickstarter campaign in Detroit to build a life-size statue of RoboCop,” said Mr. Hillis, who has thus far raised about $7,000 (with two weeks to go on a $50,000 campaign) on Indiegogo. “As long as you’re transparent about where the money is going, you’re putting together something that people want to be a part of.”
Tales of Retail
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There’s just one little wrinkle to Barack Obama’s $30 billion small-business loan program: Small businesses may not want loans, and small banks don’t want to lend.
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