A year and a half ago, the New York Times said Bleecker Street “looks like a Rust Belt city.”
On 5 blocks from Christopher Street to Bank Street, more than a dozen storefronts sat empty.
“Where textured-leather totes and cashmere scarves once beckoned to passers-by,” the paper reported, “the windows are now covered with brown construction paper, with ‘For Lease’ signs and directives to ‘Please visit us at our other locations.'”
This past Tuesday, the Times changed its tune.
A headline trumpeted “The Return of Bleecker Street.”
Eighteen months after its obituary, that same 5-block stretch of the West Village is “full of cool, vibrant people doing interesting things.”
“Big-name luxury labels” are gone. Their storefronts are now filled with “young, digitally native brands….a well-curated mix of small brands with big ideas.” Many are run by women.
The sudden switch was no accident. Brookfield Properties bought 4 properties with 7 storefronts last April — “after exorbitant rents and a dearth of shoppers had driven out most of the businesses.” The new owners “immediately set to work rethinking the landscape.”
A creative strategy firm helped plan short-term leases — and revenue sharing.
Nell Diamond — the founder of bedding and bath retailer Hill House Home, an early arrival — did not believe retail was dead.
“Bad retail is dead,” she clarified.
Bleecker Street’s new stores have become destinations — and community centers. They offer hot cocoa, and host podcasts, educational events and book club meetings. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a book signing at Lingua Franca, which sells cashmere sweaters hand-stitched with political slogans.
So why is “06880” highlighting a story about 10012?
Because some of the descriptions about last year’s Bleecker Street resonate with this year’s Main Street.
There are some great, fun stores downtown. You can lose yourself — and find nearly every gift you need — at Savvy + Grace, and The Brownstone. Bedford Square is filled with shops like Savannah Bee Company. Serena & Lily has brought new energy and creativity too.
But there are too many “windows covered with brown construction paper.” Landlords still hold out for sky-high rents, and refuse to consider options like short-term leases and revenue sharing.
I know, I know. Apples and oranges. Westport is not New York. Main Street will never have the foot traffic of Bleecker Street.
But we don’t need all those empty storefronts either.
If Greenwich Village can find a way out of its retail doldrums, our village can too.
(Click here for the full New York Times story. Hat tip: Michelle Sinclair Colman)