Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Business closures in the West Village offset by signs of revitalization

Spring brought with it a spate of changes to the business landscape of the West Village, both more closures and signs of a reviving business community. The following is an incomplete list of closings, openings and moves WestView has noticed:

Among the old stalwarts that entered the Vanishing Village annals: Café Bruxelles, 118 Greenwich Ave. Owner Francis Cheru posted a message on the restaurant’s website thanking customers “for your loyalty and wonderful memories over the years.” He added, “Regretfully, I have chosen to retire and hope to enjoy a little bit of the simple life.” We’ll miss Bruxelle’s great Belgian frites and its deep beer selection.

Also gone: the lampshade and curio-filled Treasure & Trifles, 409 Bleecker St.; French restaurant Gavroche, 212 West 14th St.; on-demand Chinese food factory Empire Szechuan, 173 Seventh Ave.; and that rumpled emporium of wrapping paper, cards and last-minute holiday décor, Village Paper Party, 18 Greenwich Ave, which never reopened after a raging February fire. R.I.P. Westbeth favorite, Baby Buddha, 753 Washington St.

Even stores catering to the fashion set—the funky vintage treasure trove, Cherry, 17 Eighth Ave.; Sergio Davila, 67 Eighth Ave., and Plaza Too, 571 Hudson St.—could not make a go of it.

On the injured list: La Focaccia, 15 Bank St., closed due to fire; according to a recorded phone message, management hopes it will be back soon. The highest-impact departure of them all was that of St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, which took with it 3,500 jobs and perhaps the livelihood of many more neighborhood merchants.

Some businesses, ousted by rising rents or landlords who stopped playing ball, simply moved: Left Bank Books relocated a block-and-a-half from its West Fourth St. home to 17 Eighth Ave., where owner/writer/teacher Kim Herzinger admits the new space is “not as sweet and secluded” but likes the light and the increased daytime foot traffic. Night traffic, however, was better on café-lined West Fourth St. Leo Design, Inc., with its old-world charm, will be moving from 413 Bleecker St. to 545 Hudson Street in August. A sign on its window thanks patrons, invites them to Leo’s new location, and reads, “After 15 years on Bleecker Street—we’re being turned out.”

Gemini Salon & Spa closed its 547 Hudson St. location in December, after opening a 135 14th St. venue in April 2009.  Gemini owner and founder Olga Vidov says she could not come to an agreement with her longtime landlord, but that Gemini’s departure from Hudson Street was an amicable one. “We outgrew the space,” says VIdov. When she first arrived on Hudson Street in 1983, the street was filled with vintage stores and antique shops and just starting to gentrify. Now, she says, “It’s also a facelift for 14th Street. We all remember when we wouldn’t even walk on that street.”

The venerable Thai restaurant Toons, 417 Bleecker (a tenant of the William Gottlieb Management Co.) is moving to Chelsea, we hear, replacing another Thai restaurant, Silom, at 150 Eighth Ave. Hudson Urban Bicycles has moved from Morton St. to 139 Charles St, and Doodle Do’s, the children’s haircut and toy shop, moved from Hudson St. to 11 Christopher St.

Interesting and promising additions to the West Village include, in the restaurant/bar category: Slice, The Perfect Food, 535 Hudson St.; Satay Junction, 28 Greenwich Ave.;  Offrenda, 113 Seventh Ave;  Recette, 328 WEST 12th St.; Bistro de la Gare, 626 Hudson St.; Molé Mexican Bar and Grill, 57 Jane St; Highlands Scottish pub, 150 WEST 10th St.; Mappamondo, 17 Abington Square; Sharappe Wine Bar, 605 Hudson St., the franchise outfit ZPizza, 298 Bleecker St.; and Choptank, 308-310 Bleecker St. Owner of this Maryland-inspired restaurant, Josh Morgan, says that he and his partners took over an open lease at the former site of Bar Q. Lower prices have “incentivized businesses to come in,” says Morgan, “but we have to wait for customers to come. We still have a ways to go.”

Mexican restaurant Offrenda, a creation of the original owners of Café Condesa, may be feeling signs of a reinvigorated economy. Unlike Café Condesa’s beer-and-wine-only drinks menu, Offrenda is fully licensed, and three times as large as Condesa, with more outside seating to come as the weather warms. It started slowly, however, says owner Enrique Jardines. “We had a low budget, and had to do everything ourselves. But business has picked up and we’ve added more staff. It keeps getting better and better.”  

After a brief life as Arthur, the children’s clothing store at 329 Bleecker St. has re-emerged as Dylan and Henry, and vintage-inspired clothing store pinkyotto, an import from the East Village, opened in early May at 330 Bleecker St. Bakery Il Cantuccio is new at 91 Christopher St., and Contessa Rock Hair, 535 Hudson St., fills the hairstyling void left by the departure of Gemini.

Yet another wine bar was under construction on West Fourth St. when we last passed by, at the former sites of Left Bank Books and its neighboring cleaner. Last, a pending development that sums up the recent trend in our neighborhood: in December a Marc Jacobs books and accessories store is slated to open on the site of the former Biography Bookshop at Bleecker and West 11th Streets.

 

WestView readers: Please help us by reporting closings and opening that you notice in the West Village! Send names of businesses and any other relevant details and memories to

vanishingvillage@gmail.com

Nancy Matsumoto blogs about the West Village and other subjects at www.nancymatsumoto.blogspot.com

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