Never Not Gentrifying: Revisiting our guide to SoHo

Kiosk-closed.jpgWe published our neighborhood guide to SoHo less than a year ago, but already it’s practically outdated. Obviously all travel guides have a shelf life, but you would at least hope that 10 months could pass without an entire neighborhood succumbing to the unstoppable onslaught of uber-gentrification. Of course SoHo is SoHo, long home to overpriced boutiques and high-end chain stores that eagerly open their doors to the international class of conspicuous consumers. None of this is new, but it was always expansive enough that it could still afford to leave some stones unturned, to allow the indie proprietors tucked away in the cubbyholes and holes in the wall on the edges of the neighborhood to continue to provide quirky and offbeat services. Stumbling upon these small gems was partly what made exploring the neighborhood (and the city) such a joy. But alas, these types of discoveries are becoming rarer and rarer.

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Kiosk was an absolute delight of a store, up a flight of stairs in a heavily graffitied building, a building whose aesthetic would have felt more comfortable in the SoHo circa the 1980’s. The owners of Kiosk curated a quirky collection of home goods, kitchenware, and food items that they foraged through their globe-spanning travels. But the store has now decamped in advance of the imminent demolition of their building. Developers paid $150 million for the property, with the intention of tearing it down and rebuilding to attract major retailers. Admittedly, the existing structure is a squat, gloomy converted warehouse in the middle of the architectural magnificence of the Cast-Iron Historic District that will be missed by nobody. And thankfully, Kiosk plans to reopen in Union Square.

 

And then there was Dube Juggling, a kind of place that you could truly only find in New York. And now in our new New York, well you just can’t find it at all. This store was a de facto clubhouse for those who practiced, or at least admired, the carnival arts. Besides selling juggling knives, balls, devil sticks and hula hoops, this family-run business also manufactured these specialty circus tools in-house. This community minded store was a fun place to stumble into an impromptu performance. And now, like Kiosk, Dube Juggling is gone. After 23 years at 520 Broadway, the landlord decided they would prefer a tenant with much deeper pockets: so goodbye one-of-a-kind Dube Juggling and hello to mall staple Michael Kors. And sadly, unlike Kiosk, Dube has no plans on reopening.

 

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Finally, we come to Dominique Ansel. Unlike the above two stores, they’re certainly not going anywhere. Maybe the name doesn’t ring a bell, but that buttery, flaky, fried blockbuster of a pastry they came up with certainly should. The Cronut, that tourist-luring portmanteau of a food trend,  has decisively placed Monsieur Ansel’s bakery on the map. Our opinion has not changed – Dominique Ansel arguably bakes the best pastries in the city. It’s just a bit hard to reconfirm that opinion since we don’t want to wait in a two hour, two block line.

The loss of Dube and Kiosk reflects how rapidly Manhattan is changing from an enormous influx of wealth and overeager developers. Obviously, it is great for communities when they receive a steady infusion of cash but when that leads to the departure of small unique shops, longstanding family businesses and well-loved cultural institutions in favor of yet another national retail chain, well, that’s just sad.

 

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