NEW YORK — You can tell a neighborhood is changing when the hardware stores, shoe repair shops and locksmiths move out to make way for stylish eateries, pricy boutiques and the growing financial ambitions of landlords.
The phenomenon, which has played out in neighborhoods from Chelsea to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is now evident in the West Village on the eastern fringes of the Meatpacking District .
The West Village, a quiet residential area with 19th-century row houses and tree-lined streets, is home to a quirky mix of professionals, young families and free spirits. One sign that may portend the future of the area: Garber Hardware, an institution that occupied an unremarkable corner of Eighth Avenue and West Fourth Street, has closed and some major fashion houses have reportedly shown interest in the site.
The idea may not be as farfetched as it seems. About half a mile south, Marc Jacobs paved the way on Bleecker Street for Ralph Lauren and others. Lauren now operates two stores on the same block. Intermix is reportedly leasing the former Eastern Arts, and Gucci is said to be eyeing the Pierre Deux space in a building that was recently sold. A Gucci spokeswoman declined to comment.
Prior to Jacobs’ arrival, the street had been populated by old Italian restaurants, cluttered antiques shops and small florists.
Greenwich Avenue between Sixth and Eighth Avenues has also amassed an interesting roster of independent retailers over the last few years. OTTE at No. 112 sells fashion from Miss Sixty, Rebecca Taylor and Plenty, while Flight 001 at 96 Greenwich Avenue has a retro look reminiscent of air travel during the Fifties when flying was glamorous, not annoying. There are even signs of new life as far south as Christopher Street.
But most of the new activity is concentrated along Hudson Street between West 13th Street and West 12th. Many of the new boutiques are independently owned and operated by the designers themselves, who often have workrooms at the back of their stores.
“When I first opened, it was all residential customers,” said Juliana Cho, the proprietor of Annelore, at 636 Hudson Street, a showcase for her meticulously cut and detailed clothing. “Now, even people who live outside of Manhattan are coming here. My business has doubled from last year. When I get eight or 10 people here it’s crazy because my store is so small.”
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