Brick-and-mortar stores have faced difficulty claiming their space in the retail world in recent years. With the increase in online shopping and the uptick in rent, New York City small business owners are feeling the brunt of this issue, specifically on the renowned Greenwich Village shopping staple: Bleecker Street. A street once known for its celebration of art and music is now facing a loss in revenue, causing a high business turnover rate.
Today, 30 percent of the storefronts on Bleecker Street are vacant. To revitalize the area, the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce partnered with Google to create the #ShopBleecker initiative. The project aims to bring awareness to the lack of business in the area, and, in turn, to garner support for these small businesses. Maria Diaz, executive director of the GVCCC, spearheaded the project, cultivating a sense of community among the Bleecker Street businesses.
“I want to create a coalition of merchants that know each other and can come together and share each other’s woes and successes so that when it comes time to advocate for policies that help the businesses, they are going to be my go-to people to talk to about what their experiences are,” Diaz said.
#ShopBleecker Day on Nov. 18 included a number of deals, raffles and prizes for participating shoppers, in addition to a rally held in Father Demo Square, where Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York State Senator Brad Hoylman came to speak to attendees.
At the event, Brewer spoke about proposed legislation to create a database of vacant stores throughout the city.
All of the business owners in the city want to not have a vacant store next door,” Brewer said. “We complain about it as consumers, but what they end up with is sanitation issues and homeless [people] and other challenges right next to the business that they’re trying to build.”
Brewer and other business owners in attendance spoke about how online shopping is a major factor in the decrease in revenue throughout independent businesses. Hoylman called upon consumers to act.
“Let’s make Bleecker Street the best in class example of how small businesses can survive in this very difficult climate,” Hoylman said.
One of the biggest supporters of this project has been Kryolan Professional Makeup, a global brand. Kelly Thompson, director of Kryolan, saw this event as a way to promote her business while also showcasing the essence of the city.
“I was so happy when they suddenly leased down here,” Thompson said. “Bleecker Street is what I consider what New York needs to be.”
Craig Hounsell, vice president of operations at Fly London, another top participant in the initiative, believes in the benefits of maintaining a small, brick-and-mortar business.
“The advantage we have is the close-knit environment,” Hounsell said. “So we’re able to participate in the experience that the shoppers have. We get to know them on a personal level. We see a lot of repeat business from other areas and other countries that come back continuously.”
The boutique shoe shop is having a sale of 20 percent off throughout the month of November. Other top participating businesses include Li-Lac Chocolates and NARS Cosmetics.
Although #ShopBleecker Day has passed, the sales and promotions will continue until the end of November, during which participating stores will hold raffles and give away prizes. Bring your receipts to #ShopBleecker Headquarters at 359 Bleecker St. to enter for a chance to win.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 20 print edition. Email Alyssa Kelly at [email protected]