Friday, September 9, 2011

When Paul Richard curated an art exhibit in the Astor Place Kmart

[Image via]

This talk about Kmart reminded me of Kmart's history on Astor Place ... That and the fact that I brought up the now-defunct Kcafe in the comments last week... here's an article from the Times, dated July 8, 1999, titled: "Corn Dogs, White Sales and . . . Modern Art?; In East Village, Atypical Kmart Gives a Nod to Irony as Its Cafe Becomes a Gallery."

The story looks at an art show by Paul Richard inside the Kcafe.

To the story!

You can put a Kmart in the East Village, but you can't keep the East Village out of Kmart.

When the behemoth discount store arrived on Astor Place in 1996 — much to the chagrin of many neighborhood eccentrics — corporate officials knew they would have to adjust. They expected the people with green hair and nose rings who now stroll through the aisles of polyester pants and plastic kitchenware. They knew the handy spacemaker shelf organizers would sell better than the pitchforks in the garden center. They axed the auto department and stocked up on tacky glittery nail polish.

So maybe it should not be so surprising to find an art exhibit on the walls of the KCafe.

And later!

In some ways, having a Kmart in Astor Place at all is a kind of self-parody. The teen-agers with tattooed arms and the actresses with cellular telephones strapped to their ears look odd among the stacks of faux-wood furniture and knockoff Knicks T-shirts. But while officials refused to release sales figures, [Kmart executive Greg] Abraham said the store increased revenue 25 percent from 1997 to 1998 by tweaking its inventory: More clothing for juniors, less of lines like Jaclyn Smith's. Lots of makeup and exercise equipment, not so much fishing gear. Paint sells well, as does Martha Stewart's line of bed and bath items.

"Whether you're a hip person or not, there's a lot of basic essentials that people need," Mr. Abraham said. "We're just trying to tailor to those."

You can read the whole article here.


Alex in NYC said...

Over the years, I've encountered both Richard Hell and Jon Spencer shopping at that K-Mart. I shit ye not. That doesn't make me want to burn the place down any less, but still....

Alex in NYC said...

And I was also there in 1996 ("I was there!") when U2 performed a misguided in-store set on the main level.

VH McKenzie said...

Why did they abandon the gallery experiment? It would make the place a lot less hateful if it actually DID try to cater more to the neighborhood.

I just wanted to buy a cheap white camisole/tank there this summer but couldn't find a single item smaller than an 2XL. All of the women's clothing is for enormously huge midwestern types, nothing for us scrawny east villagers. Meh.

blue glass said...

the art-show was strange in the cafe and i waited for somebody to graffiti the picturs.
but the cafe was a great place to get a bad hot tea and people watch from on high. especially nice on a cold, bright, winter day.

and mostly nobody bothered you.

Tom said...

@Alex - I was surprised that the NY Times article didn't mention U2 kicking off its PopMart Tour in the lingerie dept of KMart. It was February 1997.

Goggla said...

@VHM - I'm with you on the clothes. I wanted to buy some exercise shorts and the same thing - only enormous sizes. And I'm not scrawny. WTF?