By James Maher
Name: Eva Dorsey
Occupation: Co-owner, Jane’s Exchange, Children’s Resale & Consignment Shop
Location: 191 East 3rd St. (between A and B)
Time: 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1
I was born on Jane Street in the West Village. I’m a native New Yorker but I didn’t stay long. My dad was a teacher and we had to move out to Connecticut. I came back several times for short periods before finally settling here in 1986. I decided to finish my degree in Theatre Criticism at the CUNY graduate center.
I moved to 7th Street and Avenue B because of the affordability. Heroin and cocaine were sold big time on 7th Street there. The big guy was right across the street from me and he got away with it for so long because he ran a dojo. What he’d do — it was really smart — was he kept all the kids off the street instead of going into gangs or this or that, but he was selling drugs at the same time. If my mother would come to visit in her car, he would carry her suitcases. He decorated the street for Christmas with the lights and did little parties. He kind of wined and dined the block and then at the same time was doing all this stuff.
I remember the big drug bust in the mid 1990s. I was right there. It was huge. They did it at midnight. They had helicopters light the street. It looked like it was three in the afternoon. There were so many helicopters and all the drug guys were lying down on the street. The Feds, I guess, came in from the roofs. It was a huge bust and pretty incredible how fast they did it and how well planned it was. That bust changed my street for years to come. The street was no longer protected by the drug dealers and ironically became more unsafe.
I became pregnant, which was a shock because I had been “diagnosed” as infertile after a number of attempts with invitro fertilization. I was very excited because I had wanted to have a child. I was adjunct teaching at Hunter College and working on my dissertation. I thought, I can have a child and work on my dissertation — of course I didn’t.
In preparation for my baby, I discovered consignment shopping because I didn’t have money. I discovered these consignment stores, but they were all on the Upper East Side — and they weren’t that cheap. It occurred to me that we could use a children’s consignment store downtown. There seemed to be so many families in the East Village. I thought that maybe I could start one as a single parent, be able to have my daughter with me, and make a living that way. That was 21 years ago. I was scared to death because I don’t come from a business family at all. When you enter the business world and know nothing about it, it’s a little overwhelming.
Before I started Jane’s Exchange, I created these silly little flyers saying, "If I open a store like this, would you bring me stuff and would you shop there?" I got very good feedback from people. I had little savings and was very fortunate when Anna Pastoressa, owner of Cassia, a vintage store named after her daughter, rented me half her store for a very reasonable amount on the corner of 7th and B. It was thrilling when people arrived with bags of clothes and toys – mostly donations to help open the store. Eventually Anna and I ran Jane’s Exchange together. This was 21 years ago. Then in 1999, I lost a lease but gained a great business partner, Gayle Raskin, who is still with me after 16 years.
We are a children’s and maternity consignment shop. People make an appointment to bring their things in, we sell them, and they get 30 percent of the sale to use as credit for the store. We don’t pay out. I used to pay out a long time ago but forget that. Our accountant said keep going with that and you’ll be out of business. It’s been a lovely way to raise my daughter and have it such a community-based place. I’ve met great, unbelievable people. We get all these different economic groups in, but just a lot of these lovely people who have been in the neighborhood for years.
The other nice thing is ... with environmental issues going on now, it helps kids to understand the idea of recycling, because they are literally bringing their own things in. Sometimes it’s not easy for a child to part with something, but we explain to them how it works and I think that’s a good thing to learn at a young age. You don’t throw out what can be used by other people.
Unfortunately, our current lease is up as of June 2016. We’re just announcing it now to our customers. This is our third location. We keep losing our leases. That’s the story. These stores can’t maintain anymore. Stores like this, it’s the end, period. Everyone asks why aren’t there more. There aren’t more because of real estate. I don’t know what’s going to happen, like everyone else, but it is highly unlikely that we can move again should our lease go up beyond our means. Like many small businesses, we simply may not make it. If this happens, I think it will be missed.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.