Friday, January 23, 2009

The Chocolate Wars (well, not at all, but we needed something that sounds CONTROVERSIAL)

In his Nabe News Wednesday, BoweryBoogie included a link to my post on Bespoke Chocolates opening shop on Extra Place. Rachel Zoe Insler, the owner of Bespoke, left him the following comment. Which he reposted in a post. Anyway! Here's BB....and Rachel:

Rachel Zoe Insler, owner of the new Bespoke Chocolates set to open on Extra Place, wants to set the record straight. Her message is clear, don't bemoan Bespoke! Per a comment received earlier this morning:

Hi! I'm the owner of Bespoke...I specifically left the opening date so open-ended because the fiery hoops you have to jump through to open a small business (especially in a corporate-owned building) in New York City will never cease to amaze me. It's been months trying to get the appropriate permits to install a sink. Anyway, we'll be open soon enough, and I'm hoping that my small, independently owned shop making handmade products manages to make more people happy than it does horrifically offended. Cheers, Rachel P.S. EVGrieve: where's your sense of humor? "Charming" is a joke!

She also responded to his post:

You're speedy! Thanks for posting. If I ever get my damn doors open, please come by for a chocolate and a chat!

I've lived on East First between First and Second for a few years now. I love the East Village and I'm excited to be part of a long history of unique small businesses.

To be clear: I am not trying to say that people shouldn't prefer things "the way they were." Bemoan me all you want; a little controversy is hard to come by when you make chocolate anyway. :)

But I am asking that folks give me a chance and at least let me open my doors before deciding that I am going to be a detriment to the neighborhood. Remember: CBGB's was once a new business. So was Moshe's Bakery.

Times are tough, and small locally owned businesses need all the support they can get, lest Extra Place be filled with six more Chase Banks. I'm proud of my handmade products and the fact that I can create a few new jobs for New Yorkers.

I will yield your blog back to you now, thanks. :)

I'll have more to say on this tomorrow in the first installment of my 12-part series, "How Bespoke Chocolates singlehandedly ruined the East Village."

Heh. But seriously! I'm all for small, locally owned businesses...and I'm happy to hear that she lives in -- and appreciates -- the neighborhood. This place aside....generally speaking, with the proliferation of FroYo places and the comings-and-goings on Dessert Row, the Momofuku's Bakery & Milk Bars of the neighborhood, and what not, I have to admit I feel a little desserted out. And annoyed when the SATC crowd shows up to eat said desserts. In any event, we do wish her all the best with her new store.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how many years is a "few" years that she has lived in the EV. And to think that she's comparing her store to CBGB's and Moshe's bakery, Just a typical narcissist, they just can't stand criticisms. With that kind of attitude and hospitality, I actually would prefer a Chase bank on her spot -- at least in a bank you now you won't be getting a hospitable and a personal service. Hope her chocolates are sweet and not bitter like her.

Anonymous said...

How many years is enough to call yourself 'living there a few years'? I mean really. As for the differences between 'comparisons' and 'examples' and silent Ks... I'm sure the definitions and proper usage of each really are knit picking. She didn't place herself amongst the likes of CBGBs, she merely stated that everything is new at some point. Some things become great, some things trickle away. How about we let the store open up first before you bash it? Or the owner... who is actually amicably responding to a rather terse posting. Or even better, let's hate it till our posh friends love it then pretend we always went there all long. You know, like real New Yorkers.

Jeremiah Moss said...

for me, the main point here is not new vs. old, or small vs. big business, but how the businesses attracted to the new extra place fit in with the model of "the LES community" that is currently being manufactured.

those businesses cannot be compared to CBGB's or moishe's bakery because they will inevitably be products of the new luxurified Bowery.

they will benefit from that luxurification and cater to it, as their customers will be the sex and the city gals, the varvatos shoppers, and the like.

"bespoke" is a term from savile row, it is another way of saying "haute couture." it conjures the high-end, the exclusive, the artisanal.

is it "better than a bank," as many said of the varvatos store? maybe. should luxury-good shops moving onto extra place--onto the bowery and the LES, where the culture has been, up until recently, the antithesis of luxury--be the subject of critique? absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a worthwhile discussion, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Waiting for NYC buildings inspections has left me with enough time on my hands to participate. :)

To be clear, I never meant to compare myself to CBGB's, except to point out that it was once also a new business.

Now, while the East Village may not have been previously "luxurified"'s not as though it's been exactly the same since the streets were first paved. The "LES community" has not been static. Our neighborhood was predominantly Ukranian at one point...I'm sure that some residents were less than happy about a place like CBGB's opening up when it did. The awesome Holiday Lounge was once new and different, too. The old New York that you are nostalgic for was once strange and trendy to my grandparents.

Which is the way things are...New York is constantly evolving, it was dynamic before any of us were born, and it will continue to change long after we are all gone, and we're all not going to be happy with all of the changes that occur.

So I get that you are bemoaning the loss of *your* old New York and I'm not saying people shouldn't critique me...I guess I just resent being pigeonholed before I even open my doors. While I'm grateful for any customers I will get, I'm hoping that my shop attracts people who really care about what they eat and appreciate quality food made with care in a non-industrialized, and yes, artisanal setting.

But I get that my little chocolate shop is not everyone's first choice for tenancy...fair enough. Given that things aren't going to stay the same, nor can we travel back in time, I'm wondering what you, Jeremiah, would like to see in Extra Place now? (And, while I think it may be unrealistic, "absolutely nothing but trash and rats" is an acceptable answer.)

In any event, I love and appreciate your website Jeremiah.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to trying her chocolates.

Jeremiah Moss said...

rachel, thanks for writing. i would also resent being pigeonholed, so i can't blame you. you ask an interesting question, what would i like to see in extra place? imagining rents being affordable, and at the risk of being a hopeless optimist, here are a few ideas:

-a movie theater showing revivals and indie films, like the recently closed pioneer and cinema classics at rififi
-a good used book shop, like the many that have been pushed out of the neighborhood
-an art gallery, showing affordable work by local artists
-how about an actual community center, updating the notion by embracing the trendy crafting scene and having quilting and other activities that would bring senior citizens and young hipsters together?

i'm sure other people could come up with some very creative and inclusive uses for that space--that don't involve rats and garbage, and that flow with the ongoing evolution of the city. if avalon can defile the LES, tearing down housing to put up those ugly-ass boxes, shouldn't the neighbors get something in return?

Anonymous said...

I think those are great ideas and I'd encourage you (or someone you trust) to pursue them! You might be surprised...the rents on Extra Place are relatively reasonable...Avalon has a stated goal of supporting local entrepreneurs, and so some of the spaces are priced well below market rents. I would *love* it if someone from the community came to Avalon with a successful business plan for a bookstore or art gallery right down the block from my apartment (and next to my shop).

Spread the word...not all of the spaces are filled! I can send you the brokers' information if you know anyone who might be interested. Action!

Jeremiah Moss said...

action? bloggers don't act, we just sit around in our underwear and blog. ;)

anyway, you're a good sport for engaging in this conversation. i hope someone with business sense does pursue those ideas. maybe if your chocolates take off, you could help subsidize the Extra Place bookshop/movie theater/community center.

Anonymous said...

Whether Bespoke is good or bad for the neighborhood is obviously still an unknown. The place isn't even open yet. Nevertheless, I'm glad that Rachel is participating in this healthy discussion. It's great that a future proprietor is willing to engage those in the community who care so much about its preservation.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting discussion. I never thought that chocolate could stir up so much controversy, but then the issue of cultural evolution in the EV is far too nuanced for an outsider like me.

On the other hand, I can say definitively that Rachel, a dear friend for 10 years, is perhaps one of the kindest, warmest, and most generous humans that I have ever had the privilege to know. And she *is* New York to her very core, but that is beside the point for me.

A once (and current!) brilliant scientist, destined for a career studying the human mind, Rachel chose instead to pursue another dream. She understands more than most that nothing connects people like food and no food says love, happiness and goodwill like chocolate.

I know it's cliche to say that chocolate = love, but nothing sums up this wonderful person better. Rachel is love. Love for people, love for her craft, and love for the amazing city which she has always called home.

It seems to me that Bespoke Chocolates is the perfect storm of personal achievement and community enrichment. I am a little envious, but mostly, I am so very proud of my friend.

All the best!!!
Jonah McBride

Anonymous said...

"I'm glad that Rachel is participating in this healthy discussion. It's great that a future proprietor is willing to engage those in the community who care so much about its preservation."

Was thinking the same thing, BB.

Anonymous said...

Can any of you recall the last dollar you spent in a book store, art gallery etc...? You are all missing the stores are subsidy-sustained businesses, only. You book store people are every bit as bad as the high-rollers you fact, worse, with your pretense. Why don't you book store people pony up some collective doe to create that which you seek. Blah, blah, is indeed cheap. Let this lady, who has demonstrated courage, open her store--and support it, if you like-- or not. But to cause this much distress, on the front end, is selfish, cowardly and depressing. Haters! Try to find something really offensive to jack off to, please.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry, Anonymous, to hear that you are illiterate and unable to enjoy reading books. That must be so hard to live with.

It explains your misuse here of the word courage. Courage means having the strength to overcome great odds, to go against the mainstream, to risk one's life. Courage is not required to open a chocolate shop.

However, you have displayed some courage here by admitting to your illiteracy. Kudos to you Anonymous! You are brave.

Anonymous said...

this is a belated belated post, but there actually is a movie theater right by there that shows revivals and independents -- maybe not all of the time, but a good part of the time.. .anthology film archives .. its reputation may be that it only shows short avant garde films, and while a certain part of the programming does have its essential cinema program of avant garde shorts, a lot of evenings also have contemporary artists in person showing work. check out their site: and a member ship is pretty cheap -- like $50 or so you get to see all essential cinema for free all year long, and discounted tickets for all other shows..... sunshine isn't that far from there... but maybe jeremiah meant something different than anthology & sunshine?