[Photo by Steven]
After a turbulent 12 months (and weeks of rumors), Gem Spa has officially announced that it will not reopen on the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark's Place.
Parul Patel, who has been running the store that her father Ray has owned since 1986, made a gallant effort in recent months to save the iconic corner shop that dates to the 1930s. However, whatever financial progress she was able to make was not enough to overcome a global pandemic.
Gem Spa released this statement this afternoon:
"It is with a heavy heart that we announce Gem Spa has poured it’s last legendary egg cream and closed its doors forever.
This has been an extremely difficult decision, and one we are heartbroken to make. Forced to close the store due to New York City & State Covid restrictions implemented six weeks ago in the interest of safety to our customers and staff, we had hoped to reopen once things stabilized. Prior to the crisis, it had become increasingly apparent that the evolving character of the area was no longer able to sustain a corner creation like ours.
Coronavirus concerns closed our city, cratered businesses, and ultimately sealed the fate of our (close to) 100-year-old shop.
After careful review and assessment of our options, we have made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to close permanently.
We have enjoyed the most incredible love, support, loyalty and friendship from our neighbors, city, and visitors from around the world. We are, and always will be, eternally grateful to the historical artists, musicians, designers and dedicated denizen’s who saw us as much more than a beloved bodega but an iconic East Village institution.
Although our physical doors are closing, we will live on through our website where we will be highlighting more of our rich history and the iconic figures that have made us who we are. We will also continue to sell Gem Spa branded merchandise as well as art, books and photographs inspired by our store.
The Patel family would like to thank everyone for all the beautiful memories and for the opportunity to serve you. We hope that all of you are staying safe and in good health. Lots of love from all of us to all of you."
The combination of troubles started late last spring, when Gem Spa lost their license to sell cigarettes and tobacco products — a large source of revenue. (A now-former employee reportedly sold cigarettes to an undercover minor.) In addition, their lottery license was suspended last spring for an outstanding debt.
Gem Spa also stopped selling newspapers and magazines, a dwindling revenue source and a marked shift in consumer behavior.
Patel, who launched an Instagram account that emphasized the corner shop's long East Village history and well-liked egg creams, also saw success with the introduction of branded Gem Spa streetwear.
Supporters came together last September for a successful cash mob, which also helped raise awareness of the shop and the ongoing plight of the mom-and-pop business surviving in today's corporatized NYC.
In early March, Patel began to put in a small lunch counter with retro stools as a way to expand Gem Spa's coffee and tea service. However, before the counter could be utilized, Gem Spa closed amid the COVID-19 crisis — this after introducing a delivery service for egg creams.
[Photo from April 2019 by Stacie Joy]
At the time of the closure, Gem Spa was trying to raise $35,000:
"...to make up for the $12,000 we were short for rent that was due March 15 and another $20,500 (combination of rent, taxes, monthly payment plan from a recent lawsuit settlement) due in 3 weeks (April 15th). And the other $2500 is needed for taxes. The lawsuit that we recently settled basically stipulates that the landlord can evict us if we are late twice on rent. We are already late for last week’s rent and if we are late one more time, we will be legally evicted when the moratorium is lifted."
Previously on EV Grieve:
• At the Gem Spa Cash Mob (Sept. 16)
• Get your Gem Spa t-shirts or photos of Madonna — at Gem Spa! (Aug. 16)
• Will you buy a Gem Spa T-shirt? (June 28)
• "Gem Spa is open!" (June 18)
• What is happening at Gem Spa? (June 11)
• A visit to Gem Spa (May 10)