Top photo by Steven last week
Three longtime East Village businesses on Stuyvesant Street — Village Yokocho, Angel's Share and Sunrise Mart — recently closed ... and a fourth, Panya, will soon follow.
The New York Times yesterday had the first (and very rare!) interview with the owner of the businesses — the Yoshida Restaurant Group.
Over the past 50 years, Tadao Yoshida, known as Tony, the mystery mogul of the East Village, has built a food-and-drink empire that few of his generation can rival. It all started in the early 1970s with the humble vegetarian-friendly joint Dojo and has expanded to include, most recently, the sprawling Japan Village food court in Industry City, Brooklyn.Mr. Yoshida helped teach New York that it couldn't live without an authentic izakaya (something like a Japanese pub). And the cocktail revival of the aughts can be traced directly to Angel's Share.He also may very well be the man responsible for that ubiquitous ginger-carrot salad dressing found at every Japanese restaurant across America.
As previously noted on EVG, Yoshida first opened the Ice Cream Connection on St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue in March 1970. Yoshida's Japanese-inspired vegetarian cuisine came along in 1974.
In 1982, Dojo took over the space next door and expanded even more. Higher rents shuttered the East Village Dojo, with the West Third Street outpost continuing until 2018.
The Times also shares this anecdote about the Ice Cream Connection:
The East Village was dangerous then, and Mr. Yoshida was known to keep a long Japanese sword behind the ice cream counter for protection. A story goes that a young John Belushi, after seeing Mr. Yoshida chase away some troublemakers with the sword, was inspired to create his recurring samurai character on "Saturday Night Live.""People said that," Mr. Yoshida admitted. "I'm not sure. After the samurai sketch, people said, 'Tony, that’s you.'"
As for why these businesses have closed after 25-plus years here on Stuyvesant Street between Ninth Street and Third Avenue... a spokesperson for landlord Cooper Union told us (and other media outlets): "Unfortunately, the tenant informed us of their decision to vacate the property. They were not asked to move out, despite the fact that they haven't paid any rent since 2020."
Yoshida confirmed to the Times that the businesses had not paid any rent since April 2020. "In the pandemic, we could not do business, and I hoped they would give me some sort of break," he said. The Cooper Union spokesperson previously said: "The formula for calculating rent on these properties has been in place for some 30 years and has never been changed."
Also, as the Times piece references: "Cooper Union, which leases the buildings from their owners and had subleased them to Mr. Yoshida for decades."
Back in 2011, when Cooper Union and St. Mark's Bookshop were trying to hash out a new rental deal for the retail space for 29 Third Ave., WNYC reported that "Cooper Union doesn't actually own the building that holds the store, but leases it from a company called 29 Third Ave Corporation c/o Casabella Holdings, LLC."
So it's not clear what will happen with the two-level building that housed Village Yokocho, Angel's Share and the previously shuttered Sharaku. Cooper Union told us there's no new building planned on this site.
Meanwhile, Yoshida's lone business left here, Panya, will "continue for a month on a wholesale basis before it, too, closes," per the Times. Employees though, have told EVG readers that the bakery will close before the end of the month.