While Gem Spa has been permanently shuttered for the past two-plus years, a refurbished piece of the iconic corner shop lives on in a 19th-century farmhouse in Mount Sterling, Ohio.
Jason Sheehy, the owner of the just-mounted sign, splits his time between NYC and this town about 25 miles southwest of Columbus, Ohio, where he helps his father on the family farm.
In recent years, he became friends with Parul Patel, who ran the store on Second Avenue and St. Mark's Place that her father Ray had owned since 1986. After the shop closed (read the history here), Patel auctioned off parts of the Gem Spa to help pay for her father's care. (According to The New Yorker, he had been suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a disease akin to Parkinson's.)
There were several bidders, but no one matched the reserve price for the yellow Gem Spa sign from the St. Mark's Place side of the business.
"The auction ended and I texted Parul and told her I was interested," Sheehy said in an email yesterday. "We ended up settling on a price and made the deal."
Why did he want to make an investment in the sign?
"Gem Spa to me was the East Village," he said. "I used to be in Gramercy and spent most of my time in the East Village. Coming down Second Avenue — the glow of Gem Spa meant I had arrived.
"I loved the selection of magazines about obscure things. The history of the place. It just was to me, the heart and soul of the East Village," he continued. "So when the opportunity to own the sign popped up….I couldn't pass it up."
Keeping the sign company in the farmhouse are items from the now-closed O'Lunney's Times Square Pub, which shut down during the pandemic. ("I built an Irish dive bar," he said.)
Meanwhile, he continues to keep in touch with Parul.
"I was texting her [Tuesday] night," Sheehy said. "She's delighted that the sign, and her family's legacy, lives on — even if it's 500 miles away."