It’s not news to New Yorkers that neighborhoods around the city become less and less affordable by the day. But in one of the most historical and gentrified neighborhoods in New York, small business owners are doing all they can to keep from being the next one to fall.
Gentrification of the West Village began in the late 1990s and by now has already pushed out most of the diverse local businesses that had been there for years. Most of them were small family restaurants, clothing stores, bodegas, video stores, bookstores and bars.
When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, most remaining small businesses were forced out by building owners as the housing market collapsed. Once the economy recovered, these small businesses couldn’t return due to the staggering price of rent. They were replaced with multi million high end retail companies like Burberry, and large food chains like Starbucks which could afford it.
Gentrification has been happening throughout the city for years and in most neighborhoods all traces of its original local business roots have been wiped away. But in the West Village, business owners are fighting back.
“Cones”, a family run ice cream store on Bleecker Street in the West Village has been in business since the 70s. The store owner Jeremy has been fighting off the gentrification of this neighborhood since he first bought the storefront. In a recent interview he was quoted as saying that they “have maintained a strong customer base for many years” and “Good reviews from larger sites like Zagat and Yelp have put us on the map.” Business here has been improving for years because of their strong presence online and connections with customers, he said.
In fact one of the greatest methods of fighting gentrification is the choices that we as consumers make. For example the decision to purchase food or coffee from a small coffee shop means you have favored that business over a chain coffee shop like Starbucks. The more power and business we give to small stores, the more profit is diverted to them from other large corporations that might run them out of business.
This is the basis behind many small stores in the West Village’s plans to combat increasing gentrification: Continue to be better than the competition and offer an alternative to the identical look and feel of a chain store that doesn’t change no matter where you are.
For the West Village it will take many years to reverse the effects of gentrification but in other parts of the city the fight to prevent it from spreading is in full effect.