In these times, I count myself very fortunate that none of my family or friends have lost their jobs. Yet. That’s not to say that the spectre of job loss or otherwise reduced means is not foremost in everyone’s minds and on their tongues.
The blizzard of media coverage on any issue has the effect of dulling one’s receptivity. So I was unexpectedly filled with pangs of reminisence and foreshadowing when I walked down Lexington Passage in Grand Central Station yesterday.
I was on my way home and wanted to stop at two children’s shops to pick up something to cheer up our sick son, and to get something for upcoming birthday parties. Instead of The Children’s General Store that was chock-a-block of both patrons and well-curated, well-made and well-priced mechandise, I faced a dark and papered-up space.
Familiar stores were shuttered up and down the Passage. This, in a location that more than half-a-million people go through every day! Of course there have been closings all around, but none of these ‘hurt’ because they lacked a personal connection. These were places at which I had been somewhat of a regular.
Across the way, the colourful pottery shop, Our Name Is Mud, had been transformed into a pile of cleaning products in one corner and a sticky post-it sign saying, “SALE-last day. Everything $3.” This is the same company whose home-made memorial tiles created a wall of rememberance for 9/11.
It felt wrong somehow to be snapping up a few of the signature New York skyline frames and salt-and-pepper cellars designed by local artist Lorrie Veasey. But it was also the last chance to snag a piece of my contemporary Big Apple experience. I’d been walking past that shop for years; it didn’t seem right that it wouldn’t be there anymore. This final act of trite consumerism was a last rite of preservation.
I chatted with the man who would be playing the role of the ‘last one out turns out the lights.’ It turns out that the shops had chosen not to enter the lease auction for their spaces and had closed shop. (Our Name Is Mud is going online only.)
The shuttered shop story is repeating itself through every neighbourhood. Reading this week’s issue of New York Magazine, the roll call recalls purveyors with a personal connection: the Banana Republic where Jay and I spent his Christmas giftcards on both of us when we were still dating; DT*UT on E84th where I spent countless hours over a period of years savouring their signature smores a la table. I even feel a little nostalgic about the closing of the Brooks Brothers on Fifth Avenue, where I was misguidedly persuaded to purchase two pairs of unflattering pants and three ironless shirts a few years ago.
The prescription for the year ahead seems clear: keep a tight rein on one’s wallet and emotional attachments, however superficial. (Update: I just came across this post on Racked NY, which explains that at least in Grand Central, what is now shuttered will soon be opening as something new.)