Disappearing New York: The Case of the Missing Watch Repair Shop
Like most of us who live and work in the city, it’s hard to imagine living or working anywhere else. I, myself, have struggled with this for many years. Where would I go if I left? Alas, I can think of no other city, at least in the U.S., that provides the culture, the depth of interest, or the excitement that New York City offers. And so we hold on….
But faced with exorbitantly rising rents and shrinking income, small business owners in the city are too often forced with making a ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ to either pull up stakes and move, or to close operations entirely. Such was the case with Walter Dikarev’s Watch repair shop on West 10th.
Walter’s Antique Clock and Watch was a neighborhood staple in the West Village for the past 20 years. An immigrant from the former Soviet Union, he came to the United States over 40 years ago to start a new life and became a self-described “patriot in America.” Setting up shop on West 10th Street between Hudson and Bleecker, he served the neighborhood’s time-piece needs while acting as a kind of a watchdog for the street and a familiar place where neighbors would stop in to chat. So impressed were we by Walter’s store and story that in March of 2017 we named Walter’s shop a Business of the Month. But late last year when his rent was raised yet again, Walter saw no other recourse than to retire after plugging away for 20 years.
Christopher Ming Ryan, a communications expert and filmmaker, has recently taken to the streets of New York to document what he describes as “Disappearing New York.” A native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Chris has been watching the drastic changes in our neighborhoods for many years. Christopher visited Walter not long before the shop closed. His video is a loving tribute to the small store and to the character of Walter Dikarev.
What can we do to help our small business community? One sure way is to support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA). GVSHP has long called for the City Council to hear and pass this bill which would help small businesses to be able to negotiate long-term leases with landlords. GVSHP recently penned an op-ed calling for the new City Council to finally move ahead with considering the bill. In recent days, new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has reiterated his commitment to allow a hearing on the bill in the City Council, which would be a huge step forward.
Here’s one way you can help: Urge City Officials to Support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) and Help Small Businesses by sending a letter to city officials in support.
Off the Grid is filled with great stories about our neighborhoods’ small businesses. Please visit!
And here is a handy map of all of our Businesses of the Month: