Sadly, another local institution has announced they are closing. After 36 years in business, St. Mark’s Comics will close at the end of February. Although St. Mark’s is not dead, it is easy to feel like New York City is losing more of its character and charm when hearing such news. But all hope is not lost — there could be some good news on the horizon soon for small businesses.
St. Mark’s Comics was an almost sacred destination for many New Yorkers. Although there was a similarly jam-packed local comic shop where I lived in The Bronx, Jimmy’s Comics on Castle Hill Avenue, a visit to St. Mark’s was always special. I still would go there peridodically, sure to find a gift for someone of any age.
In a brief interview with EV Grieve, Cutler cited a variety of factors, including increasing rents and changing consumer shopping habits, as the reasons for their decision to close. “I have been working 90 hours a week for 36 years, and I no longer have the wherewithal to fight them — all of these various reasons,” he said. “It is challenging to have a storefront business in New York City for a number of reasons…it is challenging to keep and maintain a retail storefront and there are enough impediments now that—like I said, I’m exhausted and can’t fight them anymore.” This article here has more information on the business and the neighborhood. They are still open for now with everything on sale, so make a last visit or two soon!
We do however have more recourse than just bemoaning such losses. GVSHP is working in a number of ways to support small businesses. Here’s two ways you can help:
Special Retail District
GVSHP and allied community groups are working to get support from Community Board 3 for a proposal to create an East Village Special Zoning District to Protect Small Businesses and Discourage Chain Stores. Sign the petition here.
New chain stores would be limited or prohibited in all or part of the proposed area. Grocery stores, supermarkets, and existing chain stores would not be affected. We are working hard to see the proposal is adopted and covers as much of the proposed area as possible.
Chain stores take dollars out of the community. Many landlords seek higher rents only national corporations can afford, so small independent businesses can’t rent space. Chain stores take away from the unique character of our neighborhood.
If you support a Special District in the East Village that will help protect our unique character, reduce the growth of big box and chain stores, and allow smaller local shops to have a better chance to serve our community and protect local jobs, then sign the petition here. GVSHP created a bilingual flyer for outreach you can see here. If we are successful in the East Village, where there is an existing independent merchant’s association that has supported such measures, we hope to be able to pursue it in other parts of our neighborhood as well.
Small Business Jobs Survival Act
The Small Business Jobs Survival Act will help even the playing field and give small businesses a greater opportunity to remain in place and secure reasonable rents they can afford. The bill is fair, and allows the market to determine rents while protecting tenants from gouging and discourages the warehousing of commercial space. Without such action, we will likely only see the rate of loss of small businesses in our neighborhoods accelerate beyond the already disturbing pace.
Thanks to Speaker Corey Johnson, the bill finally received an all day hearing after many years of being stifled by the previous Council leadership. The bill has 30 sponsors from every borough in the City. We and other advocates are working closely with the Speaker and the City Council to move the bill forward and ensure it is effective in protecting small businesses. You can show your support and send an email to every City Council member urging them to support the bill by going here.