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Small Businesses Near St. Vincent's Keep Closing Down

By DNAinfo Staff on February 9, 2011 8:26pm  | Updated on February 10, 2011 6:30am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — It's going to be a bittersweet Valentine's Day in the Village, where many small businesses are preparing for a first holiday without a very important loved one — the now shuttered St. Vincent's Hospital.

It's been nine months since the hospital closed its doors, and the economic picture for businesses in the once-vibrant triangle bounded by 14th Street, Greenwich Avenue, and Sixth and Eighth Avenues, remains remarkably bleak.

The thousands of doctors, patients, family members and support staff that the hospital brought to the neighborhood were once the beating heart of these shops' clientele. In their absence, for sale signs and darkened windows now blight every block.

"The neighborhood is devastated," said Nicky Perry, owner of Tea & Sympathy at 108 Greenwich Ave. "We have just lost so much."

This Saturday, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (CVCCC) hope to give these businesses a boost.

During the special "Valentine for the Village" event, anyone who spends $10 in total at three different businesses in the triangle can bring their receipts to the LGBT Community Center and earn a raffle ticket (or several) toward prizes from vendors including the Roasting Plant and Partners and Magnolia Bakery. The first 100 participants will get free "I Love the Village" t-shirts.

"When you lose a huge source of patronage like [St. Vincent's], it's hard to replace it," GVCCC Executive Director Lauren Danziger said. "It takes a lot of awareness to make people realize that … your dollar can create a local economy. It does make a difference."

Businesses owners said Wednesday that they were desperate for the added foot traffic.

Right in the shadow of St. Vincent's, at the intersection of Seventh and Greenwich, a loss of profits at West Village Florist means that the inventory of flowers this Valentine's Day was 30 to 40 percent lower than in years past, manager Kate Park said.

Plenty of mainstays such as long-stemmed roses and arrangements are still available. But the shop now stocked fewer orchids, or lilacs in colors other than white, Park said. They also now pass on high-end flowers such as French ranunculus and tulips.

"We try to be optimistic," Park said. "Everybody's trying."

At Tea & Sympathy, which is widely known for its traditional English fare, business is down 20 percent. Perry said she has had to cut shifts and payroll, change her employee health care system and raise prices.

And yet, she calls herself one of the lucky ones — all she has to do is point out her window, next door and across the street, to begin rattling off some of roughly 50 area businesses she said have shuttered.

Recent victims include Caravansary, a Christmas shop where packages wrapped in metallic red still rest in the window. Stationer and gift shop Alphabets lasted 16 years at 47 Greenwich Ave., but closed its doors a few weeks ago.

Even praise from GOOP blogger Gwyneth Paltrow couldn't save kid-centric eatery Sweetiepie, at 19 Greenwich Ave., from its demise in the fall.

Next door to Sweetiepie, at the Firestore (which specializes in FDNY and NYPD related apparel), owner Noam Freedman said the only reason his business wasn't on the brink of closure was that their landlord was willing to negotiate a 20 percent rent deferral.

Sales at the Firestore are down 10 percent, Freedman said, which put them in tough shape but better off than many neighbors. This year, the 10th anniversary of September 11 and the summer's World Police and Fire Games would help sales, but in the long term, Freedman, a lifelong New Yorker, is worried.

"I've never seen the Village in this kind of shape," he said. "Shop local. There should be a slogan going across New York — use it or lose it."

"Valentine for the Village" runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The offer is valid for purchases at any business in the triangle between 14th St., Sixth and Eighth Avenues and Greenwich Avenue.