While fancy restaurants and boutiques have always been a part of the Village retail scene, a new collection of stores opening near the busy West 4th Street train station on Sixth Avenue are aiming for a clientele that would sooner buy a bottle of Chardonnay or a chocolate mousse than a new glass pipe or rolling papers.
“The smoke shops and those kinds of places will probably diminish as times go on because rents are so high and they won’t be able to afford that,” said April Summars, senior vice president of retail leasing at New York Commercial Real Estate Services.
Summars, who has been in commercial real estate for four years, said an aspiring proprietor could find space for less than $100 a square foot in the area several years ago. Now, she said rent could be around $150 a square foot, but has seen prices reach at least double that amount.
“I don’t think they can do that kind of volume,” she said, referring to the usual Sixth Avenue retail fair. “That’s a lot of tattoos.”
Alexis Castillo-Quezada, a Peru-born sommelier and manager of La Vid on 315 Sixth Ave., said customers have noticed the area’s shift in retail options. The store opened in May, where a Subway sandwich franchise once operated.
“It's definitely something different than what's been on this block and people keep stopping in to tell us that," he said.
A few doors down from La Vid is Fay Da Bakery, popular chain offering Chinese treats that opened up a West Village location at 321 Sixth Ave. this year.
Joseph Robinson, vice president of Bond New York, which handled the Fay Da Bakery deal, said the company wanted to tap into the foot traffic that spills out of the West 4th Street train station.
“It’s still is an area, at night, that has a little bit of that roughness,” Robinson said. “But what they saw — what we’re all seeing — is that there are more tourists and more people shuffling through there to get places [elsewhere] in the West Side.”
William Kelley, executive director of Village Alliance, a business improvement district, said he has seen tattoo parlors and gift shops make way for new restaurants like Soto and Joy Burger Bar, both on Sixth Avenue between West 4th Street and Washington Place.
“You see a natural progression of business types” as commercial rent increases, Kelley said. “This area [of Sixth Avenue] has been one of the last to change, but it’s happening as well.”