Greenwich Village's fabled charm is getting squeezed away block by block. Avignone Chemists, a bright, stalwart Village fixture at the corner of Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue since 1929, is closing to avoid a tripling of its monthly rent.
This is not surprising news, sadly, but it begs the question: Is there any future for a charming independently owned retail establishment in a nice neighborhood? Avignone's impending closure follows similar stories about beloved neighborhood haunts like the now closed Manatus Restaurant on Bleecker and Bonnie Slotnick's famous cookbook store being pushed out by landlords (usually brand new ones) who are swift to kick out longtime tenants in favor of potentially finding higher paying tenants —even if that means months or even years of empty storefronts before such a tenant is found. Slotnick's small but unique business was saved at the last minute by a fan who happened to be willing to rent her a suitable space at a suitable rate, but most businesses are not so lucky.
Avignone's current owner, Abe Lerner, who has run the store for the past 30 years, claims that his entire block is now owned by one company, Force Capital Management, which seems to think it can find better use for the 1,700 square foot space. "I've spent half my life here," Lerner tells DNAinfo. "I've known many of these people for 30 years; I've seen a lot of kids grow up. A lot of these people have become friends — they're not just customers, they're friends."
Lerner has until April 30th to vacate the space, and while he hopes to move to a new location as close to the old one as possible, though finding an affordable one in the immediate vicinity seems unlikely. Potential tenants at 281 Sixth Avenue are reportedly being offered the space for $60,000 per month. No word yet on any potential takers.