Part of becoming a “local” of any certain neighborhood is having the longevity of residence enough to have seen a business come and go. When the shutters go up and the metal guard door comes down, you can begin to say to yourself, “Man this place has changed,” or “People just don’t appreciate cured meats like they used to,” or the ever popular, “This neighborhood is SO over.”
Then as is the case in every neighborhood, there’s that one spot where businesses turn over and die like fruit flies cross bred with lemmings. No matter what goes in there, no matter how much money people throw at it, it’s a guaranteed bet that it’ll be closing up shop in under six months.
Places like this are the best because it’s like watching a person’s over-inflated ego and over-estimated intellect shrivel up in stop motion photography. Like Koyaanisqatsi, only instead of buildings and bugs you get to watch the slow desperation of a person’s dream wither in the elevated train perforated sunlight.
I’ve got one of these places in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Nestled snug in the confines of Bushwick, skirting the fleeing masses of hipster refugees, it’s been my great pleasure to watch this particular location change owners at least six times over two and a half years. I only bring it up now, because I feel like it has finally found its niche, a business with staying power, but more on that later.
The space is a generous one, about two thousand square feet with floor to ceiling windows and a non-descript awning above it that’s been painted more times than Mao. As I said before it’s changed hands so many times that to fully document the place’s history would take more time than I have this morning, so I’ll just highlight my three favorite.
Incarnation #1: Consignment Store
Good Idea Factor (GIF): 2/5
This place opened up at around month six of my having moved to the neighborhood. Years of personal neglect and disinterest have helped me forget what was there before. Regardless, you can’t imagine my joy when I first walked by the spot and noticed racks and racks of old clothing.
Opened up by a particularly hipster-ish local, someone thought that in a neighborhood filled with bargain stores where the median price of a tee shirt is $.25 and some camel cash, that people would flock to buy musty prom jackets.
Personally I loved it, I would rummage through the racks searching endlessly for some tiny sized tee with a funny chest print. The only problem of course being that the only ones I could find were mass groups of 1988 Mets shirts pit stained enough to force track mark visions in your head and even I’m not that ironic.
It lasted about four months and disappeared in the middle of the night, like a political prisoner, hauled through the tunnels of stupidity to moron city.
Incarnation #2: The BK Mini Mall
Good Idea Factor (GIF): 4/5
The BK mini mall didn’t just appear over night, it was like an evolution. In the beginning there was only a street vendor, and then the street vendor crawled out of the primordial sun glass ooze and split in two forming a twin who sold low grade electronics and dollar batteries that last twenty five minutes before you have to put them in the refrigerator for a week just so you can get your TV off of the Spanish channel.
Eventually the entire location was filled with a weekly revolving cast of businesses. For a while things looked good, there was even a stretch of a few months where there were three barber chairs set up and Ice Cube cried in his sleep. On the weekends they’d plug in a giant speaker right outside of the door and people would hang out, barbecue and listen to what was actually some really great music.
Alas, the party could not last forever and when the video game machines came in and the durag merchant went out, I knew it was only a matter of time. In a week the Mini Mall was gone, leaving behind only a giant graffiti mural on the metal guard door: Two anime styled cartoon faces of what I assumed were the founders of the Mini Mall, or perhaps their spiritual leaders. I miss that place.
Incarnation #3: The NO Gallery
Good Idea Factor (GIF): -3/5
Assume you’re a wealthy hipster who thinks she’s an artist. You’ve got about $50,000 that you just freed up from your trust fund after a shouting match with Daddy’s lawyer and you just have no idea how to waste it. What do you do?
Why you go and rent out a giant space where you can put up a collection of the worst splatter art your friends keep telling you is art because they don’t want to hurt your feelings and then just hang out there with your Billyburg Che-clone buddies and play acoustic guitar while telling yourselves how awesome this is going to be for the “neighborhood.”
Then you should die via strangulation via high tension electrical wire via me.
The NO Art Gallery was just that, a NO. Everything was wrong about it, and when I walked by their big opening one night, on my way home from some bar some night some time ago, I laughed on the outside and cried on the inside for the demise of reason. There were ten people inside, five wearing tweed blazers that might have come from the Consignment shop.
It stuck around until Mom and Pop came around and beat the hell out their daughter for putting vomit on canvas and tearing holes in them to make them “mixed media.” Or at least that’s what I’d like to think happen. In all honesty, they probably just lost interest.
There was much jubilation.
In it’s most recent and what I believe could be the final incarnation of the Mini Mall (as it’ll always be known to me), a liquor store has moved in. It’s bright, it’s clean and it’s right across the street from another liquor store.
The installation of such a business brings all my hypocritical thinking of my neighborhood to a pretty harsh light. While I’m against the rapid soulless gentrification that’s happened to the north of us, something like a liquor store just seems like a move in the wrong direction. Though I’m sure all my complaints about moves in the other leaves me little ground to stand on.
The one thing that I do know, however, is that’s one less block I have to cross when I need supplies for my next movie review. Hopefully it’ll stick around until Vin Diesel’s next film.