Striving to get the ‘bleak’ out of Bleecker St.

Author: Maria Diaz

Even successful chain retailers like Steve Madden are having a hard time making it on Bleecker St. The shoe giant’s location at 355 Bleecker St. is only open weekends now and is slated to close by year’s end. Photo by The Villager

Bleecker St. has unfortunately become the poster child for empty storefronts in an era of hardship for brick-and-mortar retailers amid skyrocketing rents and ever-growing online competition.

To try to reverse the trend, the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce has launched #ShopBleecker, a local revitalization project to “restore the community” this holiday season.

The month-long holiday shopping event running all of November aims to reinvigorate Bleecker St. and the surrounding neighborhoods by encouraging consumers to support retailers along and around the 20-block stretch of Bleecker.

There are in-store events and special deals and discounts. The chamber is also activating empty storefronts with a number of short-term business leases and pop-up stores. The basic goal is to increase foot traffic and get more dollars flowing to local businesses.

With roughly 38 empty retail storefronts between Eighth Ave. and the Bowery, Bleecker St. has a sizable 14 percent vacancy rate.

On Nov. 1, there was a kickoff party for local businesses and their clientele. The chamber also organized a street-wide cleaning effort, repairing tree pits and decorating for the holiday season.

The main event, however, is Sat., Nov. 18, which will see a series of events for the whole family, including yoga classes, in-store events, samplings, giveaways and raffles, kids events in Bleecker Playground and a walking tour with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation that will highlight the rich history of Bleecker St.

State Senator Brad Hoylman is a strong supporter of the effort.

“We cannot allow market forces to run roughshod over Bleecker St. any longer,” he said. “By drawing attention to local retailers, filling vacant stores with active temporary businesses, and utilizing new technological innovations to reduce vacancy rates, G.V.C.C.C.’s #ShopBleecker will push back on high-rent blight and help resuscitate one of New York’s most vibrant and historically relevant streets.”

In terms of how the raffles work, shoppers should hold onto their receipts from any of the participating businesses, and take these to 359 Bleecker St. throughout the month. The amount spent determines the number of raffle tickets a person earns: Every $50 spent equals one raffle ticket. Shoppers can pick which raffle-prize packages they want. Raffle winners will be drawn on Nov. 18 and Nov. 30.

For more information about events and participating merchants, visit shopbleecker.nyc