Speaking of J.Crew (or rather TV on the Radio was speaking of them), Lavai Maria is leaving Williamsburg after five years, and its owner says a new breed of local shopper is to blame.
“I’m moving because of the changes in the neighborhood,” Vania Scharbach told us just hours before she’ll close Lavai Maria on North 5th Street, where everything is 50 percent off today.
Scharbach has already set up shop in Greenpoint, where the dressmaker keeps her studio. The store at 121 Nassau Avenue has been open for a handful months.
Now, with a rent hike in the cards once its lease expires, the Williamsburg store is calling it a day. “There’s no more artists,” Scharbach says of the neighborhood. “My designs and the vintage clothing I carry is very much for people who are more alternative, and the new customer in Williamsburg is… I don’t know how to say it, I don’t want to be rude, but they’re not into trying new things — they’d rather get an outfit that’s readymade for them rather than collect cool things and make an outfit themselves.”
Ah, the perils of normcore.
When we spoke to the manager at the soap store that’s opening on Bedford Avenue, she expressed optimism about the high volume of tourist traffic in Williamsburg. But Scharbach said she hasn’t been reaping the rewards of all that — at least, not lately. “The people who’d shop at my store are not around anymore — including the tourists,” she said. “I see many more young mothers with strollers and people who’d shop at J.Crew much more than the cool Japanese tourists I got before.”
That demographic is unlikely to change once a Whole Foods opens a block away.
Lavai Maria, which got its start at Artists & Fleas vendor and opened its first store in the Bedford Avenue mini mall in 2009, is only the latest Williamsburger — after Academy Annex, Flying Squirrel, Triskelion Arts, and Beacon’s Closet — to make the move to Greenpointier pastures.