By the way, do these photos look a little grainy to you? Maybe the 7 would take better ones? Screw it, I’m jumping in line. Send pizza. Or Whole Foods.
It seems silly now to imagine that some of us groused about the opening of a “Mini-Mall” in the Realform Girdle Building– it just seemed so yuppie-ish and suburban and right there on Bedford and North 5th, like the places we’d escaped to get to New York. If you can image, “gentrification” wasn’t yet a watchword.
But by 2001, along with the Verb Café (RIP, well sorta– there’s a Verb 2.0 in Greenpoint) and the Internet Garage (read: before email was on your phone, you’d stop by here to “Get high on speed!!!11” as their Facebook page advises), you could stop by Mikey’s Hookup and play ping pong while picking up a guitar cord.
The dream of the ’90s is alive on Bedford Avenue.
Williamsburg recently got Soho-esque retailers like Levi’s, G-Star, Scotch & Soda, and Ralph Lauren, but they’ve all been on side streets. Which makes it notable that Dr. Martens, the once favored boot brand of punk rockers and grunge poseurs, is coming to the main strip. The DM logo is now up at 193 Bedford Avenue, the long vacant Tasti D-Lite space that briefly housed the Lola Star holiday pop-up. A Dr. Martens rep tells us there’s no hard date yet, but the store should open “most likely end of February.”
It was one of the last vestiges of a bygone Williamsburg– a grungy, cavernous little coffee shop with worn-down wood floors and a lifetime of coffee grounds seemingly plastered onto every surface. Verb Cafe, which opened in 1999, was nothing fancy– no one went there to get a pour-over or fawn over bespoke beans with tasting notes. But when the place closed in June 2014, there was more than a bit of sadness (which was compounded when life imitated every joke ever told about Brooklyn hipsters and the coffee shop was replaced by an artisanal soap boutique with handmade, organic cupcake soap).
Schmackary’s, a Hell’s Kitchen cookie shop that has enough of a cult following that it’s the subject of a BuzzFeed list, is the latest Manhattan spot to open on (or just off of) Bedford Avenue. The cookie shop joins Meatball Shop, Dos Toros, Umami Burger, Sweetgreen, Davey’s Ice Cream, Joe’s Pizza, The Bean, and soon Gunz and Parm in turning Williamsburg’s main drag into a mini Manhattan.
With hotels, Airbnbs, and gifty boutiques popping up all over Williamsburg to serve an influx of out-of-towners, one has to wonder: how many people strolling Bedford Avenue at a given time are locals, and how many are tourists? To answer that question, we posted up outside of the Bedford station and polled over 300 passersby. Our findings: 1 in 3 people we spoke to were from outside of New York City (about half of those visitors were Europeans), while just 1 in 4 of them actually lived in Williamsburg. As one of Williamsburg’s many French tourists might say: “Mon dieu!”