Gem Spa is Gone, Long Live Corporate America
The corner of St Marks Place and 2nd Ave has been claimed to be the birthplace of the New York City-style egg cream, a store stood there since the 1920s, and in the 1950s it came to be known as Gem Spa. A “nerve center” of the city, as Allen …
The corner of St Marks Place and 2nd Ave has been claimed to be the birthplace of the New York City-style egg cream, a store stood there since the 1920s, and in the 1950s it came to be known as Gem Spa. A “nerve center” of the city, as Allen Ginsberg would call it, Gem Spa, has been closed permanently after being a gathering place for the counterculture of the East Village for decades.
In the 1960s, Gem Spa, was known as a “hippie hangout” and after that, in the late 70s, it turned into a punk landmark. Gem Spa is featured on the back cover of the first album by the New York Dolls. Featured in Allen Ginsberg and Ted Berrigan’s poetry, and in one of the main works of Basquiat.
The closing of Gem Spa after years of financial struggle is a symbol of the latest transformation of New York and its people. COVID19 was just the final blow for Gem Spa as it will be for many legendary local businesses. After all Shake Shack, which is one block away, did qualify for a government grant but Gem Spa didn’t. Latest owner Parul Patel stated for the Eater: “The neighborhood that appreciates old New York is not here. This neighborhood is all young professionals. They want everything beautiful. They want everything new.” And she’s sadly right. We will have Shake Shack and Starbucks for decades to come, and I’m sure that’ll make a lot of people happy; but not the ones that came to New York, like me, looking for the vibrant energy that defined the city’s history of counterculture.
After years of struggling with skyrocketing rents, new Starbuckses and hipster coffee shops in every corner of the East Village, Gem Spa comes to a close, bringing almost a hundred years of history to an end. And with it one of the last remaining symbols of counterculture in the East Village. The undeniable complete take over of corporate America over Manhattan is now more unstoppable than ever, COVID will take down whatever resistance small business could give.
We bid farewell to one of the last symbols of counterculture in the city by showcasing the great Art it inspired through the decades. Farewell Gem Spa, you will be missed.