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East Village Institution Gem Spa Closes Permanently

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The nearly 100-year-old shop can no longer sustain itself, the family who owns it says

A black and white photo of a storefront saying Gem Spa
A historic photo of Gem Spa
Gem Spa [Official]

After months of struggles and rounds of social media campaigns, legendary East Village shop Gem Spa has announced that it will permanently close. In a press release, the Patel family, which currently owns the shop, said while business appeared unsustainable before the crisis, the novel coronavirus shutdown “ultimately sealed the fate of our (close to) 100-year-old shop.”

Though the store at the corner of 131 2nd Ave. and St Marks Place will close, the family will still be running an online store that sells Gem Spa merchandise, plus art and books inspired by the store. For years, it was a favorite of the neighborhood’s artists, poets, and punk rock musicians.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision, and one we are heartbroken to make,” the announcement says.

It’s been a rocky year for the 1920s era newsstand where New York City’s egg cream was reportedly born. In August last year, the shop announced that it was cutting back on items like newspapers and magazines and that it had lost its lottery and cigarette license, and more than 80 percent of its revenue along with.

Parul Patel, who took over the business from her father Ray, has been working for months to get the store some traction on social media, but only with limited success. Frenchette chef Riad Nasr took to Instagram last fall to plead with Instagram influencers to draw crowds and attention to the corner spot.

The family also started selling t-shirts with the iconic yellow sign, which has been on album art and in movies such as Desperately Seeking Susan. Shirts and hats from Gem Spa quickly became a must-have among the artists and designers who felt special connections to the store.

Still, it hasn’t been enough. In the time since the shutdown, Patel has tried contacting celebrities like Madonna, Patti Smith, and Helen Mirren on social media but to no avail, a spokesperson for Gem Spa tells Eater.