Written By: Maria Diaz and Celine Gouvin | Interviews By: Jacob Warhuus
(Content originally published on chelseanow.com)
Have you walked up and down the streets of Chelsea lately and been surprised to notice that a familiar storefront business is no longer there? At the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC), we know the stories of Manhattan’s ever-changing small business community. Over the last few months, we have taken a step back to evaluate and recognize what we love most about our corner of this city. Without a doubt, it’s the vibrancy and the entrepreneurial spirit of our restaurants, shops, and entertainment destinations — too many of which have disappeared.
With longtime establishments such as The City Quilter and XES Lounge having closed over the last year, we recently spoke with a few GVCCC members to find out what concerns they had about keeping their doors open. Common themes that came up included a prohibitive increase in rent, the inability to renew leases, and the various regulations placed upon our businesses. For some, these issues are insurmountable. Others have been able to thrive because of the unique energy, product, or service they provide to Chelsea — and in celebration of that, we wanted to share their stories.
ZEN BIKES | The name is a perfect fit for this lifestyle bike shop. Coming up on seven years in business, the welcoming environment created by owner John Keoshgerian and his staff has resonated with a diverse customer base — so much so that in 2016, TimeOut New York named Zen among NYC’s top three best bike shops. Their profile has also been bolstered by many five-star reviews on Yelp.
While these successes are measureable accomplishments, what means the most to Zen is that their customers feel comfortable. Shopping for the perfect bike or the right gear can be a stressful experience, but Keoshgerian and his employees are there to answer any questions rather than pressure customers to make a purchase. Zen Bikes is a friendly place focused on the education of their customers. They provide niche products and services to Chelsea — including the “zen” we can all use in our New York days.
Zen Bikes is located at 134 W. 24th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Hours: Mon.–Sat., 10am–7pm. and Sat./Sun., 10am–6pm. Visit zenbikes.com.
D PET HOTELS CHELSEA | What’s a neighborhood without a local place for pampering? Just don’t expect to find too many human clients here! At this hotel, the staff is always at the ready to make your furry little friend’s experience an amazing one. From doga (dog yoga) to recreation areas for your pet to skateboard in, D Pet Hotels Chelsea has a wonderful facility that will make you feel at ease about dropping off your pet. Kerry Brown and her husband, Chris Skowlund, opened the hotel in 2012 and are extremely proud of the connection to the community they have forged. They consider staff family and love that they can be a source of employment to locals.
D Pet Hotels Chelsea is located at 104 W. 27th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Call 646-478-7877 or visit chelsea.dpethotels.com.
LA MANO POTTERY | Coming to La Mano Pottery in the heart of such a modern city isn’t just a means of escape — it’s a way to participate in an ancient skill that merges the practical with the artistic. Fifteen years ago, as students of the craft, co-founders Diane Waller, Julie Hadley and Peggy Clarke realized that it was not only their love for pottery that brought them together, but the desire to create an artistic community. The studio boasts hundreds of customers that range from beginners to independent artists who use the space to create their art. After spending their first decade on W. 18th St., La Mano moved to their present location. Converting what was previously, since 1925, an electrical company, they have created a welcoming space very unlike the traditional setup one thinks of when imagining a pottery studio. La Mano offers a full range of classes for adults and children, including introductory workshops, silver clay workshops, and private lessons. And why is it that they chose Chelsea? It’s the energy of the neighborhood and its central location that allows their customers (and the business itself) to break the mold by creating something personal, unique, and built to last.
La Mano Pottery is located at 110 W. 26th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Hours: Mon.–Fri., 12–9pm and Sat. & Sun., 12–6pm. Call 212-627-9450 or visit lamanopottery.com. La Mano’s sister studio, Mud Matters, is located at 654 10th Ave., at W. 46th St. Hours: 12–9pm Tues./Fri., and 12–6pm Wed., Thurs., Sat. & Sun. Call 212-974-9121 or visit mudmatters.com.
DIMITRIOS FURS NYC, LLC | This fourth generation business is a familiar pillar in Chelsea, having provided beautiful furs to our community since 1937. The Dimitrios family emigrated from Kastoria, Greece during a time when there was an influx of Greek presence in NYC. Although the store’s location has changed throughout their history, Dimitrios Furs has held their W. 30th St. storefront for the past five and a half years. The current owner, Peter Dimitrios, notes that his retail store is not just in the business of selling new coats and providing upkeep for customer favorites. He describes it as “an establishment that promotes loyalty and professionalism that is hard to find in other niche areas of the retail space.” Loyalty among Dimitrios’ regulars is something that the family holds close to their heart.
The proudest accomplishment for Peter has been maintaining positivity and longevity. “Keeping the family business going gives both strength to the individual but also the family,” he said. It has not been an easy task to compete in the shrinking market — but this storefront business, innovative in the creation of coat modifications, has managed to retain their longtime customer base while welcoming new clients from the influx of nearby bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Dimitrios Furs is located at 150 W. 30th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Call 212-695-8469 or email email@example.com.
Through these unique businesses, it is clear that Chelsea is thriving with commerce — commerce that provides loyalty, community, and a unique flair that comes from those of us who wouldn’t want to live, or work, anywhere else.