Well, it's not the actual Hotel Chelsea that's endangered. The landmarked 1883 building isn't going anywhere, but, unfortunately, we can't say the same for its retail tenants. The winds of change have been blowing through its fabled halls, most notably with the much written about ouster of the Bard family from their management role of over half a decade at the iconic bohemian residence. Living With Legends, a blog specifically about the hotel has obsessively chronicled life for the tenants upstairs, who are justifiably concerned about life after the end of the Bard's "pay-when-you-can" policy, but here at The Shophound, we are concerned with the fates of the several shops at street level. Part of the building's seedy charm has existed in the motley collection of shops that populate its facade, but we're betting that their days are sadly numbered.
Capitol Fishing Tackle has already been forced out by a board-ordered rent increase, and rumors have the hotel's new management, BD Hotels, actively pursuing a bank for the space. While we have to admit that a modest fishing tackle store might have been increasingly less vital to Chelsea life, we can't imagine that yet another bank will add anything to the neighborhood
Since the hotel's board is playing the sort of speculative rent-raising game that has emptied out 8th street and parts of Greenwich Avenue, we don't have to wonder much what the future might hold for the rest of the businesses there, although a look at the other stores on the same block of 23rd street suggests that despite Chelsea's escalating real estate value, the rest of this particular stretch isn't attracting shops that are any fancier. They are neighborhood-type stores, with The Gap at 23rd and Eighth representing the only national chain. Designer boutiques are decidedly not flocking to 23rd street between 7th and 8th Avenues, and we aren't sure that the Chelsea Hotel will be the catalyst for an upgrade, since it hasn't exactly played that role in the past. We are guessing that BD Hotels, which also manages The Maritime, The Mercer and other boutique hotels is just itching to get a buzz generating restaurant into the hotel, an integral part of their standard formula. If they do, it will be the only one on this block since Krispy Kreme packed it in.
Let's consider the prospects of some of the hotel's other shops. Be warned. Our entirely unscientific and speculative guesses don't look pretty.
◊ Chelsea Healing Acupuncture & Herbs
Considering that the space next door is already looks empty, the prospects look a little weak. We are guessing that when their lease is up, BD will combine the spaces in hopes of getting a bigger tenant.
◊ Chelsea Moving & Storage & Rising Dragon Tattoos
Frankly it seems pretty obvious that the moving company should be looking to move itself.
The tattoo parlor, on the other hand, while inherently seedy, seems to complement the hotel's bohemian image so well. It would be sad to see it shoved aside for something bland and upscale...but we probably will.
◊ Balabanis Tailor Shop
A small, family run business with a loyal following of customers who know how hard it is to find a skillful tailor. Their shop might just be small enough to escape an exorbitant rent increase.
◊ Dan's Chelsea Guitars
Here we have a shop that is almost as iconic as its landlord. It certainly speaks to the artistic history of the location. Whether or not BD recognizes it is another question. We don't know what their rent is, but if it is vulnerable, it could possibly be saved with a campaign by celebrity musician clients.
If there are any.
◊ El Quijote
The most likely prospect for survival. High kitsch factor keeps it busy, and it's sign and awning may be protected as part of the buiding exterior's landmark status. We expect to pass under it for some time to come.