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Small Business Roundtable: Support, Protect, and Shop!

Small businesses have been on everyone’s mind, and it’s no secret that Village Preservation is working hard to support our local small businesses — from our Small Business/Big History campaign, to our work supporting the ‘Save Our Storefronts’ Legislation for Small Business Relief, to our ongoing Businesses of the Month program, and much more

Recently, our Programming team jumped into the fray, hosting an event to amplify the voices and experiences of small business owners in our neighborhood. We learned so much, told stories, and shared perspectives on what’s most important to small business owners — among many other things, community, kindness, patience, flexibility, and of course, support. The stories of struggle are real, while also tempered by stories of community members, employees, and others coming together, paying it forward, and of course enjoying the delights of gifts, books, herbs, coffee, folk art, and chocolate, among many other things. Shop local!

Watch the video of our event here, and learn more about the shops we featured below! 

In order of appearance at the event: 

Exit 9 Gift Emporium: Take Fun Seriously!

The mission at Exit9 is to bring flavor to the neighborhood, and fun, joy, diversion, and even a little diversity to daily life. They curate all the gifts, books, toys, cards, and novelties with this in mind. Their East Village shop at 51 Avenue A between E3rd and E4th was established in 1995. 

According to their website: “Every morning when we unlock and roll up the steel gates, we know that, along with our fellow small businesses nearby, we are keeping up the vibe! This makes us proud. Shop with us and you are keeping your neighborhood vibrant and tapping into the history of New York City as a place where independent storefronts are a block by block expression of the uniqueness of our inclusive big city.

Owner Charles Branstool, looking good and hydrating at the same time!

In 2010, The Village Voice named Exit 9 Gift Emporium in the “Best of NYC” as New York City’s “Best Place to Buy Spur-of-the-Moment, Inexpensive Gifts for Virtually Anyone.” 

You can shop in store (safety measures are being taken!) or online at www.shopexit9.com

Flower Power: organically cultivated herbs, roots, flowers, leaves, & seeds

Flower Power Herbs & Roots Inc. Photo courtesy of Judy’s Book.

Flower Power does exactly what its name might imply: it brings health and strength through plants that are used for teas, infusions, decoctions, cooking, aromatherapy, bath, and body care, just to name a few of their applications. Their inventory list is huge, and made for both connoisseurs and newbies to the world of plant and holistic healing. The staff and apprentice herbalists are always on hand to help navigate the flowers. 

The store’s owner and resident Wise Woman/Flower Shaman, Lata Chettri-Kennedy, is a knowledgeable and quality-driven herbalist who shared her experiences and ideas with us, and shared her experiences giving healing and empowerment to the neighborhood, including healthcare workers looking for immunity boosters and other remedies and fortifications for their work during the pandemic.  

Proprietor Lata Chettri-Kennedy behind the counter.

You can find Flower Power at 406 East 9th Street, between Ave A and 1st Ave, as well as at Essex Market, and in Piermont, NY. Whether it’s a gift for yourself or someone else, healing and care is always a good way! You can order online at flowerpower.net, or call them at 212-982-6664, they’re open for pickup and in-store shopping (with safety measures). 

Left Bank Books: Curated First Edition and Used Books for All! 

If you remember the old version of the shop, which closed its doors in 2016 after nearly 25 years, you know that Left Bank Books was an old-school, neighborhood used bookshop. This new shop on Perry Street and its accompanying online shop is a more focused version of the original, with an emphasis on used and rare books that speak to the culture in a fresh, sometimes irreverent way. LBB strongly identifies with the artistic and cultural heritage of the Village, NYC’s “Left Bank,” and work everyday reimagining what a small, well-curated Village bookshop can be.

The new Left Bank (opened spring 2019) sits on a historic tree-lined block of Perry Street between West 4th Street and Waverly Place. The bookshop showcases an eclectic selection from the 20th and 21st centuries (and occasionally earlier), encompassing literature, art, film, photography, fashion, architecture, design, music, theater, dance, children’s books, and New York City. They host occasional events and exhibits, making them a destination for seasoned collectors, emerging enthusiasts, and curious newcomers the world over.

By permission of Left Bank Books LLC, Image by Michael Bucher at www.bucherphotography.com

Shop online or in-store (with safety measures), and as they say, books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them! 

La Sirena: Mexican Folk Art and the Village’s Smallest Storefront! 

Dina Lehon, outside her eclectic shop.

In November 1999, Dina Leor opened “La Sirena” (which means “The Mermaid” in Spanish), a folk art store that reflects the beauty and richness of Mexico. “La Sirena” is filled with arts and crafts from many regions of Mexico, from museum-quality pieces to traditional marketplace merchandise in all price ranges. At our event, Dina showed us several Christmas tree ornaments! 

Much of the work sold at La Sirena is crafted by families whose traditions have been handed down from generation to generation –families whose lives, are in a way, living art. The pieces are bought directly from the artists, whenever possible. This is very important because it ensures that the artist fully profits and that traditions live on.

La Sirena’s Online Shop

Shop online at La Sirena, visit a piece of Mexico at 27 E3rd Street (with safety measures), or call 212-780-9113. 

Porto Rico Importing Company: Coffee and Tea Since 1907

Peter Longo is the owner of Porto Rico Importing Company and a long-time resident of the South Village.  His family has been operating their business in the neighborhood for over three decades.  Mr. Longo’s grandfather bought the building at 201 Bleecker Street, where the first Porto Rico was started and still remains.

Long-time residents of the South Village on Bleecker Street, Porto Rico now also has locations on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, as well as a couple on the Lower East Side. In 2007, Village Preservation honored Porto Rico with a Village Award and, in 2015, we released an oral history with Peter Longo, the current owner and operator of Porto Rico, who joined us to talk about how the shop has adapted, its history, and how they’re keeping the coffee flowing — not to mention their famous chocolate-covered espresso beans! 

Peter Longo at Porto Rico Importing Company, 201 Bleeker Street, New York, NY. Photograph by Liza Zapol.

Shop online at Porto Rico, or visit one of their shops on Bleecker Street, St. Mark’s, Grand Street, and at Essex Market (with safety measures)! 

Li-Lac Chocolate: Tempering for the Neighborhood since 1923

Li-Lac Chocolates on Bleecker Street

Li-Lac Chocolates, one of Manhattan’s oldest chocolate houses, has been a Greenwich Village staple for over 90 years. Founded in 1923, the first Li-Lac was started by a Greek immigrant named George Demetrious at 120 Christopher Street.  Mr. Demetrious had previously learned the art of chocolate making in France and used his expertise and innovation to develop a loyal following within the Village.

According to Li-Lac Chocolate website: “During the 1920s, Greenwich Village was a destination for artists, intellectuals and innovators. It was in this context that Mr. Demetrious applied his chocolate-making expertise, creating and perfecting his recipes for such items as Almond Bark, Butter Crunch, Hazelnut Truffle Squares, Legendary Fudge, and other favorites; steadily building a loyal customer following among his quirky and demanding neighbors.” I recommend the chocolate covered pretzels. 

An historic Valentine at Li-Lac Chocolates

Co-owner Chris Taylor talked about Li-Lac’s shift to more shipping vs. in-store sales, and how they’ve navigated their multiple locations through the pandemic. 

Chocolate always makes a great gift! You can shop in-store (with safety measures) or online

You can find out more about our small business preservation efforts here and see videos of all of our past programs like this one here.

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