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The Cornelia Street Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

17 NYC businesses New Yorkers want to bring back from the dead

Dean & Deluca, The Cornelia Street Cafe and Mars 2112 are just a few of them.

Shaye Weaver
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Shaye Weaver
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Part of living in NYC is seeing some of your favorite stores, restaurants and bars close—it's just life in the big city. Here, change is a part of life, and the places we once frequented often become a beloved memory.

In a Reddit post last week, a New Yorker asked, "If you could bring back any NYC business from the dead, which one would you pick and why?" and it got more than 1,300 responses.

RECOMMENDED: 75 notable NYC restaurants and bars that permanently closed since 2020

If you've been in NYC for any longer amount of time, it's painful to read through but also dunks you in a vat of sweet sweet nostalgia. Like others, you might find yourself surprised to find certain businesses have closed, too, especially if it happened quietly during the pandemic.

Below, we've rounded up some of the most-missed NYC businesses that people would bring back in a heartbeat:

1. Colony Records

Before MP3s, Colony Records was the place to go for new music in Times Square. Its staff could help you find just about any album on just a few hummed bars, according to the New York TimesIt closed in 2012 after 64 years in business.

"I used to go in there to browse for hours and then spend $40 (which was like $100 at the time) on some random piano conductor’s score. Loved the guys that worked there and loved to people watch the actor-singer types who would come in looking for whatever they needed for whatever audition," skymasterson2016 said.

2. Henri Bendel

In 2018, the beloved Bendels closed after 123 years in business on Fifth Avenue. Its Art Deco doors, the charming interior and the incredible holiday windows are missed. It, unfortunately, wasn't the last department store to close. We also lost Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus among others.

"I miss Bendel’s SO MUCH. I knew it was doomed when they swapped to only Bendel’s brand though. I used to spend a fortune in their beauty department and then never spent a penny there again when it was gone," wrote allfurcoatnoknickers.

Henri Bendel
Photo: Caroline Voagen NelsonPhoto by Caroline Voagen Nelson

3. Yaffa Cafe 

It was a kitsch-crammed, round-the-clock basement hang in the East Village that served up quasi-Middle Eastern food on the cheap with a lovely garden in the back. It was a hangout for many because it stayed open 24 hours. Sadly, it closed in 2014 after the city shut it down because of health and code violations, according to Eater.

"Came here to say yaffa! The days of drinking cheap white wine and doing coke in the back booth until 7am, then stumbling home to my 2nd ave apartment above pommes frites," wrote Yakety_Sax.

Yaffa Cafe
Photograph: Yaffa Cafe

4. J&R

If you needed any electronics or needed to grab a CD, you'd head to one of J&R's locations, including its stretch of stores on Park Row in the Civic Center. It had been in business since 1971 when it closed in 2014.

"Not just Music World, but the whole collection of J&R stores on Park Row. There’s still stuff I use which I got from J&R Computer World," said Redbird9346.

5. Blacktail

This Cuban cocktail and live jazz bar in FiDi was so cool and actually had amazing drinks (88 pages of them!). It was run by the same folks behind The Dead Rabbit and had a following but its location didn't help it stay afloat. It closed in 2020 after about four years on the scene.

"Blacktail was seriously probably the best cocktail bar I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to them all. I miss that place more than anything, definitely a 'special occasion' spot but so, so worth it. I think it was leagues better than it’s sister bar Dead Rabbit," said FDRBLVD.

Blacktail
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczBlacktail

6. The Cornelia Street Cafe

The Cornelia Street Café, a hub of the bohemian arts scene in Greenwich Village, closed in 2019 after an impossible rent increase. It was a warm and inviting gathering place and incubator for songwriters, storytellers, theater-makers, musicians and visual artists since 1977. Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues debuted in the venue's cozy basement space in 1996. Tightrope walker Philippe Petit honed his juggling skills on a wire strung from trees. Suzanne Vega and the Roches performed there early in their careers; comedians including John Oliver, Amy Schumer and Hannibal Buress have worked out jokes there. Perhaps even Lady Gaga worked there.

"My number one pick will be The Cornelia Street Cafe. I swear I believe that once Cornelia close a part of NYC died. Cornelia was magical, great drinks and some amazing music in the basement. Anytime I was dealing with life I’ll just take myself to that place and it will remind me why I loved NYC. That was definitely the end of an era," wrote betabandzz.

The Cornelia Street Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

7. Kim's Video

This East Village video and music store was it for those looking for rare and experimental titles. It expanded to have five locations including on St. Mark's and its last shop closed in 2014 after its owner was pressed by higher rent and streaming services, according to the New York Times.

"That was the bomb. I loved that they thrived on having the “other music” that Tower down the block didn’t carry and outlived them for a few years," said CanineAnaconda.

8. The Coffee Shop in Union Square

After 28 years at its corner in Union Square and regularly appearing on HBO’s Sex and the City, the coffee shop—a fashion hotspot for the who's who of NYC and solid meeting place for everyone else—closed up in 2018 and was replaced by a bank. 

"Coffee Shop in Union Square... I had many a late night in the late 90's, early 00's hanging out with a particular young man and have so many good memories of that place," wrote Square-Grab-5644.

9. Glaser's Bakery

Since 1902, Glaser's Bake Shop on First Avenue and 87th Street was an Upper East Side staple, with three generations serving the OG cookie of NYC—the black and white—which was once the best in the city. In 2018, its owners retired from the business and closed up shop.

"Miss it so much. They used to occasionally make these Chocolate Ginger Snaps that I could eat by the dozen. And of course the famous B&W's," said MajorOverMinorThird.

10. Baohaus

Eddie Huang’s hit bao buns lured countless fans to his tiny shops downtown. For 10 years they were perennial favorites on the best cheap eats lists across the city—they were all under $6 each. Sadly in 2020, Huang bowed out of business thanks to the pandemic.

"Scrolled to see if Baohaus had already been said. Is absolutely my answer. It was literally my last meal out before the pandemic. Birdhaus: my favorite all-time," dommeursault wrote.

Baohaus
Phototgraph: Jakob N. Layman

11. The Limelight

Set inside the gothic revival church on Sixth Avenue and 20th Street, The Limelight opened in 1983 as a disco but in the 90s, it opened its Rock and Roll Church and became a major hot spot for clubbers and celebrities. Who could forget the Shampoo Room (it was filled with suds and beats)? 

A DJ works the crowd in Limelight
Photograph: Billy Corben, LimelightA DJ works the crowd in Limelight

12. Pearl Paint

Set on Canal Street in Soho, Pearl Paint was a creative center for many of the artists living in the area for 50 years. Sure it had been worn out toward its end in 2014, but its staff had expertise in the products and it became a staple because of that, according to The Observer.

13. Mars Bar

The divey-est of dive bars, Mars Bar in the East Village held a special place in many New Yorkers' hearts. It was gritty but it had soul and characters. It was "one of the last places left in the city where genuine outcasts and alcoholics still fit in" we said before it closed. "Destroying your liver was never so cheap or so fun." It closed in 2011 and became luxury condos.

"Mars Bar. It was a shithole even for a dive bar, but the fact it no longer exists and was replaced by condos is a sad commentary on what real estate developers have done to the character on the city," wrote DrMastodon. 

Mars Bar
Photograph: Mars Bar

14. The original FAO Schwarz

Yes, FAO Schwarz is back at Rockefeller Center, but there is nothing like the original store on Fifth Avenue with its robot elevator and massive floorplan spanning all kinds of toys. It closed in 2015 due to rental costs.

"Original FAO Schwartz. That place was so cool as a kid, and just MASSIVE. The new one feels small and janky and just taking advantage of the name glory from the nostalgia of the original," said MadCapHorse.

FAO Schwarz
Photograph: Jessica LinFAO Schwarz

15. Mars 2112

The kooky Mars-themed restaurant and attraction in Times Square that "blasted you off" to the planet before you arrived at your table still has a place in some New Yorkers' hearts. Sure, the food sucked and it was basically a nightmare for anyone over 12, but it stood out. It closed in 2012 after filing for bankruptcy. Bon Appetit has a great eulogy for it.

"This spot was actually pretty great for cocktails. Reasonably priced, and not all too bad if you had to be in Midtown for whatever reason. I mean the screaming kids were funny like once but that would wear thin if you went there with any kind of regularity, but it was a pretty fun spot," bjb399 said quite graciously.

Mars 2112
Photograph: courtesy of nycnewyears.com

16. Century 21

Known for its heavily discounted designer items, the New York-based chain has a long history of survival—the flagship location in the Financial District, right across the street from the World Trade Center, miraculously survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks and actually became one of the main draws for tourists downtown following the tragedy. It was also just a really good place to get clothing on the cheap. In 2020, it announced it'd be closing all of its stores but then said it'd be back.

"Century 21. I would get all my work shirts there and polos and underwear and belts and sunglasses and I got a pair of sneakers for $8 once. It was my go to, specifically the one by World Trade," maverick4002 said.

Century 21
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Dean & Deluca

In 2019, NYC faced a harsh reality—a city without a Dean & Deluca. The upscale grocery store was a staple for those looking for special foods like high-quality baked goods, artisan sandwiches, fancy oils and shiny fruit. For many of us, the prices weren't in reach and sadly, it closed its flagship store in Soho in 2019 while it faced bankruptcy. It could make a comeback...it just got out of bankruptcy and is working to restart business, according to progressivegrocer.com.

"Soho died a little bit more for me after D&D closed. Did you ever read that David Bowie profile that described his shopping trips there? He had a way of walking there from his apartment on Lafayette (I think through that alley-like street by the library, and then down on Crosby) that was very incognito. He used to buy groceries there," wrote miss_cheongfun.

Dean & DeLuca
Photograph: Dean & DeLuca

What NYC business would you bring back?

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