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Photograph: Courtesy of Gem Spa

New York institution Gem Spa is permanently closing

The East Village standby was a hangout for nearly 100 years.

Emma Orlow
Written by
Emma Orlow

Despite the fact that the East Village institution Gem Spa had navigated troubled waters in the past, its owners today announced they were forced to permanently close because they couldn't survive the current crisis. The bodega, which specialized in egg creams, had been a fixture in the neighborhood for nearly 100 years and was one of the last remaining spots to retain its punk-roots. 

"We have enjoyed the most incredible love, support, loyalty and friendship from our neighbors, city and visitors from around the world. We are, and always will be, eternally grateful to the historical artists, musicians, designers and dedicated denizens who saw us as much more than a beloved bodega but an iconic East Village institution," the team shared in a press release. 

Gem Spa was a go-to haunt for countless artists who lived in the neighborhood and frequented the vibrant spot. An image of the corner shop was featured on the New York Dolls' first album cover, it gained mentioned in the works of Allen Ginsberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as was a set location for Madonna's Desperately Seeking Susan. 

Last September, we reported on an art installation at Gem Spa in which faux advertising that read "Schitibank coming soon" was plastered across the store's facade as a nod to the immense gentrification that's overhauled the neighborhood through the years. That weekend, an organization called #SaveNYC invited customers to stop into the already-struggling business. Things seemed to be temporarily looking up; they even launched their own streetwear line, which has all-too-quickly become vintage.

Gem Spa joins a growing number of businesses that will, sadly, not be able to make it out of the financial hardship brought on by the pandemic. For now, Gem Spa's owners will continue to document and archive the space's history on its website, which will live on in memoriam

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