We were at two food halls this past weekend. One was Urban Hawker, the new market concept mirroring Saigon’s hawkers market. The majority of the food spots were open. Not sure who is behind this concept, but it is all food here, Americanized. The vibe is horrible, and the music is electro-punk that bangs on your head. It is a disconnect between the people eating their food in an area randomly lined with picnic tables and high-tops set up like a food court. However, there is an excellent addition, rarely seen at a food court, a bar stationed at the end of the food area so you can also get a drink to soothe the anxiety of the place.
We also popped into Chelsea Market; we dipped into the secret entrance that takes you immediately downstairs, where the locals buy their products. The success of Chelsea Market points directly to the curating of who got a lease and who didn’t. Unclear how long the leases are, but seven years seems a good number. If you can’t keep up with the new and evolving, your lease ends, and someone else comes in.
Chef José Andrés and the Adría Brothers are the people behind Mercato at the Hudson Yards. Just like Jean-George’s new Tin Building, each shop or restaurant inside is owned and curated by these chefs. Not easy to manage each tiny detail within each shop unless each shop and restaurant is allowed to run independently. I find these concepts start to wane on me over time.
When I was in Paris, I shopped at two stores, Samaratine and Bon Marche. These are department stores, but they do it so well in Paris. It enables me to see the trends, what’s being made and sold, and above all, it is curated. I love well-curated stores the best. Some are not geared toward me, but I do appreciate they are for a particular customer. Everyone only needs a little market share to make it worthy. Why we can’t do it here is beyond me. I won’t walk into a department store in the states.
Fred Segal, in Los Angeles, was early to the party of concept shops. The business plan was similar to Chelsea Market but with clothing and lifestyle stores. And, of course, Collette was the bomb. I applaud the impact they made and how they ended it. That takes a lot, but just like an athlete, there comes a time to dip.
The stores are starting to change in NYC, but there aren’t enough because of the landlords, but that is for another blog. That will never change. I still walk around NYC, pop into a small shop, and buy an item. It feels good, is an activity, creates community, and fills the void that Amazon never will be able to, instant satisfaction. We need more creative locals.