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Gem Spa…going, going, gone…

It’s vanishing faster than one of its famous egg creams. …

After closing less than two weeks ago, Gem Spa is literally disappearing…and now it’s almost gone.

The iconic yellow sign and awning that anchored the southwest corner of St. Mark’s Place and Second Ave. for decades is no more. Some sad-looking shelving and displays still linger in the space, but probably not for much longer.

Pre-pandemic, Parul Patel, the daughter of Gem Spa’s owner, Ray Patel, had already been waging a last-ditch effort to keep the struggling store open.

But the coronavirus crisis finally made the decision for them.

The last remnants of Gem Spa, soon to cleared out. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

In announcing the end of the store’s run on May 7, the Patels said, in part, in an online post, “It is with a heavy heart that we announce Gem Spa has poured it’s last legendary egg cream and closed its doors forever. This has been an extremely difficult decision, and one we are heartbroken to make…

“Prior to this crisis, it had become increasingly apparent that the evolving character of the area was no longer available to sustain a corner creation like ours…

“Coronavirus concerns closed our city, cratered businesses, and ultimately sealed the fate of our close to 100-year-old shop.”

There goes the neighborhood…and the city, for real this time. A thank-you message left on the facade of the former Gem Spa. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

But Gem Spa continue to live on through its Web site and its merch. They will continue to sell Gem Spa branded merchandise, as well as art, books and photos inspired by the legendary store.

Drinkware with the famous logo is available…but, so far, not egg creams.

4 Comments

  1. Harry Pincus Harry Pincus May 19, 2020

    As much as I regret the demise of Gem Spa, it no longer had any connection to the tradition from which it sprung. An egg cream comes in a glass, pronounced “gloos” as in “gloos tea” (glass of tea) not a plastic cup, and it doesn’t cost five bucks. A two cent plain is a seltzer with “maybe a little syrup” added. The corner candy store sold newspapers, where true New Yorkers lined up for a late read on the Yanks, the Giants, and ‘dem Bums, not to mention the latest comics. The fountain provided coca cola syrup if you had an upset stomach, and there was an all important telephone, because most apartment dwellers didn’t have one. The neighborhood candy store didn’t poison the neighborhood with $17 Juul, lottery tickets. and “merch” promoting themselves. In fact gambling was done quite informally, by guys with wide brimmed hats turned upwards to the heavens. Sorry GemSpa, Rest in Peace….but I remember St. Marks Place in the seventies, and NEW YORK CITY WILL NEVER DIE.

    • Liza Béar Liza Béar May 22, 2020

      Me too! Remembering St Mark’s Place from the 70s, regretfully I’m afraid I have to agree with Harry Pincus. Gem Spa lost my vote once they stopped selling newspapers but especially when they started promoting $17 Juul with huge signs and sandwich boards. Besides, I knew the egg creams from the Canal Street Diner, Market Diner and Square Diner, and those were in the same league. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. New York City lives!

  2. Mark Saint Mark Saint May 20, 2020

    That Jonis Realty sign should not be there.

  3. steve stollman steve stollman May 20, 2020

    I have two strong memories of the place and one hurrah to launch. I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Gem Spa along with three other local beards, in the middle of the sidewalk, complaining about the government or exchanging rude jokes and not-necessarily earth-shaking remarks, as we were approached from the south by a nightclub swinging, typically overweight and mean-spirited representative of the New York City Police Department named John Connally. “Move!” was his cow-like bleat, and we were being encouraged to suspend our conversation, no matter how trivial, but still engaging. I was a little pissed since there was plenty of room for ordinary-sized pedestrians to flow through that space happily and without real obstruction. My response when hr e bellied up to me was to look at my shoes and say “I’m moving”, which was true if you were only talking about my chin. For some reason hje took my remark personally and escorted me into the hallway around the corner and waited for the patrol car. On the way to the station-house he told me that his kid was being Christened the next day and if he was late for his night call he was planning to split my skull open with his stick, a truly distinctive way to celebrate your blessed event.

    The second sidewalk happening was Baby Jery, renowned underground cartoonist, giving Abbie Hoffman Devil’s ears behind his head using his index fingers. Nothing like letting a little steam out of one of our legendary icons.

    I distributed the out-of-town Underground Press, and this was one of the best locations in the city to peddle the LA Free Press, Chicago SEED, Atlanta Great Speckled Bird etc. They would take everything I had, no matter how crowded the stand. Many in the community that surrounded this joint were remarkably curious, aware and willing to challenge the status quo. There is nothing wrong with Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, but the serious politics and strenuous efforts by many to overcome their backgrounds, middle-class and otherwise and become part of something which centered on our liberation from racism, sexism, materialism, wars and bad attitudes, was what really mattered. Of course the Chocolate Graham Crackers and marshmallow twists rocked too.

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