Saturday, December 1, 2012

WHAT HAPPENED TO STUMPTOWN?

Back in early January this year, news went out that Stumptown Coffee Roasters […the heralded, the revered, the coffee Messiahhad rented the corner of MacDougal and 8th Street in the Village. This location, to be its second in NYC [after The Ace Hotel], followed news that Stumptown had been acquired by the venture capital firm TSG Consumer Partners for an undisclosed, presumed amount of many millions of dollars. 

Since the announcement of what the New York Times called the "powerful investor," the corner space has sat empty. And empty. And empty, still. 

It should take 3-4 months for a coffee bar to be built out in that size space, especially from a coffee company with millions of dollars in its pocket. A hands-on effort by a can-do operation could build out a space like that in two months. Eleven months later, what happened to Stumptown? 


I've heard, unofficially, that there is a landmarks issue. That might make sense, if not for the permit in the window from NYC Landmarks, issued November 2011. 

Eight Street feels poised, let alone overdue and wanting, for a turnaround. The would be Stumptown corner is in the center of the stretch from 5th to 6th Avenues. Half of the south side of the block near 6th Avenue is empty. There's a tiny Indian restaurant and a tiny cookie store and a Goodwill thrift shop. On the side closer to 5th Avenue, a bad little bakery just closed after a brief bad little bakery life, and Andy's Chee-Pee's vintage just closed too [that hurts]. There's a Domino's pizza, a wine bar and a new craft beer takeout shop, each busy but lonely. The north side of the block is a cornucopia of funky commerce: a cheap hat store, knock-off shoe stores [the heritage of Eighth Street past], a new nail salon, a scary foot massage place, take-out chicken and a new fancy popcorn spot [I kid not]. Walk down this street, and the feeling is that sooner than later, it will be re-invigorated with quality retail. It seems due. 

Right now, kraft paper covers the windows where Stumptown will presumably open one day. Back in the summer, a sign with a contractors name appeared one day, then disappeared weeks later. Then different kraft paper went up [a better papering job than the first]. I wonder how and why a venture capital firm that controls a retail business like this lets eleven months drift by with nothing to show for it. Aren't the VCs the ones with all their millions on a stringent timetable with hell to pay when schedules [read: dollars] aren't met?  

If TSG is studying the numbers, they must know it is now four times the amount of time it should have taken to get open, and still, no hammers or nails appear in motion.

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