So long, Paul Smith. Today is the first day in 29 years their doors won't open in Union Square.
End of an era.
When City Bakery openend in 1990, lower 5th Avenue storefronts were vestiges of a prior
generation. Businesses like Brownies [health food], The Holding Company [handbags], Army Navy
Surplus [rope!] and B. Shackman Co. [children's toys and vintage novelties] lined the avenue.
It was not really so long ago, but it was unrecognizable from today.
Paul Smith pioneered this generation of lower 5th Avenue retail for men's clothing.
It was the first high-end store of its caliber along an avenue that today is entirely high-end.
Armani Exchange was just getting started when City Bakery opened, but Paul Smith had
already been been open four years in its handsome wood-paneled home on 16th Street and 5th.
The retail occupants of Lower 5th today: Coach, Sephora, Eddie Bauer, Zara, Tory Burch,
Aveda, Victoria's Secret, Club Monaco, Lucky Jeans, Anthropologie and others, reflect a vastly
different era of value for the neighborhood. As a measure of that change: I once asked a longtime
Paul Smith exec why they picked Lower 5th as their first New York location:
"It was the only place we could afford" he said with a smile.
It was not really so long ago.
A walk along 5th Avenue today, from the arch in Washington Square north to 23rd Street, reveals
exactly two retail stores open since City Bakery opened 25 years ago: Bravo Pizza is one,
between 19th and 20th, and Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop [pictured above] between 22nd and 23rd.