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BY ELISSA STEIN | Last summer, with a fair amount of fanfare, a successful European espresso bar chain established its first outpost in New York City. Reportedly spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on renovations, Segafredo opened its sleek, upscale doors, planning to make a splash in the Village.
Locals knew better. At the first signs of work being done at the northeast corner of 13th St. and Sixth Ave., people were already betting whatever business moved in would last less than a year. They were right. Mere months after sophisticated hostesses waited in vain behind a podium to seat people, the restaurant/coffee bar stopped opening during the day. Management tried to recreate the space as a trendy cocktail outpost they’d had resounding success with in Miami. That didn’t work either and soon the doors stopped opening altogether.
If that had been the first, or even second time a business failed in a location, most wouldn’t have noticed. But at this point, 504 Sixth Ave. has the reputation of being doomed. In 2011 eater.com named it the number one cursed restaurant spot in the city. Could a location simply be slated for failure? Steve Jacobson, president of Hopkinson Real Estate said it’s not the spot, and that this bustling corner should definitely be successful. He pointed out French Roast, a block away, which just celebrated 20 years in the Village. Bar 6 and Murray’s Bagels, mere doors down, are perennially crowded. It seems as if the issue is twofold — tenants not analyzing the neighborhood to gauge what businesses fit in well, coupled with a landlord charging exorbitant rents few can pay.
Before Segafredo failed to make its mark, Rockography, a Hard Rock Cafe rip-off, announced its arrival with signs that read: “PARENTAL ADVISORY. KEEP OUT — POSSIBILITY OF EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION. EXTREME NOISE POLLUTION.” After blaring music and overpriced fries didn’t win Villagers over, a quick renovation led to Blitz! Brasserie, a blatant copycat of Bar 6. Before the paint of that reboot had time to dry, A Pint of No Return came. And went. Maximo Pino, the sterile Italian gelateria with fluorescent lighting, mediocre fare and pricey ice cream, didn’t capture an audience either.
Brief stints as a Ricky’s Halloween outlet and a shoe sample-sale store intermittently filled the space that had been left vacant by Cosi (formerly Cosi/Xando, originally Xando), which seemed to do well but rising rent forced them out. Kenny Roger’s Roasters inhabited the spot, but neighbors knew once pizza was added to the menu, its time was limited. A Greek family-run market preceded Cosi but they too were forced to close as rent rose.
The stark, white storefront now stands empty again, its front entrance significantly damaged from a cab jumping the curb and crashing into it shortly after Segafredo shut down. New tenants will have to take on extensive repairs, along with regular renovations, to rehabilitate the so-called cursed location. Perhaps what can turn it around is a landlord not looking to fill the space with the first checkbook that comes along, and prospective renters spending time exploring the area and thoughtfully considering what would work there, instead of rushing to reinvent the corner into something it isn’t.