Much to the chagrin of many a hipster, blogger, and grizzled ol’ punk, John Varvatos just opened a new store in CBGB’s old home, and he doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere. We wondered if Varvatos was aware of the true extent of the tragic irony in his commandeering of the space, especially when we took our video camera over there for a store tour and he didn’t know what OMFUG stood for. But, according to an article in Footwear News, it seems he’s more aware of the paradox than we thought. In fact, he’s pretty much convinced us he intends to preserve the spirit of the neighborhood as best as he can, even if the Bowery’s price tags, they are a-changin’. After all, CBGB was going to close down anyway and someone had to move in — and maybe it’s not all bad that Varvatos was that someone. Allow us to explain.
• Varvatos never intended to open a store at 315 Bowery but learned when he was scouting for an event space that a bank planned to move in and raze the place. “I was in the space for no more than 15 seconds and said, ‘You’re not going to put a bank in here. It’s not going to happen,’” he said. The next morning he had his team move forward on the project.
• Arturo Vega, former creative director of the Ramones (a CBGB band if there ever was one), gave Varvatos his blessing.
• The staff is made up of either musicians or the “music-obsessed.”
• The merchandise is hand-selected so it’s appropriately punky. No pink shirts are allowed.
• A separate “315 Bowery” label is in the works for exclusive sale at the store.
• Varvatos is trying to sign a deal to have a live radio show broadcast from the store on Thursday nights to give exposure to up-and-coming bands.
Wow — here’s to keeping it real. But seriously, we salute the sentiment, especially on the bank bit. The disgruntled crowd at Mars Bar should be thanking this man.