Rockabilly business owner hopes to rebuild the East Village

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Mariann Marlowe stands behind the counter of Enz’s.
Photo by Dean Moses

After almost a year of economic despair and devastation brought on by COVID-19, a new business hopes to help rebuild the East Village.

The East Village is primarily populated by small, independent businesses. Since the onset of the pandemic, the outbreak has caused the closure of countless, beloved storefronts such as Big Gay Ice Cream and the looming end of Halloween Adventure. Without the financial backing of larger corporations, the battle to stay open amidst the hardships of 2020 to 2021 life has been immense.

One business owner has taken the plunge and actually opened her doors amidst the onslaught of the novel coronavirus. Mariann Marlowe is not new to the East Village, in fact she previously ran a unique clothing outlet on 125 2nd Avenue before being forced to close due to rising rent prices. However, after witnessing the destruction of the community she decided to reopen on 76 East 7th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue with the aspiration to help restore the area’s fading charm.

A dress displayed within Enz’s. Photo by Dean Moses

Enz’s is a clothing boutique brimming with custom-made dresses, jackets, and shirts, many of which are designed by Marlowe herself. Marlowe, a self-described rockabilly—an early style of rock and roll—garnered much of her inspiration during the 1970s while hanging out with rock bands such as the Sex Pistols in London. Using what she saw from the U.K. rock scene, Marlowe helped open a punk-rock store in 1978. Since that time, she has moved around stores and locations before finally ending up here.

“England was really fun in the ’70s, everybody went over there. I hung out with the New York Dolls and did photoshoots; the Ramones went over there. The thing that amazed me about London was that you would go in a pub and there would be a little old lady drinking right next to a crazy punk-rocker with a six-inch mohawk and that always fascinated me because you don’t get that in New York—maybe in the East Village but not as much anymore,” Marlowe said, reminiscing back to the heyday of rock and roll. Her nostalgia is very much apparent with a framed photo of Marlowe’s store featured in a 1970s issue of the Villager. 

Mariann Marlowe points to a 1970s issue of the Villager. Photo by Dean Moses

For decades—dating back to the 1960s—the East Village became known as the stomping grounds for artists, writers, and musicians, yet in recent years this subset of individuals seems to have fallen away, retreating to the outer boroughs like Williamsburg and Bushwick.

“London is the same way. When I went back four years ago, I was like ‘oh my God, everybody looks American,’ I literally had to go into a tattoo parlor to see some cool kids,” Marlowe joked.

By reopening Enz’s—named after her pet dog—she yearns to bring back some of the old-school flair the area was known for years prior. But with the COVID-19 virus still raging and tourism a non-existent commodity, Marlowe admits that business has been slow since opening her doors in December. However, with the vaccine now being distributed, she is optimistic customers will return in the months to come once the word of her store gets around.

Mariann Marlowe holds up one of her original designs. Photo by Dean Moses

Moving in on East 7th Street comes with another personal issue. Locals have taken to calling it a “Cursed Street” after multiple fires and water main breaks have run rampant over the last few years. This is not news to Marlowe, in fact, she experienced this “curse” firsthand at her previous location.

“I was in the store and I heard a giant explosion, and I was in the back and I thought somebody had thrown a brick through the window. I came out from the back and all my windows were broken. We thought it could be a terrorist. It had $60,000 worth of damage and I rebuilt it,” Marlowe said remembering the March 26, 2015 gas explosion and 7-alarm fire that gutted four buildings on 2nd Avenue. 

Enz’s opened mere weeks after another fire hit the area, destroying Middle Collegiate Church, leaving behind a skeletal structure with ashen remains standing mere feet away from where Marlowe’s new store now stands. Despite setbacks such as fires and the COVID-19 pandemic, Marlowe is positive others will follow in her footsteps and begin returning to the barren neighborhood. 

Enz’s in the East Village has a host of custom-made designs. Photo by Dean Moses