To save East Village bodega Gem Spa, locals plan cash mob

A community group will host a cash mob at Gem Spa, an iconic East Village business. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

“Come prepared to spend some money,” organizers of the cash mob wrote on Facebook.

A community group will host a cash mob at Gem Spa, an iconic East Village business.
A community group will host a cash mob at Gem Spa, an iconic East Village business. Photo Credit: Courtesy of STXfilms/Barbara Nitke

Community organizers are hoping to save the iconic East Village bodega Gem Spa by rallying longtime customers to spend money at the location this Saturday.

The group #SaveNYC is hosting a cash mob at the storefront on St. Marks Place and Second Avenue, encouraging people to buy their famous egg creams and other items. 

"Come prepared to spend some money," said the description of the Facebook event.

Gem Spa opened in the 1920s and got its current name in 1957. The bodega has been featured in a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and name-dropped in poems by Allen Ginsberg.

But the business has faced economic hardship in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The New York Times reported that it was operating at a loss and is in $100,000 debt. It also lost its cigarette and lottery license in April after a former employee was caught selling to an undercover police officer.

Gem Spa is hoping to innovate by introducing new options like a vegan version of its egg cream and appealing to younger customers on social media.

Recently, the bodega installed a guerrilla street art installation after rumors surfaced that Citibank was looking to open a branch in place of the store. The exhibit featured a redecoration of the storefront’s awning dubbed “Schitibank” with the bank’s signature blue, white and red logo. 

Citi said in a tweet Thursday afternoon that it was never looking to open a branch on the corner. It added that it would like to buy and share Gem Spa’s egg creams with the bank’s staff.

Andy Mai