The East Village is slowly losing its charm—one storefront at a time.
It was announced that the famous Big Gay Ice Cream at 125 East 7th Street will not be reopening after an extensive shutdown during the pandemic. The beloved frozen treat shop has been closed since March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic truly began its destructive reign throughout the city. Still, many in the area held out hope that the shutters would once again rise and the trademark rainbow colors would shine from its East 7th Street and Avenue A location.
Currently, this unfortunate closure only seems to be affecting the company’s Lower East Side store, still to those who adore refreshing themselves over the summer months with sundaes and frozen yogurt this is not much consolation. Obscured by metal shutters, the inside of the shop has been completely gutted, leaving an empty void and a poster on the window announcing the space is for rent.
This is particularly disheartening for the East Village community since this was the company’s very first brick and mortar location after they had been serving ice cream from a truck for two years. Big Gay Ice Cream moved into their storefront in 2011.
Locals, like Alan Castles and Fiona Siseman, live mere blocks away and were frequent customers. They say they will deeply miss what they call a staple of the area.
“I am sad, they have been closed all summer. I really loved the ice cream. We live just down the road and we would go often. I will miss their Salty Pimps, that was their best. We will have to go to the Upper West Side if we want Big Gay Ice Cream, but it won’t happen very often,” Castles said.
Summer days strolling down the East Village to spend an afternoon in Tompkins Square Park snacking on a double scoop of novelty dessert, such as the American Glob, the Monday Sundae, and others, are another nostalgic pastime destroyed by the COVID-19 crisis.
For some, the loss of this business will leave another gaping hole in the hope to return to normalcy. Siseman, who adored the shop for its soft-serve ice cream, agrees that she will miss visiting the storefront but she is not worried about the neighborhood losing its culture.
“There is still so much happening down in this area and the rents will be cheap, I am pretty sure a new wave of businesses and restaurants will come through,” Siseman said.
Some of this new wave has already arrived. Just a few doors down from the ghost of Big Gay Ice cream stands [Plant-baked], a brand-new business to the area that opened its doors two weeks ago. This bakery that serves Vegan plant-based products at retail and wholesale were sad to learn about the neighbor they never got to have.
“They were still closed when we started moving in back in November; they were already closed. We were hoping and waiting to see if they would come back, but it was only in the last week we noticed everything had been cleared out of there. It was really sad to see they didn’t come back, and we were also their customers for a couple of years now, so we are really sad to see them go,” Parker co-founder of [Plant-baked] bakery said.
As someone started a new business amidst the greatest pandemic the world has seen in over a century, Parker emphasizes with the growing number of struggling store locations and the rapidly rising number of empty lots in the East Village.
“This community has had a lot of businesses close—there are two more down the street. A few more that I know are struggling, so it is hard to see how many people are struggling on the street, but at the same time there are a lot of businesses that are just starting up,” Parker told amNewYork Metro.