The Lower East Side: NYC’s Emerging Green Retail District?

A feature last week in the Crain’s Small Business section profiled Manhattan’s burgeoning green retail district which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is located on the Lower East Side, along and east of Orchard Street. The piece profiled four particular green retailers- Ekovaruhuset, MooShoes, Organic Avenue, and Kaight- whose owners make it a point to drive foot traffic between one another given their stores’ close proximity. Ira Davidson, who heads Pace University’s Small Business Development Center, told Crain’s that “[i]t’s a very good idea to be there, next to your competitors. You make shopping easier for people looking for those items.” Davidson also noted that because the district’s green wares are so esoteric and diverse from store to store, eco-shoppers are likely to make it a specific destination and frequent stores that share similar missions.

It appears that Mr. Davidson is right on point as green business in the district to date has been quite good. According to Crain’s, MooShoes earns over $1 million annually at its flagship, 2,000-square-foot store at 78 Orchard Street (and online outlets) selling animal cruelty-free shoes and other fashion products. This is the third location in six years for sisters and owners Erica and Sara Kubersky, who contemplated moving MooShoes out of the Lower East Side before deciding to stay put. Their decision seems to be a good one, as Crain’s reports that MooShoe sales have doubled since the new location opened last October.

Kaight, just a few storefronts up the block from MooShoes at 83 Orchard, offers its own line of eco-friendly clothing and housewares, while Ekovaruhuset sells dresses and tops made from Swedish organic cotton. Located at 101 Stanton Street, Organic Avenue, on the other hand, is a purveyor of a broad range of organic and vegan “experiences” that include eco-friendly jeans and organic cooking classes. Johanna Hofring, who owns Ekovaruhuset (123 Ludlow Street), is aiming to open an office with support for an e-store later this spring that will also be located on Ludlow. Also adding to the district’s green vibe is Teany, a vegan café located at 90 Rivington Street that’s co-owned by Moby.

Green commercial, industrial, residential, and now retail districts are beginning to slowly take root throughout the five boroughs. From the continued greening of the gritty Eighth Avenue/Times Square corridor, to Battery Park City (which has been ahead of the curve for a while), the World Trade Center site, and the overhaul of industrial space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, it’s fascinating to see different sectors of the real estate industry embrace sustainable initiatives in different ways. The Lower East Side is obviously not immune to those efforts; we’ve written previously about its local affordable housing efforts at The Lee on Pitt Street. Given the success of green retail below Houston Street to date, it won’t be surprising to see more eco-stores open their doors before 2008 draws to a close.

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