NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An East Village institution is looking to stay afloat – one egg cream and Instagram post at a time.
Now with the help of fans on the internet, they see a way to adapt and survive.
“They make the best egg cream,” one customer said.
Egg creams, frothy mixtures of milk, syrup, and seltzer that actually have no eggs or cream in them. That’s the fuel keeping the iconic East Village corner store Gem Spa in business since the early 1920’s.
Michael May visiting from Tallahassee, Florida says every time he’s in New York he visits the shop at St. Marks Place and Second Avenue to get one.
He says he’s hoping what he calls a gem of a place never goes away.
“God forbid something corporate buys it,” May told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
The Patel family, owners since 1986, took over for two other families.
They say a former worker sold cigarettes to a minor and the licenses for tobacco and lottery games were yanked, suspended for six months and that could have killed them.
That revenue reportedly made up 80 percent of their business.
“We have to reinvent ourselves,” Parul Patel said.
Help came from celebrity chefs and other fans who feared the loss of a landmark; like many other small businesses that have disappeared as neighborhoods change in New York City.
Celebs spread the word about the shop’s troubles on line. The owners are now running with it.
“We’re using Instagram to introduce it to a new generation,” Patel added.
There was a time when all the shelves had stacks and stacks of magazines since the egg cream hotspot is really a news stand, but now the reading material has been scaled back.
That’s because people were reading but not buying. Now this shop sells more memorabilia.
The shop has been a very Rock and Roll place for generations.
“The days of Ramones and Debbie Harry so this is iconic for us,” another local customer said.
Despite the struggles of the past few months, the Patels say they’ll make it and keep rocking – one egg cream at a time.