Dodging the Chains: In Search of a Local Marketplace on the LES

The cover of out July magazine. Cover montage by Mark A. Ward.

Editor’s note: Our July print magazine has hit the streets.  If you haven’t been able to pick up a copy (we’ll post a list of locations later today), here’s the online version of our cover story:

Mark Hernandez is not one to back away from a challenge. About a year and a half ago, he opened Berkli Parc, a casual cafe on the corner of Delancey and Allen streets, located diagonally from a Starbucks and across the street from a Subway sandwich shop. Hernandez, a local resident, concedes it’s a lot of competition for one intersection, but he’s not intimidated by the national chains that are his neighbors. Berkli Parc is holding its own, and customers are cheering Hernandez on. They tell him, “Hey, that’s awesome that you had the guts to do that, to open up right across from Starbucks.”

In recent months, as national chains continued their colonization of the East Village’s storefronts to the north, Lower East Side residents, business owners and community leaders have become wary of big corporate retailers beginning to turn their attention — and their cash registers — south of Houston Street.