NYC - East Village: Gem Spa
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Gem Spa has been in business for nearly 70 years. What was once a haven for teen age runaways dodging the 9th Precinct's hippie squad in the 1960's has morphed into a spot for yuppies to pick up Time Out New York and Vogue. But Ray Patel, who bought the store in 1986, has resisted the gentrification that's pervaded the East Village over the last few years, allowing his landmark to echo a time past. The 25-by-75-foot store carries magazines from around the world and foerign language newspapers on a wall of 40 metal racks, each with 25 floor-to-ceiling slots. Still, Gem Spa is known best for its egg creams and the New York Dolls.
They claim to have invented the former--a classic New York beverage consisting of chocolate syrup (usually Fox's U-bet), milk and seltzer soda water. Although it's hard to argue that their egg cream isn't one of the best in town, their claim as originator is dubious at best. Most closely associated with Brooklyn, legend traces it back to a Jewish candy store owner, Louis Auster in 1890 and H. Fox & Co's website claims the first egg cream made with their syrup was in 1904--both before the Gem Spa inhabited the southwest corner of St. Mark's Place and 2nd Avenue.
Less controversial is the corner storefront's prominent placement on the back of the 1973 eponymous debut album by the New York Dolls--"the definitive proto-punk album, even more than anything the Stooges released." (All Music Guide).