Recap: Tenement Museum Hosts Etsy Talk With ‘Shop Life’ Tours

Posted on: March 4th, 2013 at 12:09 pm by
Photo: Lori Greenberg

Photo: Lori Greenberg

In 2013, amidst chain stores and online shopping, what is the equivalent of a “mom and pop” shop? Are they a part of a lost past, once epitomized by business districts of local shops like the Lower East Side, but now doomed by mass production and cheap overseas labor? Or has the globalized, digitized world come full circle and enabled a new opportunity?

Perhaps in an attempt to answer this, the Tenement Museum hosted a presentation by Etsy last week, the site that is arguably the new home of homemade. The event coincided with the new “Shop Life” exhibit (read more Boogie coverage here) which recreates the historical businesses that previously existed at 97 Orchard St (home of the museum). Billed as exploring the broad impact of commercial activity in New York through the last 150 years, the evening consisted of a talk and a reception, as well as tours of the “Shop Life” installation.

Interactive exhibit at "Shop Life." Photo: Lori Greenberg

Interactive exhibit at “Shop Life.” Photo: Lori Greenberg

Our evening started with a fascinating tour of the exhibit from our wonderful guide Nick Capodice, where we learned about the history of a German saloon from 1864, newly recreated in its former space, and also got to play with the cool interactive exhibit in the vestiges of what once had been a kosher butcher shop in the 1890s. We then headed up the street to the Etsy presentation and reception at the Tenement Museum Visitor’s Center.

Many NYC Etsy sellers and their diverse wares were in attendance (with some serious representation from Brooklyn in the house). The crowd in the very packed room seemed to be eagerly devouring both the Etsy designers’ product and the old-school Lower East Side “appetizings” – in this case, a variety of knishes provided by Katz’s. (Hey, we were definitely not complaining!)

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Morris Vogel, president of the Tenement Museum, kicked off the talk, praising the entrepreneurs of the “Shop Life generation” along with the Etsy generation, describing both groups as “people who took nothing, and turned it into something,” adding “as opposed to Citibank.” He then thanked Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson for “bringing so many Brooklynites to the Tenement Museum.”

Tenement Museum President Morris Vogel. Photo: Lori Greenberg

Tenement Museum President Morris Vogel. Photo: Lori Greenberg

Dickerson then took the mic, ad libbing that he does not bank at Citibank. Describing Etsy as “reimagining commerce,” he took us through the history of the Brooklyn-based startup. Keeping a local element to the talk, he compared his previous pre-Etsy experiences working in Silicon Valley to New York City. Clearly, he preferred the latter, calling New York “a melting pot – like the internet itself.” He also reinforced the parallel between the strong communities created in the businesses of the “Shop Life” exhibit and the Etsy universe.

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson. Photo: Lori Greenberg

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson. Photo: Lori Greenberg

A few fun facts that we learned in Dickerson’s presentation:

  • New York State is the second largest community of Etsy sellers, with Manhattan having the most buyers, and Brooklyn having the most sellers. (No word on who is number one, but we don’t like them!)
  • 75 percent of Etsy sellers are women, and most sellers are home-based.
  • There are 1.3 Etsy sellers for every taxicab in NY; 6.9 sellers for every laundromat in NY; and 133 sellers to every museum and cultural institution in NY.
Photo: Lori Greenberg

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Dickerson also discussed the “Etsy Economy,” which created full time careers for many people who started on Etsy, initially expecting just a little extra income. As a result, the online community has become an economic force, a point that Dickerson recently made to the US Senate.

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Photo: Lori Greenberg

The “Etsy Economy,” arising from the determined efforts of individuals and small businesses, may have more similarities to the local economics of the “Shop Life” era than it would at first seem. Online, though, you can’t chase disrespectful customers away with a broom, as my grandmother did.

Recent Stories

Photo: The Corpse Corps
The World Isn’t Ready for Julian Casablancas + the Voidz

The world isn’t ready for Julian Casablancas + The Voidz. Just like The Strokes were the pioneers of the post punk indie revival, the latest endeavor by Julian Casablancas is exponentially kicking it up a notch in the musical avant-garde. Deceptive in the simplicity of its track titles (“Nintendo Blood,” “Xerox,” “Business Dog”), the band’s latest album Tyranny forces you to take a […]

moscot-band
Moscot has a House Band with Dr. Moscot on Guitar

Moscot rocks out with the best of ‘em. The last two consecutive Thursdays, after hours, we spotted a four-piece band rehearsing inside the Orchard Street store. A double take proved that fourth-generation owner Dr. Harvey Moscot was indeed wielding a six-string (i.e. Fender Stratocaster). Moscot PR tells us that the house band is called “The […]

duchesse-orchard-2
New Orchard Street Bakery ‘Les Jardins de la Duchesse’ Will Carry a Bacon-Wrapped Eclair

Modern Fashion & Style on Orchard Street closed over the summer so that a new French bakery could sling pastries. During those interim months, contractors have been tearing apart the commercial space of 138 Orchard. We heard chatter along the way that the newcomer was some sort of bakery. Confirmation arrived yesterday afternoon with the new store […]

Photo: TH
Councilwoman Margaret Chin Calls for New 25 MPH Speed Limit Signs Along South Street

In a couple weeks (November 7), the city speed limit will shift to the lower default of 25 mph, following legislation that was recently passed into law. Councilwoman Margaret Chin is on the offensive, demanding proper street signage for the most dangerous traffic corridors. In a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, she singles out […]

aaa-ichiban-closed-2
AAA Ichiban Sushi on Orchard Street Closes Ahead of Ben Shaoul Development

The northeast corner of Orchard and East Houston is slowly giving up the ghost. As we’ve been reporting, controversial landlord Ben “Sledgehammer” Shaoul purchased the L-shaped low-rise strip and is gradually booting the businesses. We lost Bereket and Philly’s Cheese Steak over the summer; Taqueria will soon move up to St. Mark’s Place and received blessings from […]