Bicycle Habitat Leaving Lafayette Street 40 Years After its Founding

Posted on: July 12th, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Photo: Google Maps

On the occasion of its fortieth year, Bicycle Habitat is amidst transition. A downsizing. Its foothold on Lafayette Street is coming loose, and the flagship location at 250 Lafayette will shutter later this year.

It’s been a tumultuous few years in SoHo for the mom-and-pop retailer. Bicycle Habitat once occupied three storefronts along Lafayette Street, but a rent gouge (purported fourfold increase) at number 242-244, the space in which it was founded, forced owner Charlie McCorkell to consolidate operations up the block. Now, another reckoning.

“The final straw was an ADA renovation required by the [building] owner,” McCorkell told us in an email. The landlord apparently handled the bill, but the persistent scaffolding situation deterred and impeded traffic flow.

“Two years of scaffolding on either side, a changing demographic, citibike all played a roll,” he said.

Bicycle Habitat still maintains other locations in Chelsea and Brooklyn, all of which remain open for business.

McCorkell and his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Esta Bigler, opened the original Bicycle Habitat with Brooklynite Hal Ruzal in 1978, a time when SoHo was transitioning from its function as industrial zone. The company first moved into 250 Lafayette Street back in 2010 with the intention to create a “high-end performance cycling store serving road and mountain cyclists and apparel.”

More context from the website:

Bicycle Habitat – 244 Lafayette St It was always fun but rarely easy to run a store in New York City. After opening in 1978, the reaction was good, and the shop broke even in the first year. Still, it was obvious that Lafayette Street was not going to be a hub of bicycle life.

Unlike the SoHo of today, with stores, salons and restaurants from corner to corner, at the time, Bicycle Habitat was one of only two retail stores on the block. The street was awash with junkies going to and from the methadone clinic; the buildings were fairly empty, the manufacturing was leaving, and the “white plight” had gripped the city. Urban planners had predicted a future where the city was a job center and the residents were the poor who could not afford the suburbs – ooooh, were they wrong!  Bicycle Habitat was part of the new wave that would remake SoHo.

By the middle of 1979, it was obvious that the Lafayette Street store would not provide the financial security necessary to keep business flourishing.  In attempts to broaden their clientele, Hal and Charlie turned to Debby Sauer (now married to Frances Bollag), another TA volunteer, and opened a second store in Chelsea at 21st St. and 7th Ave.  For a while, it was easy going, but like many fantasies, obstacles eventually arise.  By 1982, things were changing – chlidren were being born and safety and mugging was a major concern.

Recent Stories

Stickball on St. Mark’s [PHOTOS]

During halftime of the Russia-Croatia World Cup Match last Saturday afternoon, a crew of East Villagers took over St. Mark’s (at Avenue A) for a game of stickball. Bases drawn, pitches thrown, and traffic interrupted. And, like a scene plucked from Wayne’s World, exclamations of “car” and “game on” were myriad. They certainly enjoyed the […]

Karl Fischer’s Bowery Condo Building Gains New Homogenous Facade

Karl Fischer’s seven-story condo building at 263 Bowery looks totally different. For the last two years, its original masonry has been under the knife to install a new facade altogether. Something more befitting Bowery 2.0. The black shroud of netting was just removed to reveal an exterior completely swapped out. It’s basically dulled to a […]

DeSalvio Playground Rehab Delayed Another 6 Months (at Least)

Once a scene of tumult, DeSalvio Playground in Little Italy is currently in ruins as its rehabilitation coincides with the construction of a luxury condo building next door. Construction started in July 2017, yet interim progress has been slow, if at all. Take a look. While the onsite signage promises a fall 2018 delivery – […]

Hell Square ‘Hemp Garden’ on the Way

It appears the retail vape craze shows little sign of slowing in Hell Square. The latest entrant is the so-called Hemp Garden. Hemp Garden takes over from boutique Yaf Sparkle, which exited 158 Orchard Street back in March to combine efforts down on Broome. This weed-leaning store will sell vape oils, edibles, and Cannabidiol (found […]

‘Little Wayla’ Thai Spot Finds its Way on Forsyth Street

The series of retail vacancies caused by the upscaling of 100 Forsyth Street is slowly returning to life. As reported, Kodawari coffee shop took space previously occupied by C.W. Pencil Enterprise; Signs and Symbols Gallery moved into the old Deadly Dragon Sound record shop; and now Little Wayla is operating in the adjoining units of the […]