I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published May 11th 2010
The recently opened Limelight Marketplace, housed within the land-marked nineteenth-century church-turned-nightclub, is once again the showpiece of Sixth Avenue. Hosting more than 35 boutiques, a variety of gourmet food shops and restaurants, a full-service salon, and the Manhattan branch of Brooklyn's own Grimaldi's Pizza, it's like a oddly sacred consumerist fantasyland with an upscale food court.
Sometimes described as Chelsea Market on steroids, the Limelight delivers three floors of beautiful vistas and surprises around ever corner, much in keeping with the experiences felt by visitors to the lively nightclub, which was blessed in 1983 by Warhol himself.
Now reopened after a $15 million dollar renovation, the 160-year-old Limelight boasts a refurbished interior in keeping with its landmark status and plenty of buzz to go along with it. On sale is a tasteful selection of designer goods pooled together in small galleries, such as areas for home accessories, fashion jewelry, men's and woman's attire, cosmetics and fragrances, leather goods, sporting goods (a limited-edition sneaker gallery!), children's wear, and more. Especially attractive is the dynamic first-floor grouping of gourmet shops where specialty cheeses and meats are sold alongside artisan breads, baked goods and sweets.
Offering an innovative small-scale boutique experience in a prime location to keep rents slightly below typical Manhattan real estate prices is not new. Small business owners have long searched for just such a unique opportunity to captivate shoppers and keep them spending. The fact that the Limelight is also a part of the area known as "Ladies' Mile" is also useful—people already think of the Flatiron neighborhood as a retail destination.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, throngs of women enjoyed a parade of department stores along Sixth Avenue, including the six-story Siegal Cooper & Company Dry Goods Store, which was called a "shopping resort" in 1896 by the New York Times. Today the Beaux Arts building, located just two blocks south of the Limelight, still houses retail outlets.
Shoppers are coming to the Limelight Marketplace in droves, no doubt, but still more are curious to see the reclaimed space. So, while you're scoping out some new threads, a flashy pair of running shoes, and some hip, got-to-have-it bargains, imagine the former nightclub, darkly serpentine and jam-packed with day-glow painted club kids. And then, while gazing at the colored stained glass windows and the majestic nave, remember that it's the same interior that once hosted worship services for both John Jacob Astor and Cornelius Vanderbilt.