When I was a more youthful man, just arrived in New York, and I found I needed to clothe my feet, I headed down to 8th Street in the Village. There, I recall, were at least a dozen show stores, some obviously of many years standing. Literally one shoe shop after another. It was very easy to shop and compare goods and prices. And I always went home with shoes.
In recent years, however, you see less shoe stores and move of the above: vacant storefronts. Also various crappy eateries and assorted oddball businesses. The street is a lane of economic depression. Da'Vinci, seen up top, is one of the footwear survivors. (Great sign, by the way.) I remember it being there in the late '80s, though I'm sure it's older than that. I found two others left, including Kinway, below. Otherwise, this is no longer a shoe street.
Why did it change? Well, streets evolve. After all, in the first half of the 20th century, 8th Street was known for its many new and used book stores. Then it was shoes. Now the lane is on its way to something else. But it's also the same old story: rising rents. They began to go up in the first decade of the 21st century and the shoe merchants left, including the Village Cobbler, at 60 W. 8th Street, which sort of anchored the block. (No one ever got rich selling shoes.) Like so many landlords around the city, those of 8th Street hoped to attract high-paying restaurants. But that hasn't happened.