About seventeen or eighteen years ago, my friend Sam and I were walking through the West Village and happened upon a small shop announcing its grand opening. The store in question sold exclusively rubber stamps. They came in different shapes, sizes and designs. But that was it. Well, maybe you could buy the ink pads with which you'd stamp them, but that was it. No paper. No envelopes. Nothing. We started ruminating about how the shop must have come about. Sam, in his distinctive southern drawl, painted a picture of the young entrepreneur approaching his father for a loan and explaining the shop's concept. "Y'see, Dad," he earnestly offered with a glint in his eye, "it'll be a shop that sells nothing but rubber stamps in funny shapes!" "Boy," the father replied incredulously, "that dog just ain't go'hunt!"
Well, last time I checked, that shop was actually still there (which is kinda astounding, given this economy). I had another one of those moments, though, recently when I passed a storefront on ever-transforming West 8th street. In a small space formerly occupied by tiny Mexican taqueria Pio Maya, a business dubbed "Action Planet" opened up to very little fanfare. Something of a cross between a comic book emporium and a bistro, you could evidently order burgers and look at Jack Kirby illustrations of Captain America as you dined. It was open on a schedule could be best described as erratic. Being a recovering comics geek, I'd always meant to duck in and check the place out, despite the inherent incongruity of the operation's premise. Unfortunately, that will never happen now, as evidently the Action Planet has stalled in its orbit and is no more. That's its front window in the picture at the top of this post as of last Saturday with the "for rent" sign. As Sam's charming southern colloquialism best described, it was a dog that patently refused to hunt.
Action Planet's fleeting tenure on West 8th Street is just another brief chapter of this strip's history. I've written about the street's relatively recent trajectory several times here before. Up the block a bit, Elettaria -- a tony eatery that positioned itself as the flagship of the "new restaurant row" that West 8th was supposedly slated to become -- closed up shop without much ado last month. Back towards 6th Avenue, the space that once was da Bhang is now a rather cheesy-looking sports bar called Desire. Other spots up and down the block look to be scrambling in order to stay afloat. There are still a couple of head shops, t-shirt outlets and tattoo parlors that seem to be doing alright, but it seems that on the whole, West 8th street remains unable to redefine itself.