Back in 2013, I wrote up a nice little post reminiscing about a somewhat unlikely spot for this blog, that being the K Cafe on the second floor of the Astor Place Kmart.
As expressed in that post, I have never been a fan of that Kmart, despite having begrudgingly spent money in it over the years. Its opening in — I believe — 1996 marked a grim tipping point for the rest of the neighborhood, comparable (in my mind, at least) to the shuttering of CBGB and the Cedar Tavern. Not that its entirely Kmart’s fault, but the Astor Place of today is now frequently referred to as the epicenter of “Midtown South,” a ridiculous misnomer that continues to furrow my brow. It’s barely recognizable as the wide open space that acted as the veritable gate of downtown that it was in decades past. Heavy sigh…..
Obviously, Kmart isn’t the only business in the storied, whole-block-occupying 770 Broadway. These days, it’s also the home of AOL, the Huffington Post, Billboard Magazine and, more recently, Facebook, among many others. I once had a job interview on one of its upper floors (not recently, mind you) in the mid-oughts at a trade magazine called Kitchen & Bath Business. The interview went nowhere (somewhat mercifully), but I was happy to be able to stroll around inside 770 for a tiny spell. It’s a massive, hulking fortress of a space.
In any case, regardless of 770’s tenants and the ongoing transformation of Astor Place from a pleasant, open plaza and into a hub of industry, the building remains an indelible landmark, and I can’t help but feel something of a stir when I’m inside it.
A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of meeting a friend for lunch at a company who recently opened office space in 770, and the view from their new cafeteria blew me away. I couldn’t resist snapping another pic — now from a higher vantage point — of that view down Lafayette Street.
Last evening, meanwhile, I found myself back in goddamn Kmart with my two kids, searching for a reading lamp to replace one that had recently ceased functioning on my desk. They hadn’t had what I’d needed in other spots around the neighborhood (I still miss Surprise, Surprise), so I threw in the towel and, sure enough, I found the exact item I needed on Kmart’s second floor.
As we were making for the exit, however, I took my kids on a detour back over to what had been that old K Cafe (once again, see that old post for details). Today, it remains something of a half-assed audio-video department (although they’ve completely given up selling compact discs at this point). I brought my kids over to those beautiful windows to look out over rush hour o’er Astor Place to mimic a shot from years earlier…..
I doubt I’ll ever be able to resist doing that.
Lastly, here’s another clip of U2’s oddball 1997 press function on Kmart’s ground floor. I actually attended this thing, and still think of it every time I’m attempting to check out of the place.