Due to its wealth of restaurants and businesses, Orchard Street is one of busiest areas in the Lower East Side. As is tradition on this famed thoroughfare, vendors are seen up and down the block hawking their wares while trying to attract consumers. While many of these shops have something unique to offer, the most eye-catching shop on the block has to be the tailor shop Orchard Express at No. 136.
Opened in 2005, this small London-based shop is not only famed for its tailoring, but it’s iconic art decorations as well. When you first pass by the front store windows, it is difficult to not be entranced by the colorful art pieces propped behind the glass. There are a variety of artifacts, ranging from funky portraits, to bright lights, to indie film posters, to dated photos. However, these creative innovations don’t just stop there, upon entering the store, you can see even more photos and posters lining the mahogany wall. Some of these posters are signed by famous people who have visited the shop. For instance, the wall is covered with autographed posters of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and martial arts master Maurice Elmalem who, according to employees, comes “all the time.”
“Some of [these photos] are brought in by different people,” explains Juan Jimenez, an employee at the Orchard Express. He made sure to emphasize several times though that the shop is not an art exhibit, but a place that specializes in fixing clothes and alterations. “[The artwork] is just display, people bring it in, we put it there so people can see it. What we do here [is] alterations. We fix pants: long, short, big, small… we fix it,” he firmly stated. However, when asked if the art helps attract business, Jimenez said it does. “We have a lot of tourists around here. They stop and watch, take pictures.” He pauses and looks at the artwork with a sense of pride. When asked what his favorite art pieces were, he claimed that he liked all of them. He then proceeded to say that the most unique photo to him was the one autographed by Sonia Sotomayor.
Unfortunately, in spite of their popularity and artwork, the employees at Orchard express are worried about the shop’s future. “The rent’s gonna be unaffordable. Maybe not too soon but maybe in 2 or 3 years [we’re going to have to move out].” Jimenez said. The Lower East Side is experiencing wide-scale gentrification that will greatly affect the neighborhood within the next decade. “What they’re doing around here is they’re demolishing this building and remaking it. They’re building new buildings…different. So once they do that, it’s going to be very hard to afford.”
Currently, Jimenez says that his shop is paying $6,000 a month in rent, but eventually those prices are going to soar exponentially to possibly closer to $20,000 a month. This is the bleak reality that awaits many business owners in the near future. The famed Orchard express may be no more in the next few years.
The Orchard Express’s Hours of Operation are 9 a.m to 6 p.m, everyday for 7 days a week. (347) 280-0353