A recent post on NextDoor sparked some friendly debate last week after a new smoke shop popped up in the Manhattan Valley area of the neighborhood. However, it may be much ado about nothing if the lease for the space is not approved by the landlord.
On My Way 1 Smoke Shop, located at 850 Amsterdam Avenue between West 101st and 102nd streets, sits directly across the street from the Frederick Douglas Playground and roughly one block from the Young Women’s Leadership School. Aside from the obvious comments about children patronizing the establishment, feedback on the neighborhood app ranged from encouraging patronage to concern about the cartoon imagery.
The image in question is that of a beehive-haired woman smoking and clad in attire similar to the St. Pauli Girl, sans sleeves. The cartoon adorns both storefront signs and is also projected onto the sidewalk in front in a revolving loop.
Some commenters did not see an issue with the branding and one likened it to Betty Boop. Two others shared an opposing view, one calling it “vulgar” and the other describing it as “a depiction of a woman who looks like a hooker smoking.”
A larger concern involves the shop’s legality, specifically whether it is properly licensed – though it isn’t clear exactly what On My Way 1 intends to sell. ILTUWS reached out to BLDG Management Co. Inc., the landlord for both the residential and commercial properties at 850 Amsterdam Avenue, to address this issue.
The commercial property manager, who would not give his name, said that the prior tenant is seeking to sell his lease to the smoke shop and is waiting for the paperwork to be approved by the management company. He deferred all other questions to parties “above [his] paygrade” and hung up. ILTUWS was later directed by the company’s main number to its lease attorney, but no further information was provided and the attorney has not responded as of writing.
Notably, the former tenant was branded as Amsterdam’s Convenience, Inc., according to Google Maps just five months ago in September 2023. The awning depicted a hookah and, separately, what appears to be a cartoon rabbit with a smokable product in its mouth and the word “smoke” above it.
The storefront was shuttered both times ILTUWS tried to visit and it is not listed as a cannabis dispensary on the state’s official page. If the shop does intend to become a certified cannabis dispensary, NYC Zoning Resolution and NYC Construction Codes will treat it the same as other retail stores.