Gem Spa was open since the 1920s. It is the birthplace of New York’s famed egg cream, and boasted a customer base that included everyone from Iggy Pop to Basquiat. But it was struggling before the pandemic. When Parul Patel’s dad fell ill and had to retire, it was left to her to save the family shop. Her tenacity in hunting down media coverage and finding support among her celebrity patrons was legendary. It wasn’t enough to save it, but she put up a real fight. By the time it closed in May of last year, Gem Spa was known far and wide after features in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and others.
“David Godlis is a regular customer, he’s a big rock-and-roll photographer and he was asking me what was going on with the store. I said, ‘I need a big celebrity to come forward and support us and shed some light on us.’ Because we were getting press, but it wasn’t enough to help us survive. He goes, ‘You know what, I might have a photo of Madonna filming Desperately Seeking Susan outside the store. Do you think you’d want that?’ I was like, ‘Of course!’
The photo was taken in 1984, shortly before my parents bought the store in ’86. David was so sweet. He gifted it to us to sell 100 limited editions of the print. It sold out and everybody loved it. Then he donated more.”
Parul Patel, co-owner of Gem Spa
Lower East Side, NY