As a resident of the Columbus area, Weiser has mixed feelings about the street. "It's getting very commercial," he said, noting the presence of such shops as Aca Joe and Fizzazz.
Fizzazz, which sells only Murjani International's licensed Coca-Cola merchandise, has recently had to cope with the street's darker side. The store recently installed outside its door an electronic kiosk where customers can place after-hours orders.
The first machine, called ERIC (for Electronic Retailing Investment Corp.), was stolen, along with its delivery truck. The second machine was vandalized and removed. ERIC 3, which was equipped with a protective bubble, was also damaged by vandals but has been repaired and will operate until a new and improved ERIC 4, with extra security features, arrives.
"It's a New York City story," said Murjani spokeswoman Carol Fox. "It's not exactly a Better Homes and Gardens testing laboratory."
Some residents agree. Regina Schrambling, a free-lance writer, lived above a Columbus shop until she became frustrated with the noise and the crowds. She willingly accepted a near doubling in her rent to move 25 blocks north.
"It's no longer a neighborhood. It's a theme park," she said. "You could see the same shops at a mall in Iowa."
She noted that some elements of the old neighborhood remain, such as Frank's Barber Shop. However, Frank couldn't be reached for comment. He doesn't have a phone.
LIBERTY LINGERS: Now that the Elvis Presley look-alikes have had their moment in last weekend's limelight, will retailers retire their Statue of Liberty merchandise? No way. Bloomingdale's, for one, still has new souvenirs coming in and intends to keep operating its second-floor Miss Liberty boutique right through Labor Day.
"We have plans to stay in the merchandise as long as we can," said Constance Breslin, a merchandise manager overseeing the shop. As expected, Breslin said, foam Liberty crowns ("I had a man come in and buy 180 at a shot") and flashlight torches outsold other items such as mugs, lollipops and pasta shaped like the statue's head.
The Liberty centennial celebration resulted in a memorable transaction at M. H. Lamston, a drugstore on Sixth Avenue at 56th Street, where a couple from Italy bought more than $2,000 in souvenirs on July 4, according to assistant manager Stephen Nelson. The store said statue merchandise sells briskly all year round.
The Broadway in Southern California jumped on the bandwagon, shipping 21,000 foam rubber crowns to its stores.
"We had almost a complete sellout," spokeswoman Dana Tibbitts said. Of the $1.50 price, 10% was donated to the statue restoration fund. Adagio, a Brentwood clothing boutique, didn't fare so well. It sold only five of two dozen Liberty T-shirts.