In the mid-1960s, Jimi Hendrix honed his craft as a singer and guitarist in Greenwich Village clubs like the Gaslight Café, Trude Heller’s, and Café au Go Go. After a 1966 performance at the Café Wha?, Hendrix was persuaded to go to London and form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He returned to New York a superstar. Hendrix moved to West 12th Street in 1969 and in 1970 built his most enduring Village legacy, Electric Lady Studios.
The recording studio was among the vibrant mix of clubs, clothing stores, record shops and eateries that drew people to 8th Street night and day. Now Storm Ritter, whose eclectic shop on the block features fashions based on her original art, wants to bring the excitement of those days back to the Village. Ritter has started a grassroots effort to co-name 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues Jimi Hendrix Way.
“I opened my store up about a year and a half ago and having such a love for the history of 8th Street, Greenwich Village, that Downtown music vibe, I was looking for a lot of community,” says Ritter. “I connected with the Village Alliance, I connected with other merchants and really built a fantastic connection working with these people.
“Me and my friend who lives down the street chitchatted about how much we loved Jimi Hendrix, how much we loved the idea of bringing that legacy back to the street. We were like, let’s co-name it, let’s fuckin’ do it.”
Ritter contacted Electric Lady management, who agreed to work with her on the project. Ritter started a petition and designed a Jimi Hendrix Way t-shirt, which she sells at the store. “I’m just trying to make it fun, just add something to increase tourism. Foot traffic would increase, people would come to take a photo on Jimi Hendrix Way. Go see Electric Lady Studios. It all makes sense for bringing more people back to the street.
“It’s truly incredible how many people come in to tell a story: Oh, I knew Hendrix or I played with Hendrix or I have his watercolors. It’s essentially just saying hey, there’s a legacy to this street, this is what happened here. So remember it.”
Ritter represents the next generation of Village residents who hope to preserve what’s special about the neighborhood. “We’re going very grassroots and creating a movement, creating this idea of connecting these businesses, which is working,” she says. “Now these businesses are reaching out to me.
“From here we’re going to continue working for maybe a music festival or getting flags on lampposts outside with Hendrix information, seeing what we can do to increase that legacy. It’s fun.
“Most of my clients are residents who live on this street. They’re people that have been here forever. They say thank God there’s some fun back on this street.”
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