LIFE RETURNING SLOWLY TO BLEAK AMSTERDAM AVENUE BLOCK: CAFE, PHOTO STUDIO, SWEETS SHOP COMING

Three stores that have been vacant for months on Amsterdam Avenue between 78th and 79th Streets could soon (but not too soon) be bustling with new business. That block, in the heart of the Upper West Side, has been looking a lot like Detroit: for much of the past year, seven of the 11 businesses on its east side have been shuttered.

Ottomanelli Brothers, the sandwich shop on the corner of 79th, closed in February. And the stores on the South end of the block, including Shining Star restaurant, closed late last year after the landlord refused to renegotiate their leases.

But recently, some signs of life are sprouting up. A photo studio called Classic Kids Photography is opening in the old Ottomanelli’s spot (thanks to Daren for the tip and photo). I talked to an employee at the store’s Upper East Side location who told me a little about what we can expect when they open. She followed up with an email, promising free car service to anyone willing to come to the East Side for a photo shoot before they open here:

“We are a black and white film studio (we don’t shoot digitally) and we still print everything by hand in the darkroom.  We pride ourselves on our fine art prints, and our entertaining photo shoots! We never try to make a kid sit still, but have a lot of fun, and get beautiful shots in the process!  Your kids are art! We are hoping to be open in November, but since we are moving into a landmark building, it may take a little longer for permitting, etc.  We are offering a car service to any west-side families who would like to shoot in our Lexington Ave. studio until we open.

A few stores down, the Pecan Cafe is opening “in about four weeks” in the spot of the old Gavin Printing and Stationary, owner Shamai Malka told me today. The 30-seat cafe will offer salads, paninis and other sandwiches with lots of organic ingredients, as well as coffee drinks. The company’s only other shop in Tribeca tends to attract celebrities: “Helen Hunt is in here now,” Malka told me when I talked to him. Of course, lots of people have the name Helen Hunt. The cafe will have “a barista and a cook” which has become the company’s tagline (it’s on the window of the store). Malka says the Upper West Side cafe will become his flagship and he hopes to use it as a model to expand throughout the city and maybe nationally.

A sweets shop called Sugar & Plumm, Purveyors of Yumm was also expected to open at the South end of the block this fall, but that opening has been delayed. An employee at the company’s New Jersey store told me that the store should open sometime in 2012.

Just like Detroit, we will (sort of) rise again.

For other recent Upper West Side openings and closings, click here.