Sox in the City Pops Up on St. Marks, But Sock Man Isn’t Sweating It

Screen shot 2012-02-03 at 6.21.18 PMNatalie Rinn

On St. Marks Place, where the Sock Man and similar vendors have plied their trade for years, new competition has popped up in a vacant restaurant space. The store goes by the name of Sox in the City.

At 12 St. Marks Place –  in a historic building that has held an array of restaurants, from the Korean spot Gama to the Tex-Mex joint San Marcos  – the bar and tabletops that recently belonged to Hirai Mong Fusion Restaurant are now piled with wool-knit socks, hats and gloves from Afghanistan and Nepal.

Kate FitzGerald, 25, said that her father, Charles FitzGerald, who has owned the building since the 1970s, opened the pop-up to sell off overstock from In the Woods, his recently shuttered store in Martha’s Vineyard. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because In the Woods, which still has an outpost in Bar Harbor, Maine, had a location across the street at 11 St. Marks Place. In 2005, The Times noted that Mr. FitzGerald had kept a store there since 1961.

Down the block at 27 St. Marks Place, the vendor who goes by the name The Sock Man wasn’t too concerned about the return of the competition. “He’s selling for $12, I’m selling for $10. If he’s going to sell socks and hats, I wish him good luck.”

Screen shot 2012-02-03 at 6.20.07 PMNatalie Rinn

The Sock Man, who has been called “the grumpiest man on earth” by Chloe Sevigny, has sold an extensive range of decked-out socks and hosiery in four different locations over 28 years; since 1992, he has made his home in the middle of bustling St. Marks Place. Standing on the sidewalk outside his basement-level shop, he said of Sox in the City, “All they’re selling is mukluks and hand-woven gloves and socks.” He added, “Whatever is there won’t be there for too long.”

He’s right about that: Ms. FitzGerald said her father is hoping that in the next month or two, he’ll find a tenant to open a restaurant in the space. “This is a prime location,” she said from behind the old restaurant’s bar, which now serves as a checkout counter. “We just need someone who has good design sensibilities. We’d love to get a Mexican restaurant or something.”

At the end of the block, Mohamad Rahman, 45, stood outside Little Tokyo, flanked by spinning racks displaying gloves, scarves and furry winter hats in the shape of animal heads. Asked if he was concerned about the new competition, Mr. Rahman, who has worked on St. Marks Place for two years, gave a light-hearted laugh, and said, “No, no, no, not at all.”