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De La Vega Builds His Brand Online

DSC03593 copy - Version 2Suzanne Rozdeba James De La Vega puffs on a cigar outside the former home of his East Village Museum.

James De La Vega, who shut down his East Village museum in August of last year and left followers wondering where he’ll end up next, has taken his brand online.

“De La Vega is now writing on the sidewalks of cyberspace,” said the artist, famous for his street art, often adorned with the catch phrase, “Realiza Tu Sueno / Become Your Dream.” In January, Mr. De La Vega said he was working on a “digital experience.” Now, that experience has been revealed: an online store, featuring De La Vega T-shirts, tote bags and even an organic baby body suit with his signature fish jumping out of a bowl. An assortment of coffee mugs, shot glasses and water bottles range from $10-$18.

Mr. De La Vega remained confident that his followers — who see him as an artistic prophet of sorts — would follow him in his new, commercial direction.
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Want to See Your Facebook Updates Performed Live? Tell These People!

Blogologues production teamCourtesy of “Blogologues” The “Blogologues” production team from left to right: Assistant director Meredith Hackman, director Megan Loughran, co-producers Allison Goldberg and Jen Jamula, and stage manager Jim Armstrong

When an online phenomenon escapes the bounds of the digital world and emerges IRL (in real life), bloggers are fond of proclaiming “the intertubes are leaking.” “Blogologues,” an upcoming show at Under St. Marks, will turn the spigot and let Internet culture gush out at full flow.

Each month, “Blogologues” will take real Internet postings on a theme and turn them into a stage show. And get this: The producers are taking suggestions from readers of The Local. Have any recommendable tweets, blog posts, even Craigslist ads? Don’t be shy. Leave them in the comments and they may end up being enacted on stage. Read more…

Clicking for Cupcakes

Butter Lane Exterior Ian Duncan

On a recent afternoon, Sumana Ramakrishnan, a 21-year-old student with her eye on a pink frosted cupcake, stepped up to a cash register inside Butter Lane and reached into her pocket. But instead of pulling out her wallet she tapped on her smart phone and showed it to the knowing cashier. There would be no charge, it turned out, for Ms. Ramakrishnan’s cupcake. Hers was one of more than 800 that had been given away in February by means of a promotional website.

The site, Tenka, is among the newest of a host of such sites seeking traction in the East Village. It was started in October by Nhon Ma, a former Google operations manager, who said he targeted the East Village because of its density of small businesses and population of Web savvy young people.

“The East Village is fiercely competitive relative to other areas,” said Mr. Ma. “Tenka deals really resonate with merchants because they are able to see the power of social recommendation.”

Tenka is a cell phone-based online service that lets customers redeem coupons for free items at participating stores. Tenka charges merchants to create a deal. The merchant chooses how many coupons they want to offer, and Tenka promotes it on its site and across its users’ Facebook pages.

Many of the small business owners who turn to deal sites, and other forms of social media, do so because they don’t want to spend money on other forms of advertising.

“From the beginning our strategy was, what kind of marketing can we get for free?” said Maria Baugh, co-owner of Butter Lane. “Having no marketing budget, a lot of social media opportunities were great for us.” Read more…

Coffee Shops Ponder Life Without WiFi

IMG_4093Claire Glass Coffee shop owners wonder if eliminating free WiFi access can reduce scenes like this, at Ninth Street Espresso, and improve their bottom lines.

When we East Villagers head to the coffee shop we claim the table, the nook, and the dent in the sofa as our own for hours on end because, well, it seldom costs more than the price of a cup of Joe. And what keeps us there? Often it’s the free WiFi.

But now local coffee purveyors are starting to re-think WiFi because offering unlimited access in exchange for a $3 cup of coffee draws enough Web-hungry customers to threaten their shops’ vibes and, sometimes, their bottom lines.

“It was a question of managing the Internet,” said Aaron Hagedorn, co-owner of Ost, a shop at 12th Street and Avenue A, explaining why he and his partner adopted a no-computer policy after 7 p.m. and eliminated WiFi after 11 a.m. on weekends at the start of the summer. “And we had to do just that — manage it — all the time. It would have been hard to stay in business if we didn’t.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the compromise.

“I don’t know how you can disconnect the use of Internet and coffee shops,” Ost customer Braden Smith said while enjoying an espresso. “They’ve always been places where you come and sit to work for hours.”
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