Originally published on Gothamist by Jen Carlson
Subway newsstand operators have seen business decline in recent years, and the city’s empty storefront problem has crept underground—within MTA stations, 40% of 326 total properties are currently going unused. It seems possible that one day all of those adorable staircase newsstands will be extinct, and their offerings and their humans will be replaced by… corporate vending machines. At least that’s what we’re starting to see as the rollout of CVS-branded vending machines has begun.
We dropped by one of them at the Chambers Street station recently, located conveniently by the turnstiles. The offerings focus on beauty, health, hygiene, and food—you’ll be able to buy things like tampons, razors, allergy medicine, 5-hour energy drink ($6.49), beef jerky ($6.99), pistachio & almond mix ($6.99), antacid, toothpaste, condoms, cough drops, nasal spray, Tide-to-go, and more. The prices seem to be on par with what you’d find at a CVS storefront.
To order, you’ll select the category you want and a product list with prices will appear. Then you select the product you want, add to cart (or checkout), pay with your card and voila, you have your emergency jerky and can be on your way.
MTA spokesman Shams Tarek told Gothamist that there is currently this one at Chambers and two others at Union Square, which arrived last week. This is part of a two-year pilot and “part of our ongoing efforts to modernize and expand retail options in the subway system,” he said.
In March, MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber cited “larger scale retail concepts” as another option in addition to the vending machines (think underground mini-malls). At the time, Tarek noted that ahead of the new rollout, the MTA did outreach to figures in the private sector industry, including retail marketers, architects, and landlords, and solicited ideas about what might play well in these vacant spaces.
The former newsstands at the Chambers Street stations had their leases “terminated for lack of payment,” Tribeca Citizen reported, though the spaces will be advertised for human occupants again.