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Art Project Nearly Destroys West Village Grocery

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Hercules and his cat, Sneaky
Hercules and his cat, Sneaky

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In late May, a group of artists bought the entire contents of Hercules Fancy Grocery, a West Village shop known for its imported beer selection. Their goal was to create an art exhibit about consumerism, but in the process, they accidentally dealt a serious blow to the business.

Store owner Hercules Dimitratos, who opened the grocery in 1971, tells the Times that "it was the most exciting thing" when Canadian artist Kyle MacDonald and his colleagues appeared in the store with a briefcase full of cash and announced that they would take everything. (The buyout is documented in a video after the jump.) But now Dimitratos is stuck in a Catch-22: If he restocks, he might not be able to pay for the new inventory, but if he doesn't restock, he won't be able to win back the customers who left when they heard his story was sold out. The artists paid over $20,000 for the merchandise, but that went to paying back distributors.

The entire contents of Hercules Fancy Grocery are now on display at Fusion Arts Museum on the Lower East Side in an exhibit titled “The Art of Convenience." You can buy the products online, but be warned: The pricing is all conceptual. A pack of Marlboros, for example, costs $406 to represent what a pack-a-day smoker might wind up paying for cigarettes in a month.

The artists were shocked to hear about Dimitratos's problems. Creative director Hal Kirkland told the Times, "This is completely the opposite of what we thought would happen." They've pledged to help with sales from their exhibit, although they say they're still "20-or-so grand down." If you want to help, stop by the exhibit this Sunday, June 12, when Dimitratos will be signing special edition posters, the sales of which will go towards his grocery. Or just drop in on his Morton Street store and cut out the middlemen.
· Help! Consumerism-Mocking Artists Just Ate My Store! [City Room]
· Store Buyout [Official Site]

Hercules Fancy Grocery

27 Morton Street, New York NY