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End Of An Era: Gray's Papaya In Greenwich Village Closes Its Doors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The days of cheap hot dogs and tropical juice beverages are over in Greenwich Village, as the neighborhood's Gray's Papaya location has closed its doors.

As CBS 2's Dick Brennan reported, the Gray's Papaya location at 402 Sixth Ave., at West 8th Street, had suddenly closed permanently Thursday. The doors were locked, the windows were papered over, and the lettering for the overhead sign had come down.

The Village Gray's Papaya location is as quintessentially New York as the hot dogs it has been serving for decades. And many were none too happy to see it go.

"It makes me so sad. It's the Village – everything's disappearing one piece at a time," one woman said.

And why is the Greenwich Village Gray's suddenly closing up shop? It's another old New York story that has inspired a name for a political party -- the rent is too damn high.

The store manager told CBS 2 the landlord wants raise it to more than $40,000 per month up from $30,000.

And he'd have to sell many more dogs to make ends meet -- many more at prices the average Joe could afford.

"Rest In Peace" pages have been popping up on Twitter and Facebook.

"Farewell old friend!" one fan wrote.

"I'll miss the papaya shake, but not the 'Thank you Giuliani' banners," another fan wrote.

And pictures on Facebook captured the memories: the glowing neon sign and advertisements for the recession specials -- two franks and a drink for just under $5.

The tasty and cheap Gray's Papaya hot dogs and papaya fruit drinks were favorites of teenagers and college students, especially after a late night.

Another Gray's Papaya location, at 539 Eighth Ave. at 37th Street, closed in 2011 – also due to high rent. Now, the only remaining location is on the Upper West Side, at 2090 Broadway at 72nd Street.

If that one goes out of business and the whole chain disappears, it would be a tragedy, one resident said.

"If you lose this one, I think you really lose the Upper West Side," he said. "It just becomes theme park Upper West Side."

But the Greenwich Village location is indeed lost. It was being remembered for making its mark on politics by endorsing Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, making cameos in nearly a dozen films and becoming a favorite of "Sex and the City" character Carrie Bradshaw.

And of course, they were best remembered for serving just plain folks who wanted their dog tasty and cheap with its distinctive juicy snap -- and maybe a papaya fruit drink, or a non-alcoholic coconut champagne or banana daiquiri drink, to wash it all down.

"It was right on the borderline of grungy and awesome and it had this functionality -- you needed a hot dog? A good one? It was a good hot dog. You're in, you're out," a man said.

Paul Gray, a former employee of competitor Papaya King hot dogs, opened Gray's Papaya in 1973.

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