A cereal saloon? In Union Square?? In this economy??? Not anymore, I'm afraid: The Kellogg's NYC cafe, a large windowed box where tourists could pay too much to eat cereal suspended in midair, has closed. "Closed abruptly," according to Eater, its empty husk reimagined as a holiday pop-up slinging fancy donuts.
The Kellogg's NYC website confirms the closure: "We are sincerely thankful for the support of all our great guests of this unique cereal experience," it screams in all caps. "While Kellogg is busy creating the next adventure, the Union Square Space will be open as a White Box space through our partner Co.Create NYC for events."
If, in turn, you were wondering what a White Box space is, here's some start-up word salad for you to digest: "The White Box is where brainstorms become brand activations, product innovations become pop-ups, fever dreams become private parties." (On which most of Union Square would theoretically be able to spy, considering the whole storefront is glass.)
The brand announced its departure in an Instagram post, which was — with the exception of one user who believes the whole thing went downhill when they took away the window swings — uniformly met with effusive laments from followers.
In June of 2016, Kellogg's NYC opened its first cereal cafe in Times Square, offering tourists bowls of refined carbohydrates for the totally-reasonable-what-do-you-mean price of $6 to $8. The menu had been enhanced by Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, possibly to justify the price, I guess? Anyway, the venture's perhaps improbable success prompted a move to a bigger space overlooking Union Square in 2017, a boom year for Instagrammable cereal, for whatever reason. Located at 31 East 17th Street, the new digs were more than five times bigger than the old ones, according to Eater. Kellogg's dropped prices — $1.50 for your basic bowl of Frosted Flakes (a family-sized box of which currently costs $3.79 at Target) or Special K; $4 for a jazzed-up bowl with toppings — but this more affordable fare does not appear to have done the trick.
Kellogg's NYC did not address Gothamist's questions about the reason for the departure, so we can't say for sure what prompted the closure. Still, a slew of better-established businesses have vacated the neighborhood in recent months and years, typically citing rents rising at wildly unrealistic rates. Coffee Shop shuttered in October 2018, to be replaced by a Chase Bank and by CHLOE. In January, Blue Water Grill closed its doors, a spokesperson for its owner (an actual billionaire) explaining, "Even though this is one of New York's most successful restaurants, it can't be successful with a $2 million plus rent." In 2017, popular eatery Republic announced its impending relocation, due to the mounting financial burden of a Union Square lease, and in 2015, Danny Meyer explained that he had to move his Union Square Cafe because of "untenable rent escalations."
Meanwhile, demand for Kellogg's product has reportedly been waning across the board. Without knowing exactly how much it costs to rent a centrally located sky lounge, one designated specifically for the consumption of Frosted Mini Wheats and their ilk, it's hard to guess at the overhead Kellogg's NYC faced. It seems reasonable to expect, though, that the rent would be high — too high, even, for Big Cereal to justify?!?! What have we come to??
But take heart, my Froot Loops, because a statement from Kellogg's suggests the brand isn't done with you yet:
We have been lucky to have wonderful support from cereal fans and media alike. We are committed to continuing to bring more unique and engaging experiences to Kellogg’s cereal fans in the future. Kellogg has loyal, passionate fans that constantly seek the chance to interact with our iconic brands. We believe this includes in-person experiences that push the imagination and provide unexpected opportunities to experience cereal, something they've been connected to their entire lives, in a completely new way. That was our belief when we opened the first café and fans have responded positively and asked for more ever since. Stay tuned for updates on our next chapter!
Hm. Much to think about.