Landmark NYC department stores set to become history

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MANHATTAN (PIX11) – For many there is a funeral of sorts going on at 16th Street and 7th Avenue in Chelsea, “Yeah, it is sad. It is sad,” said Karen Jones.

Although this passing is unique in that it is disguised with a big “store closing sale” banner and it involves a true city staple, Loehmann’s, “This is what New York City is all about.  It’s kind of eerie to see them leave,” said Jones.

Loehmann’s two locations in the city are closing after a December bankruptcy filing. However, they’re not the only ones that are packing up.  The iconic Gray’s Papaya in Greenwich Village is officially cooked. Construction workers removed its historic signage overnight,  “It’s been here for a long, long time, and it kind of kept the neighborhood alive 24/7 so it was pretty surprising.  I mean they took the sign down in the middle of the night,” said neighborhood shop owner Ian Ginsberg.

Ginsberg is a 3rd generation owner of C.O. Bigelows.  Founded in 1838, the pharmacy is a Greenwich Village institution. Simply put, The Village wouldn’t be The Village without it.  Ginsburg says he’s been able to survive against corporate competitors for one reason, “Everybody is time starved and everybody can go on-line, but there is emotional things you can’t feel on-line, so when you come in here we take care of you.”

Bigelows operates on buzz words that are part of the pillar of its foundation, literally. The words “genuine,” “honest,” and “trustworthy” are painted on its pillar.  However, while others stores like Loehmann’s are getting knocked off due to the growth of on-line retail, Ginsburg says the key to survival is to be consistently different, “It’s still tougher in New York these days with the rent prices where they are but you have to continue to move. You can’t do things the same way and expect different results, you have to keep changing.”

As far as the rent prices go, Stephen Sunderland Sr. Managing Director of Optimal Spaces, says that an increase in tourism numbers to record levels has brought more outside money that in return justify corporate haunts like Coffee Bean, 7-11, and Fatburger to not only invest in New York City but to also afford it, “Local mom and pops are just not, they’re no longer economically viable. So what you’re finding are highly-specialized focused stores that can generate the revenues that can justify the rents.”

It should also be noted that Loehmann’s and Gray’s papaya have some company as the Barnes and Noble on 5th and 18th, which is tailored to college students, has shut its doors as well.

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