NYC business owners reflect on closures of long time mom and pops
One was that rare place where you could find vintage Led Zeppelin vinyl in Manhattan. Others were local joints where generations shared their favorite sandwich or ice cream cone.
Bleeker Bob's in Greenwich Village, Harlem's Lenox Lounge, the Stage Deli in midtown, and the other city institutions that shut down or announced closure plans in 2012 might not have been able to stay open in a New York of burdened neighborhood businesses, but their owners and the city residents that called those places their second homes will never forget them.
"We all like familiar things and when they get fewer and fewer your world gets smaller," said Chris Weidner, Bleeker Bob's longtime manager.
There is no unifying reason for the stores' closings.
El Faro ended its 85-year tenure in the West Village in October after it failed a health inspection, while an urgent care center replaced the Skyview Deli in the Bronx this year, with little fanfare after more than a half-century of business.
Weidner, who has been managing Bleeker Bob's for 11 years, said the store's rents have become too high and it's too hard to keep up with rising costs.
Weidner, who added that he doesn't have a firm closing date yet for Bleeker Bob's, said its niche popularity couldn't pull it out of the red.
"There has always been some help from the other businesses [nearby], but they can't pay their rent either," he said.
Wally Rubin, the district manager of Community Board 5 - which covers the midtown area where the Stage Deli operated until it closed down earlier this month - said changing demographics played a major role in the demise of the 75-year institution.
The eatery, which had a strong rivalry with the nearby Carnegie Deli, simply wasn't attractive to younger generations of diners.
"There's been a lot of rebirth and change," Rubin said. "When it comes to these closings, it depends on what it is and what the neighborhood is and where the neighborhood is going."
Many longtime outer borough businesses were getting by until Superstorm Sandy washed away their futures.
Flood damage destroyed most of the ice-cream making equipment at Denny's Delight in Coney Island, keeping the 24-year-old dessert place from re-opening, said Brooklyn community board district manager Chuck Reichenthal.
Reichenthal said the loss of Denny's Delight, which was famous for its banana-pistachio twist, hurts him deeply because it's just one of the many neighborhood businesses that Sandy has killed.
"As someone who's a native Brooklynite, who can tell you what was where and what came there, it breaks my heart," he said.
Nancy Ploeger, the president of the Manhattan Chamber of Congress, agreed that it's hard to see these spots close down so easily, but noted that New Yorkers have a knack for finding new places to gather.
In turn, that helps fuel new mom and pop stores that are looking to start their own legacies.
"We hate losing places, but that is the nature of the business," she said. "And there are millions of other places out there waiting for new customers."