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Pearl River Mart, beloved SoHo variety store, closing due to sky-rocketing rent

Pearl River Mart sells everything Chinese, including ceramics,

Pearl River Mart sells everything Chinese, including ceramics, paper lanterns, furniture, traditional clothing and bedding. Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

Pearl River Mart, the wondrous emporium of bamboo furniture, fancy chopsticks, paper fans and charming lanterns, is closing shop after 44 years.

The reason? Rent will quintuple to about a half-million dollars a month for the cheerful SoHo store at 477 Broadway -- which occupies the basement, ground and second floors -- when the lease is up Dec. 31. The store's owners will be out sometime before then.

"We're looking around to see if we can find a good place, an affordable place," said principal owner Ming Yi Chen, 76. Chen signed the lease for the SoHo store in 2001, but he spent two years renovating before relocating the store from its previous Broadway spot in Chinatown.

Chen said business was terrific until the financial collapse in 2008. The increasing popularity of online shopping also eroded sales.

"We have an excellent relationship with the landlord, but they cannot go down so much because the market is so hot," Chen explained. "When we moved in this section of Broadway was so quiet. Now it's very, very busy and the rent has rocketed."

Chen, who came to the U.S. from China in 1965, is exploring various options, including renting just one floor upstairs, securing another space nearby, or becoming an online-only enterprise.

It is "harder and harder" for independent brick and mortar stores to make it in NYC, acknowledged the retailer.

"A lot of the smaller stores are being wiped out. Even the trading companies are being wiped out because they sell to the independent stores," Chen said.

Nathan Baden, who owns Pearl River’s building, told Crain’s New York that he is still negotiating with the store.


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