What a (bad) trip: Love Saves the Day is closing


By Dottie Wilson

When I used to live in a fifth-floor walkup in the East Village, the original St. Mark’s Bookshop occupied the first floor of my apartment building and Love Saves the Day, an equally absorbing neighborhood “institution,” was just around the corner. Back then, both places were “free” forms of entertainment, something fun to do. You went there with friends to look at cool stuff, and it was an easy way to please out-of-town guests and/or humans from above 14th St.

Decades later, I now live in a sixth-floor walkup in the East Village. The bookshop has relocated one block north, and sadly, LSD, for short — which is actually what the store was named for — is moving to New Hope, Pa., in mid-January. Where will I go, what will I do? Whenever visitors came over to get me, these shops were my personal, highly engaging waiting rooms. No one complained if I was running late; there was just so much interesting stuff to peruse, especially at LSD — where the window displays were some of the most creative and witty I’ve ever seen, shame on Barney’s. Even their bright, day-glo facade and exterior signage was exceptional: “Unattended Children Will Be Sold as Slaves!”

LSD, located on the same block of Second Ave. as Gem Spa, B&H Dairy, The Orpheum, Stage Deli and Toy Tokyo, now has a new sign on its door, and it isn’t amusing. It’s an ugly announcement about the departure of yet another special facet of the East Village. Granted, I may not have spent a lot of money there — aside from on the handsome, antique and fully operational Bakelite radio I had to have — but I did put in the time. This was back when on the very same sidewalk you could get a bargain on used wire hangers, loose batteries, shoes (always shoes) and useless/disgusting personal objects stolen from someone’s car. LSD’s window dresser once knew someone who got her stuff stolen and then actually found it out there for sale!

Owner Richard Herson says he’s moving to New Hope, where his other LSD is located, due to “a combination of things.” His wife and co-owner, Leslie, who founded the shop in 1966, passed away last summer.

“Taking care of duel inventories for two different locations gets to be a lot,” he added. In 2005, they received an enormous rent increase, and almost had to close — until they worked out a three-year agreement. He didn’t need to mention that we’re in the middle of a recession and it’s almost 2009.

People are definitely going to miss this nostalgic shop stuffed with obscura and collectables — pack rats and pop culture addicts fair warning: old Playboys, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, Kiss and Transformer crap for him; groovy wigs, clothing and accessories for her. (In “Desperately Seeking Susan,” Madonna shopped there!) There are also vintage toys, games, comic books, posters, jewelry, figurines and kitchy “retro-treasure” for all ages.

But what really hooked me on LSD were the Barbies, and their outfits. On the store’s YouTube site they have a video of the cherished dolls which features a stylish, multicolored spring overcoat — in a big and boxy tweed — that I used to “play” with, sniff-sniffle. Sorry, I loved my Barbies! And I was absolutely touched to hear that Barbie was the most sought-after item in the store — followed by leather pants and jackets — according to Martin Ruginis, who has designed their windows since the early ’90s. 

“I was a customer for two years before I worked here,” recounted Ruginis, who has crafted an average of about 10 “installations” per year for the shop. For the earliest works, he and Leslie Herson collaborated on the windows. After the displays kept getting “bigger and better,” she eventually just gave him the merchandise and said, Go! It goes without saying that Ruginis had fabulous material to work with; but I also recall how truly fascinating, funny and thematic his storefront installations were, many of which attracted big customers, celebrities and publicity.

Over the years, Ruginis has created large-scale, often surreal environments involving aliens, caves, funky clothing and shoes from the ’70s, crazy clowns, colorful Fisher-Price toys, a rare black baby mannequin, S&M attire and gadgetry, even a disturbing doctor’s examination table from the 1930s. He said his windows moved massive amounts of product back in the day.

“It was awesome sometimes, the power of display,” Ruginis reminisced.

I hadn’t been to LSD in a while, and after hearing about its inevitable demise, felt bad about losing this cluttered East Village icon. On the other hand, wasn’t the key to happiness “to have no possessions”? What about Reverend Billy and the stop-shopping or minimalism movements? And our sick and twisted economy? Bah humbug. Love Saves the Day has always been a great place to “shop locally”; they have excellent gifts and people love going there — plus, I’m “desperately seeking” a pair of warm, black leather pants this winter, and maybe a new (old) doll with matching wardrobe… .

But how ironic and horrible that this unique “real estate” will most likely end up symbolizing a really bad acid trip when a Duane Reade or the equivalent no doubt occupies the space. Blessed be thy independent bookstore. 

Love Saves the Day, 110 Second Ave., 212-228-3802, open until mid-January. Love Save the Day, 15 Main St., New Hope, Pa., open until the end of time?