West Side Story: Mom-And-Pop Shops Priced Out Of Neighborhood
07/22/2007 02:45 PM
Mom-and-pop businesses are moving out of the Upper West Side at a feverish pace and they're being replaced mostly by national chain stores and banks. In part one of this special report "West Side Story," die-hard Upper West Side residents are seething with rage.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Guitarist Jay Jay French of the legendary heavy metal band "Twisted Sister" calls 91st and Broadway the center of his universe.
The long-time Upper West Side resident says his old stomping ground is not what it used to be, as long-time businesses are moving out and national chain stores are moving in at a record pace.
"I've lived here through eight presidents, okay, a long time — since Eisenhower, so this has always been here," said French.
"This" is Embassy Florist. Gone. After 87 years on the Upper West Side, the beloved mom-and-pop shop just couldn't afford the rent anymore and just weeks ago packed up its flowers and moved to New Jersey. For French and many others in the neighborhood, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
"Only in the last year has it been so startling that so many landmark stores have finally closed up,” said French.
And while it may not seem like a big deal in other parts of the city, Upper West Side residents say they are devastated by the loss of long time community oriented businesses. Randy Hirschorn grew up with Embassy Florist and is now its manager.
"I'm in mourning. It’s like I lost a child when we had to move from here,” said Hirschorn. “I’m here everyday with deliveries because we have so many customers in the neighborhood that every time I pass 96th Street I feel like crying."
Crying because he — like many other mom and pop shops — just cannot afford to stay.
"If you're paying $15,000, they can say now you're market value is $60,000. How can you survive,” said Hirschorn.
After five decades on the Upper West Side, Jay Jay French longs for yesterday. He collects black and white photos of his neighborhood through its many manifestations. But he fears the ousting of long-time shops may be the lethal blow to the community.
“Now of course, we are watching the complete and utter mega-million dollar development of the West Side,” said French.
- Cheryl Wills