Service of a Fickle Retail and Restaurant Landscape: What Should Go, Stay & Return?

April 25th, 2022

Categories: Out of Business, Restaurant, Retail

There are some businesses that deserve to close and it’s no surprise when they do. I thought about this on a walk in my old neighborhood when I saw that a once terrific restaurant that had gone severely downhill had finally closed. Supposedly serving French bistro fare, the last time I went the bread was stale. Impossible! When it first opened in a hole in the wall the food was scrumptious. It moved, gussied up and was never the same. It deserved to close long before the pandemic took it down.

I’ve previously written about the demise of Loehman’s the discount women’s fashion store, for decades one of my favorite haunts in its heyday. Long before it died it had lost one of its most ardent fans: Me. [Observing my devotion and purchase successes my father almost bought stock in the place.] Buyers for the chain suddenly acquired cheap and lousy clothing and where once it offered a magnificent choice of handsome coats and glorious evening wear, the options in its final years were paltry and the quality unacceptable.

On the other hand, the pandemic felled one of my favorite stores, Copenhagen-based Flying Tiger, erased from the US market. A quick visit would cheer the grumpiest person because of the variety store’s quirky, fun gifts and party favors at incredibly reasonable prices–stocking stuffer paradise all year ’round.

Jasmine, a pet Chinese restaurant on east 49th Street, NYC, didn’t make it through the pandemic either.

Can you identify businesses that lasted long after their sell dates and others that you mourn because they had to close while they were still so very much appreciated?

14 Responses to “Service of a Fickle Retail and Restaurant Landscape: What Should Go, Stay & Return?”

  1. ASK Said:

    I do remember Loehman’s fondly, having once acquired a real Halston cashmere dress for a pittance. The chain supposedly died because of an increase in competition for those off- or unsold goods. With so many other retailers taking their cue from Loehman’s and discount malls proliferating, a lot of manufacturers started making lesser quality goods for such stores because there wasn’t enough to go around. This, per an article I read ages ago in either the WSJ or one of the Fairchild trade papers. I know of one case of a very pricey designer line today that sells via internet flash sales, but sometimes these sales feature lower-quality fabrics of the house’s styles or, on occasion, original items that can be dated.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I would sound like a boastful grandmother going on about talented grand kids if I described all the amazing buys I made at Loehman’s. I never cared about labels but the choices and quality were there consistently. Another place I miss is Aaron’s in mid Brooklyn. It kept the labels on and while I could never afford the clothes until they went on sale, boy did I do well when that happened.

    I think Loehman’s stretched itself too thin, opening branches all over the place–Westchester, NJ, Manhattan etc. My husband often said “stick to your last,” and becoming a chain did not fit well for Loehman’s.

  3. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Selfishly I miss the UES B&N and BB&B. There are other Manhattan locations, but none so close to home.

  4. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward on Facebook: I believe brick and mortar retail is pretty much doomed, covid accelerated the inevitable.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Edward: I cannot be the only person who likes to feel the quality of cotton on tablecloth or shirt or see how well a piece of furniture is made or who simply enjoys a visit to a beautifully merchandised store. I admit to buying an awful lot online but I miss my visits to T.J. Maxx in Poughkeepsie!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    I’m amazed that some of the stores I’ve visited lately are alive–Bloomingdale’s flagship on Lexington Avenue and Nordstrom’s on west 57th Street as two examples. The amount of real estate they use is vast yet floor after floor there were too few shoppers to pay the rent. Worrisome.

  7. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: That Bloomingdale’s location was never terribly crowded and is the “mothership” so doubt would ever close. But the Nordstrom on 57th is a true mystery to me. I’ve only been a few times and it’s always a ghost town. Too high end/expensive for my taste and certainly for that neighborhood.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    I agree about Nordstroms. Maybe at other branches there’s a retail point of view but it hasn’t yet developed one in the Manhattan store.

    Bloomingdale’s was THE place to meet people at one point: The 20 and 30-somethings made it a Saturday destination. There were lines outside dressing rooms. As for flagships being there forever I thought Barneys and Henri Bendel would last–and such as Toys R Us closing was a surprise.

  9. lucrezia Said:

    Popular businesses often die because of super greedy landlords and/or taxes. Sadly, too many come to mind. I don’t think it’s right to wish any store/establishment out on the street. If it’s no good, lack of clientele will usually do the job!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I vote with my feet and don’t return if a business has gone south and often I’m not alone. A silent protest. On the other hand when I need a new pair of sneakers, shoes or underwear and I no longer have Century 21 to visit my heart sinks. Many of my friends feel the same.

  11. Jackie Morel Said:

    Jackie on Facebook: NYC is a tough place. The city will come back and be stronger than ever.

  12. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook:

    Eileen, once greed is reduced to permit realistic rents for small vendors, boutiques and specialty stores will come back . .. . until then many empty store fronts.

  13. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook:

    Jeanne, Difference is Barney’s & Bendl’s not a nationwide chain. I’ve been to NJ & LI Nordstrom’s, as well as original store in Seattle, and none as empty as 57th Street. First rule of real estate: location, location, location. And as for Bloomingdale’s being the place to be…that was back when I was in my 20s, sadly decades ago.

  14. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I certainly don’t mis the pretense, pomp and price-gouging of Barney’s. Our Nordstrom is pleasant, but a long drive away, I feel sad about small stores and restaurants or luncheonettes that simply couldn’t survive the pandemic in Boston, especially Back Bay.
    I guess Nieman Marcus imploded from overpricing and perhaps Texas taste in Boston. All the empty storefronts leave me sad.

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