Just a few months after the Blarney Cove shuttered on East 14th Street, yet another business is suffering death by developer: Stuyvesant Stationery is closing after 23 years in business.
Over the weekend, “Everything must go” signs — an increasingly familiar site on the block — tipped passersby off to the fate of the store between First Avenue and Avenue A. The owner, Jun Lee, 51, said he’d have to leave by Tuesday because his landlord had refused to renew his lease. “We had some back-and-forth negotiations, but it didn’t work out,” said Lee. “This place will be demolished. You have no choice but to move out.”
Lee says his landlord has leased 438 E 14th Street to a developer, along with the adjacent Stuyvesant Station post office building. The shopkeeper wouldn’t name the landlord or developer, but earlier this year, the Real Deal reported that in November, Gary Barnett of Extell Development signed a 99-year lease to rent eight properties on East 14th Street, across from Stuyvesant Town. Since then, Petland, Bargain Express, and Rainbow have also shuttered, and EV Grieve reports today that Rite Aid will also close.
Lee said he likely wouldn’t relocate, because profits had decreased in recent years. “Fewer and fewer young people come to buy postcards in a stationery store these days,” he said. “They now send text messages or e-mails.”
Lee first came to New York City from Seoul with his father in 1977. A year later, his father bought a grocery store and brought his son, then 15, to work with him. But the younger Lee dreamed of becoming a businessman: in 1986, he graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey with a bachelor’s degree in management science. “I did trade business but it turned out no good,” he said. A health condition drove him back to working at his father’s store.
In 1990, the father-son team opened a stationery store at the corner of Avenue A and East 14 Street; 10 years ago, after a rent hike, they moved it to its current location. Lee now lives with his wife and three children in Long Island.
“I was disappointed by the news,” said Lee of his current predicament. “But I have to move on. You can’t just sit down and cry.”