Goodbye signs in the papered-up windows of Pearl River Mart indicated this was the iconic store’s last week in Soho, but gave no exact closing date. Turns out, Tuesday was its last day after 13 years on Broadway. Owner Ching Yeh Chen’s announcement that the massive store would close early, at 5 p.m., came in the same tone I’d heard at previous closing times there. After the last customers left and the doors were locked, the staff, clad in uniform denim vests, joined her and her husband, Ming Yi, for a group portrait.
Everyone gathered along the waterfall wall, on the middle landing of the big stairwell to the cellar. Ching introduced the guest photographer and I was humbled as everyone smiled and gave me a round of applause for coming. After they stood proudly for five Polaroids, they broke into groups of friends and then took their own photos before going back to work packing the rest of merchandise and disassembling the fixtures.
Pearl River Mart’s location at 477 Broadway, its third in 45 years of business, might have fallen victim to a massive rent hike. But Ching Yeh told me she has plans for a new location. In the meantime, she’ll keep importing Asian-style goods for American homes via Pearl River’s website and hopefully in a big colorful store sometime soon.