After 27 years on 81st Street and Columbus Avenue, Maxilla & Mandible closed its doors for good on Sunday night, stuffing brown paper into the display window where skulls and fossils used to sit and slapping a tiny sign on the front saying simply “Gone Digging.”
Owner Henry Galiano (left) said the business will continue operating for private clients who need help organizing exhibitions or finding rare bones, but there will be no store anymore — nowhere for local kids to go and poke their fingers into skeletons, nowhere to buy fossils that are millions of years old.
Throughout the week, Galiano said, people kept coming into the store aghast to hear it was closing, some of them even breaking down in tears.
I honestly don’t know a single Upper West Side parent or kid who grew up here who didn’t know and love this store.
The store didn’t announce that it was closing. Even in the last days, signs on the store said it was having a summer sale, not a going-out-of-business sale. Everything in the store was at least 50% off, including some dinosaur teeth that the store keeps in a special case and an authentic New York rat skull. Shells were 70% off.
Galiano blamed the closing initially on the protected bike lanes on Columbus Avenue right outside the store that made it hard for customers to park, but later extended some of the blame to rising rents and nearby scaffolding that makes the store harder to find.
The store has actually been shrinking for years. Galiano, a former employee of the nearby American Museum of Natural History, used to operate three storefronts on Columbus, but two are now home to Schweitzer Linen. Escalating rents have just made it harder and harder to do business, Galiano said.
“None of these stores are making it,” Galiano said, sweeping his finger up and down Columbus Avenue. “It’s like an illusion. None of them can keep up.”
Check out our farewell video below, and below that a video made years ago featuring clips of Galiano with Regis Philbin and others talking about the store.
Now who will sell us dinosaur bones?