RCI APPLIANCES SET TO CLOSE AFTER 80 YEARS ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE

rci closing

RCI, an appliance store on 98th street and Broadway that first opened 80 years ago, is set to close in the next few weeks after losing its lease.

“We are going to miss this,” Kenny Dhanani told us on Saturday. “We are really heartbroken. You can do business anywhere but the neighborhood is really important to us. Everybody here knows each other by face. People are coming into the store with tears in their eyes.”

rciThe store will reopen in Queens.

Dhanani said it’s been hard to stay in business the last few years, and the landlord is raising the rent.

The store was opened by Leon Rubin in 1934, who would sit in the front window fixing radios in a white doctor’s smock, the kind of gag that endeared him to the neighborhood. Back then it was called Radio Clinic.

Leon’s son Alan Rubin ran the shop after his father. His daughter Jen is writing a book about the store and the neighborhood, and we featured her amazing story of how her father kept the store running after the looting in 1977.

For context, Zabar’s opened on 80th and Broadway in 1934. It’s not clear if there are any other businesses in the neighborhood that are older — and still at the same location.

Bruce Bernstein, who sent in the photo above, said the store always had great service, and was a fixture in the neighborhood.

“Perhaps I paid a tiny bit more than shopping at the superstore chains (and it really was a very small difference — I checked the prices), but I made a point of buying there. They gave personal service, they would take an appliance back, their delivery was reliable.

When I went in today (Sat), people were streaming into the store, all very sad and angry at the landlord. This store really was an UWS institution. The UWS continues to lose its unique commercial character.”

Others also wrote in to share their sadness.

RCI will probably close in a couple of weeks, Dhanani said.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 43 comments | permalink
    1. UWSer says:

      This makes me very sad…:(

    2. Brenda says:

      Growing up, I remember a Radio Clinic on Broadway and 83rd….I think where Artie’s is now….my dad was a friend of Mr. Rubin…he not only repaired radios, but in those early days I think we got our first TV and air conditioner there….he was a true pioneer!!!
      As I’ve commented before, you never had to leave 79th to 86th on Broadway for ANYTHING! A self contained village.
      Will they sit around the campfire one day reminiscing about Duane Reade and TD Bsnk???

      Brenda

    3. Jen Rubin says:

      When my grandfather first opened Radio Clinic in 1934 it was located next to Levine’s dairy and Leider & Son stationary. Over the last 80 years it shared the block with many many different stores: Renee the corsetiere, Max’s millinery, Nedick’s, Strand Cafe, Riverside Pizza, Thrift Hosiery store and countless more. My dad has been retired from RCI for a few years but I am sad to hear about its end. Every longstanding store contains a lot of history.

    4. Paul RL says:

      I was always afraid of this one going. I bought my first fridge, stove & dishwasher here. Truly a loss for the ‘hood.

    5. Susan Levit says:

      Really sad about this. I always went there first because I trusted the staff. They were knowledgeable, friendly and the service was always great. I can’t stand what this neighborhood is becoming because of greedy landlords.

    6. Tom D says:

      A real shame. I’ve only been here for a few years but its really upsetting to see so many old neighborhood places like this disappear. At least the space appears to be too small for another bank or Duane Read.

    7. A neighboyhood is defined by local businesses like this one. You could write a sad song with the names of the departed and sorely missed, starting with Harry Oppenheimer’s great meat store. Kudos to RCI for sticking around so long,, and good luck to them in Queens!

    8. MaryJo says:

      This breaks my heart. When I moved to 80th St. and was beginning my real estate career in NY, RCI sold me scratch and dent specials with warranties to help me keep AC in my apt. They bent over backwards with every purchase I made there. It was obvious they truly cared. I never paid more there. They made sure of that. From vacuum cleaners to ovens to AC units at my subsequent purchase of an apt in Inwood, they were truly my neighborhood store. I hope they become the same for their new neighborhood in Queens.

    9. John French says:

      I believe that the oldest continuing business and store sign on the Upper west Side is the optometrist between 91st and 92nd street on Broadway.

    10. Brenda says:

      I checked on the Internet to see if I was right after all remembering a Radio Clinic also at 83rd and Broadway.(#2390). I was!!! There are old ads for both stores.
      When did that one close???

      The Rubin family left a wonderful and heartwarming legacy….
      The West Side of those days are memories that never tarnish…

      Brenda

      • Jen Rubin says:

        Brenda, I am Alan Rubin’s daughter and finishing a book that essentially tells the story of the Upper West Side seen through the eye of Radio Clinic over the last 80 years. I would love to see any old advertising you found from the store. If it is easy could you email me any links you found? rubinjen@gmail.com

    11. Brenda says:

      Sorry…..meant 2290 Broadway.

      Brenda

    12. Bruce Bernstein says:

      I was heartbroken when I went there yesterday and saw the sign. I have the exact same experience with RCI that others above have had. Try to get such personal treatment at a “superstore.”

      We — meaning the residents of NYC — CAN do something about this ongoing demolition of small businesses. We can find a way to REGULATE landlords so that the rent increases to commercial tenants are reasonable and within bounds. They do it in London. Why can’t we do it in NY?

      there are various proposals on the table:

      http://thevillager.com/villager_347/retailrent.html

      the landlord’s lobby has always been able to derail these bills. Isn’t it time under the new, progressive Mayor and City Council for some sort of regulation of commercial rents to pass?

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/opinion/danny-meyers-union-square-cafe-is-a-casualty-of-rising-rents.html

      I urge Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and Borough President Gale Brewer to get behind the best proposal of this type that will SAVE the small businesses that the middle class and working class people rely on.

      • Jeff says:

        hey Bruce, by progressive do you mean Marxist? Our mayor worked with the Sandanistas and honeymooned in Cuba. Our council president thinks Che Gurriva was a hero. The reason we loose business is because taxes are too high and there is too much regulation. Cut both and you will get more jobs. You want to regulate land rentals? Great, then landlords will warehouse buildings like they do apartments. It is a shame we loose local mom and pops, but that is progress. Something you Progressives should favor! Right?

      • Khushboo Dhanani says:

        Hi Bruce,

        Thank you for your concern regarding ongoing demolition of small businesses. I do agree that we need to save the remaining small businesses, however our cause of move is not because of rent increasing. Business is not what it used to be and expenses are only increasing, hence the decision to move. We are fortunate enough to be able to relocate. We appreciate all your kind words.

        Thank you,

        Khush

      • Yogi Mantle says:

        Hey Bruce, too bad RCI’s owner Mr. Dhanani derailed your theory that it was the fault of Evil Landlord that RCI is closing.

        Got any other left-wing agendas to push?

    13. Steve Dorff says:

      So when will they actually close??
      Can I still buy from this location now?

      • West Sider says:

        They’ll probably be open for another couple of weeks. Avi

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        STeve Dorff:

        I don’t believe the business is technically “closing”. It is leaving the UWS and moving to QUeens (Union Turnpike). As Avi mentioned, you can still buy at the Bway location. After the move, you can reach them and buy at the new location. Kenny told me they will have the same phone # and email as they do now. Phone: (212) 864-6000 ; email: rcippl@verizon.net. Also I assume the web site will be the same: http://www.rciappl.com

        I just stored my air conditioners with them for the winter. In the spring I will call them and they will come and re-install the two air conditioners.

    14. Brenda says:

      Jen….just google Radio Clinic 2290 Broadway…
      Lots of mentions, columns, ads….
      Good luck with the book…we will all look forward to some great nostalgic reading.

      Brenda

    15. Madeline R says:

      New York City should do more to protect small businesses from predatory landlords. I’ve never understood why those in the real estate business are allowed to destroy other businesses that happen to be their tenants. The jobs, services and relationships offered by those “other businesses” are no less important than whatever value property owners offer.

      • Khushboo Dhanani says:

        Hi Madeline,

        Wanted to thank you for your concerns. However, want to clarify, we are not moving because of increase in rent. Our Landlord is a BLESSING to us. Business is not what it used to be and expenses are increasing on all sides. We are fortunate enough to relocate and will continue business as usual.

        Thank you,

        Khush

      • Jeff says:

        because when you live in a free country, you get to own land and decide how you use your property. If you can get more money from a new tenant than the current, and their lease is up, than you choose the new tenant. Do you UWS liberals really not understand how the real world works? Or do you all just stew in faculty lounges and read Marx all day?!

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          Jeff, you should read what Adam Smith has to say about landlords some time! It would be hard for Marx to top Smith’s disdain.

          Of course there is no “absolute freedom” of capital to do whatever it wants, or for the owners of capital to do whatever they want with it. Let’s start with taxation… and then proceed to the myriad regulations that exist even in the most capitalist societies.

      • Yogi Mantle says:

        Nice try, Madeline. RCI’s owner has debunked your Evil Landlord theory.

        Has it occurred to you that Socialism works NOWHERE in the world? Has it occurred to you that left-wing financial policies work NOWHERE in the United States? Every major American city that is in financial ruin has a Democrat mayor and/or Democratic City Council.

        But of course that doesn’t occur to you. So you just keep spending what is not yours, keep taking from those who have and give to those who haven’t.

    16. Upper West Side Wally says:

      Will Westside Market expand northward?

    17. Ellen says:

      I went by RCI yesterday and was shocked to see the sign! I immediately called my neighbor to teller, too. What a loss for the neighborhood! I could always count on them for what I needed. They were a true “neighborhood” store dealing with some difficult delivery problems, etc. I will miss them. I hope things go well for them in Queens.
      Ellen

    18. Linda says:

      As I read all of these comments I wonder if I went to the same store. I had a power spike that knocked out every appliance I had. I was referred to RCI and went in one day prepared to buy several major appliances. Not one person greeted me as I walked around for over 5 minutes. The only person I could find working had a sandwich and a bag of chips open on top of a washer. I asked him if he could help me and he told me he was on his lunch break and could help me when he was finished. While I also moan the loss of local businesses on the UWS, given my experience this one is not a loss.

      • JeWhoSoFat says:

        I agree with everything you said, Linda. I’ve been inside this horribly understaffed and unfriendly business throughout my 40 years on the UpperWSide and it’s been a sad event every.single.time.

    19. webot says:

      Yes, best of luck in the new location.

      My family too had a store on Broadway in the 90s , next to the New Yorker theater (both long gone…)

      The last thing new york needs is MORE controls on rents. What it needs is a more pro business and cooperative city government. less taxes, red tape, etc.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        the De Blasio administration is cutting back on the fines (Bloomberg was fine-crazy, because it produced revenue) and red-tape. but that is not enough.

        http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/html/pr/2014_07_25_small_business_first.shtml

        the reason that RCI is leaving the UWS, and most of these other stores are closing, is very simple: drastic increases in rents. that is what all the store owners are saying. obviously RCI knew how to deal with “red tape” (after 80 years).

        we have to do something about the large landlord rent increases. that can only be attacked by some form of regulation.

        • Yogi Mantle says:

          No Mark, lack of demand will naturally force rents downward, as it has throughout history. Economics 101.

    20. Rebecca Elise says:

      I love mom and pop stores and NYC history but I have to say I would likely always try to scout for the best prices and use competitors coupons and buy online …
      I love the local stores but I wouldn’t ever think to buy books or electronics or really anything at a small store. I am not familiar with the store closing, and I am sorry to hear it is closing after 80 years. I do hope they have more luck in Queens, although, I am not sure why they would!

      • HW says:

        And this is exactly why small business are closing. You “love” mom and pop stores yet you would never buy anything from a small store? How does that even make sense? Hope you enjoy your “relationship” with Amazon.com.

    21. Mark says:

      Jesus, that was one of the staples that set above 96th street apart from the rest of the Upper West Side. Now that that last little stretch is going away, I mourn the neighborhood I knew.

    22. Khushboo Dhanani says:

      Hi All,

      I am Kenny’s daughter. We appreciate all your kind words and support however I would like to clarify one thing. Our Landlord has been a BLESSING to us. Has always been supportive and patient with us. Our Landlord is as upset as we are, for a neighborhood mom and pops store moving out. We are NOT moving because of our landlord or increase in rent. Business has been a little tough lately and it is hard to keep up with the Upper West Side rent and other expenses. We appreciate all our loyal and concerned customers and hope to continue business as usual. Though our physical store will be in Queens, our hearts will still be on the Upper West Side. We will still provide service, surveys, deliveries, installations, walk ups and removals on the Upper West Side. Our phone number – 212-864-6000, fax – 212-316-6933, email – rciappl@verizon.net, website – http://www.rciappl.com will all stay the same.

      Again, thank you all for your support!

      – Khush

      • webot says:

        Thank you Khush for setting the record straight.

        In NYC, it is all too easy to blame Landlords for everything. The reality of course, it much more nuanced. Are there jerky greedy landlords? you bet. Are there ones who are trying to make a decent living while paying their mortgage, taxes, making repairs, dealing with tickets, regulations, 12+ city agencies with different and sometimes conflicting requirements , tenants who don’t pay , vandals, theft, con ed, filings , etc etc? YES.

        Ask any small NYC business person and they will tell you rent is only one factor. Try getting a liquor license and city approvals to open and dealing with the Community Board -who should pay for all those months you are delayed to open because of red tape? Not to mention yet even more new requirements like paid sick leave. I cannot recall the City Council passing one law that promotes or benefits business.

    23. Amy says:

      I want to continue to use RCI for storage for my air conditioner. I tried their telephone number, but there is no answer. Does anyone know how to reach them or have a suggestion?

      • Hameed says:

        Hi Amy thank you for still trying to be with RCI yes we did have problems with our phone lines but now its fixed and you can reach us from the same phone numbers such as 212-864-6000,212-864-6001 and by email rciappl@verizon.net thank you.

    24. Alan Rubin says:

      it was very nice to read all the support and comments concerning the loss of RCI. However, it is important to note that neighborhood stores are very aware of their customers, not just for their purchases.

      I retired ten years ago after forty years of running RCI. I often think about what missed the most, the customers. Running a neighborhood store is as much about relationships as it is selling products. It is a sense of being part of the local fabric.

      The closing is sad for everyone. The high rent was only one factor. Over the years, suppliers were continually favoring the chains and big box stores over smaller merchants, which resulted in continually decreasing profits.

      I worked on a mayor’s committee for rent control back in the 1980’s. We recommended a procedure of binding arbitration. The tenant and the landlord gave their best offer and one was selected. The theory was that each would be relatively reasonable. Although there was interest in both sides, the landlord lobby was too influential.

      It is a difficult situation as owners are entitled to a profit on their investment, but the retail owner had no protection for the longevity of their business. Unfortunately, I do not believe this imbalance will ever change.

      Hopefully, RCI’s memories will be available in Jen Rubin’s book.

    25. Matt Baum says:

      This is an interesting thread.

      Most interesting is that my father was never mentioned.
      As I understand it, the business was started by my father (Harry Baum) and Leon Rubin, who had previously been competitors in the Bronx.
      They moved the business (Radio Clinic, Inc.)
      to Manhattan in the 1930′s and were located at 2580 Broadway – 97th Street.
      After a few years they opened the store at 2290 Broadway – 83rd Street.
      Leon ran the “downtown” store, and my father the “uptown” one.
      They had a private telephone line between the two stores for coordination. I was young then, but still able to help with the communications technology since I was fascinated by the phone system.
      After The War they expanded and modified the 83rd Street store, and the uptown store was moved across the street to 2599 Broadway.
      After my father retired in 1966, Leon and his family ran both stores.
      My recollections of Leon Rubin are over the top positive. He was a real “mensch” and his knowledge of Russian enabled him to work with many foreign customers who passed through as tourists. He also made some amazing purchasing deals, which made the small business have a much larger appearance to the suppliers. This was how they were able to have low costs and could compete with much larger operations.
      My father, Harry Baum, ran the installation and service departments. The two partners got along fabulously, and we, the kids of both families did a lot of things together.
      It’s a shame that this appears to be the “end of the line.”

    26. jenine says:

      This is sad, I have many great years and memories with them.. but they still have both of my air conditioners. How do I get them back??? The number is no longer in service. any help would be appreciated.