By Andrea Peirce
Thanks to an outpouring of support and sales, West Side Judaica owner Yaakov Saltzer told us that he no longer plans to close the landmark store any time soon.
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like high rent and sagging sales due to online competition would spell lights out for the specialty store on Broadway between 88th and 89th street. The retailer has sold books and Judaica such menorahs, mezuzahs, and yarmulkes since the mid-1930s.
“People came in crying, saying we are not letting you go,” recounted Saltzer. They were full of ideas about what we could do to survive, he said. Move to a smaller store with lower rent, some suggested. Or start selling items in part of a synagogue space.
“The community — they literally begged us to give them a chance,” he said. Then synagogues put out the word that members needed to step up and buy locally instead of online.
Today, sales are up by 10 to 15 percent, and prospects for survival look rosier.
“Hopefully now, people know what it means for us, a local store–how important it is to buy from us,” Saltzer said. The benefits of having a local source for specialty items includes satisfying immediate needs, he pointed out. A family visiting from Florida the previous week was able to come into the store at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon, for example, and purchase the hot plate they needed for Shabbat dinner that night.
The flood of concern and support from the community has meant a lot to him, Saltzer said. “It gives me a very warm feeling, a very good feeling.”
“But the bottom line is, feeling bad [about the store closing] doesn’t help,” he said. “What helps is… sales!”
Photos by Andrea Peirce.