The Owner of Laytner’s Explains Why It’s Closing, and Why He’s Still ‘Optimistic’

By Carol Tannenhauser

The recent announcement of the closing of Laytner’s Linen & Home, on West 82nd Street and Broadway, after 57 years, engendered much sadness, speculation, stereotyping of “greedy landlords,” and glumness about the state of retail on the UWS. But is there necessarily a villain here or, even, an unhappy ending? WSR spoke to owner Alan Laytner, 61, whose parents — Holocaust survivors — founded the business in 1961. We got right to the point:

WHY ARE YOU LEAVING THE UPPER WEST SIDE AND STAYING ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE? WHAT IS IT? DON’T YOU LIKE US?

“When you say ‘us,’” Laytner replied, “I am you, in every sense of the word. I’m born, bred, and fully educated on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I went to City College and Columbia University. I’ve lived my entire life here. I understand that people are upset. I’m upset, too. At the end of the day, it came down to dollars and cents. Our lease wasn’t up on the East Side and it was on the West. Business was not good. We ran the store for the last few years seeing if it would flip. I feel badly that I couldn’t turn it around. We have great employees. Some of them have been with us for 15, 20 years. You feel an obligation to them, so you keep the store open and you lose money. There came a point where we said, ‘We cannot continue running a losing operation.’ I’m sorry the neighborhood will feel the loss, but I can say the landlord is in negotiations with another tenant, although I’m not sure who it is or when the new occupancy would take place.”

HOW HAS YOUR LANDLORD TREATED YOU (AND IS IT ZABAR’S?)

“Our landlord is an LLC called Lori-Zeee, affiliated with the Zabar family. They have been very magnanimous to many merchants in the neighborhood in the properties they own. They gave us, over the course of years, rent concessions when we needed them and they allowed us to cut our store in half, which we did five years ago. I’d like to credit our landlord. These are good people, concerned about the neighborhood. No, I did not close because of a rent increase. I think I could have kept the same rent, but we haven’t been making money in the past five years, so what’s the point? And, you know, there are other reasons you close a store. Maybe you’ve had enough and want to retire.”

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES?

“Some will move to the other store with us, some will have to move on. We’ll try to do it in the most fair and compassionate way we can. But it’s hard and it hurts. You suffer and you cry a lot.”

ANYTHING MORE YOU’D LIKE TO SAY?

“Thank you. Thank you. You allowed us to prosper and raise a family. We love the Upper West Side. As a matter of fact, anyone who lives here will have free delivery from our website — laytners.com — for life. Just be optimistic. It was time to close. Things are sad now, but things change. Nothing’s forever.”

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 50 comments | permalink
    1. Paula Mae says:

      ‘Ending speculation and eliminating villainy.’ What a wonderful, worthy goal and much needed today, everywhere.

      Thank you, Laytner’s, for many years of choice shopping and pleasant meanderings, even as you shifted gears with the shifting times. I’ll remember that you’re online, now. Funny that: It never occurred to me that you were, because visiting your store was always a pleasure I never tried to escape – a rare find these days.

    2. michael says:

      What a terrific story!!!! They will be missed. And THANK YOU CAROL and WSR for pointing out how wonderful the Zabar family has been to the UWS. I’m fortunately in the know, I’m aware of what they have done for the community, and I also understand why it’s not in their way to self promote. If you love the UWS for everything it is, you owe the Zabar family a huge debt of gratitude. I’m sad Laytners is leaving, but the owner is right – sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. Thank you for being a staple of the community. You’ll be missed.

    3. eric says:

      Nice article. Kudos to WSR for reporting. Hopefully this should quell the speculation from readers who didn’t have any facts but whipped up hysteria anyway.

    4. Ben David says:

      How dare Mr. Laytner defend a landlord on the UWS and say nice things about them?!
      Doesn’t he know that UWS landlords are the cause of all the world’s problems?

      • mcvb says:

        That is ridiculous and totally bigoted. I have a lot of respect for the way Mr. Laytner defended Zabar’s. It sounds like their generosity was frequesnt and wide-spread. Shrieking about greedy landlords just ups the anger in our community. mc

      • MCVB says:

        Or…oops. Read it again and hopefully you are being sarcastic.
        Sorry if I didn’t get it

    5. B.W. says:

      He is the owner? I have been in there hundreds of times and never seen him.

      • Mark says:

        Maybe he was hiding from you.

      • Grant says:

        Maybe it’s a huge plot? Maybe owners don’t hang around and wait on customers in many stores. When I was there there were two or three employees. Think that is enough to handle the floor!

    6. dannyboy says:

      I’m not sure that Free Delivery is something I’d use; I will stop in to the storefront to purchase linens.

    7. Jerry says:

      Thanks for this piece. Appreciate it.

    8. Sarah Durkee says:

      I’d like to extend my warmest thanks and best wishes to the Laytner family. I raised my kids here in the same decades as Alan and Rochelle’s, the closing of the store really does feel like a personal loss to so many of us, The heartfelt honesty of Alan’s explanation here makes it much easier to bear, and it’s so nice to hear it was NOT a case of landlord greed. And all of us who’ve been choosing to buy on Amazon or at BB&B are, of course, sharing our burden of guilt!
      Community matters, relationships matter… I hope the next tenant becomes a new part of our lives even half as well as Laytner’s did. ❤️
      And thank you, West Side Rag, for this followup.

    9. Bruce Bernstein says:

      a lovely interview with Alan Laytner… thank you Alan and thank you Carol Tannenhauser for another on-point article.

      I shopped at Laytner’s every time i needed linens, bed coverings, shower curtains, etc. i always liked the store — well organized, easy to shop in, great variety, lots of assistance, and very reasonable prices. i don’t like buying sheets and things like that on the Internet as i like to feel and see them in “real life” first.

      Alan’s tribute to the Zabar family actually underscores the point about “greedy landlords.” This is an example of a GOOD landlord who cares about his/her tenants and cares about the community. It shows that there is such a thing as a good landlord. We also have seen other stories to that effect in WSR, including the landlord for Silver Moon Bakery on Bway and W. 105th.

      This demonstrates even more the ill effects of the many landlords who are hiking rents by 50%, 70%, or more. They don’t HAVE TO do it. It is these landlords who are killing the variety and liveliness of Bway and other UWS thoroughfares.

      • Sherman says:

        Hi Bruce

        You’re very generous with other people’s money and you’re also a real estate expert.

        Perhaps you should invest in commercial real estate and lease your space to the business that is willing to pay you the least in rent.

        That way you can do something good for the neighborhood and you won’t be “greedy”.

        Sherm

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Sherm, it’s so refreshing to read someone who is willing to stick up for pure unmitigated greed.

          and… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for MAyor!!

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Sherman said:

          “You’re very generous with other people’s money… ”

          Actually, it is YOU who is being “generous with other people’s money.” You are impervious to the astronomical rents that small businesses have to pay, and the effect that has on their owners and the employees.

          they are PAYING. The landlords are RECEIVING.

    10. MJ says:

      What a good man. Wish him all the best.

    11. Tom Lee says:

      Wait a minute!

      Here I was thinking that every store closing was due to greedy landlords and high rents! Why would a store close otherwise – they all make money and viable businesses.

      I thought everything bad was due to Wall Street and corporate greed! I really though people were falling over one another to support local businesses and keep corporate stores out of the neighborhood.

      This must be fake news! Just like the Dovetail closing news.

    12. B.B. says:

      Always go out on high note, that’s what I say; and Mr. Alan Laytner is doing just that by setting the record straight.

      This should quite all those “we need rent control laws for commercial tenants” and others who see any business closing as fault of *greedy* landlords.

      It is as myself and others have repeatedly stated; economic models for retail have changed, largely thanks to the internet.

      Small neighborhood specialty stores often just cannot generate the sales per square foot any longer to remain viable.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Jeremiah Moss demolishes BB’s argument:

        ” {in Bleeker Street] by 2005, rents on this stretch were up to $300 per square foot. By 2008, they jumped to $550. I heard of asking rents as high as $45,000 per month. By 2012, in the four blocks between Hudson and West Tenth St., 45 retail spaces were filled by upscale shopping mall chains.

        The internet didn’t do that.”

        “Online shopping is definitely a problem for local retail, but it’s nothing compared to the machinations of the mega-landlords. They are creating a revolving-door city, streets full of pop-up shops and no stability, temporary consumer experiences for temporary tourists — because that’s where the big money is.”

        http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-bring-back-mom-pop-20180622-story.html

        • B.B. says:

          We’re not talking about Bleecker Street, but UWS in particular Laytner’s. Please keep up and remain on topic.

          Mr. Laytner himself clearly stated in above interview that not only wasn’t a rent increase or whatever a factor in closing the store, but that LL had been very generous over the years.

          Are there landlords looking for top dollar for their retail spaces. Yes, no one isn’t saying otherwise. However what is also true is the retail landscape has changed to the point many stores cannot survive unless their rent was *zero* or some other way below market number.

          Lord and Taylor for god sakes is closing. A store smack in middle of a vastly popular tourist/shopping stretch that goes from 34th north to 57th along Fifth Avenue.

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            BB, of course we all agree that Laytner’s closing was not because of the landlord. I said that above, which you chose to ignore, instead tagging me with a straw man argument. this was a good landlord, the exception that proved the rule.

            But you made claims in your statement that went to the general situation and far beyond the issue of Laytner’s. For example, you said:

            “This should quite all those “we need rent control laws for commercial tenants” and others who see any business closing as fault of *greedy* landlords.”

            and

            “Small neighborhood specialty stores often just cannot generate the sales per square foot any longer to remain viable.”

            Jeremiah Moss has argued, with great effectiveness, that “in general” the role of landlords raising rent astronomically, is playing a very large role in the decimation of our commercial districts. of course his argument does not mean it is the ONLY factor, or in every case the main factor. But it is clearly a large factor in many if not most cases.

            And we DO need some form of regulation of commercial rents — maybe not commercial rent control, but that should be looked at — to support the independent small business (“Moms and Pops”). Please note that this would have had no effect on the good landlord in the Laytner’s case.

            I work in central Queens, between the commercial strips of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. Especially in Jackson Heights, the small businesses on commercial strips are doing just fine. As Jeremiah Moss might note, they have to deal with the Internet just as much as business on the UWS. So that rules out the argument that “it is all the Internet.”

      • EricaC says:

        You know, both can be true. I’m not one to say that landlords should be compelled to voluntarily forego rent (though I do think that if they don’t lease out a property for a sufficient number of years, they should have to acknowledge that they are no longer in business and stop taking business deductions) – but just thinking logically, it could be a combination of factors that leads stores to close. One-item thinking is not very good thinking, whether it’s anti-landlord or Ayn Randian.

        • Kay McFadden says:

          Yup. While damning piggish landlords, let’s cop to some personal responsibility for local stores going OOB. Nobody in my UWS book club shops at (e.g.) Book Culture or B&N; we’re ordering from Amazon because it’s a few bucks cheaper and a few blocks easier than walking. You can extrapolate that across a variety of goods. Mr. Laytner is exiting on a classy note with customers, but when he says the store hasn’t made money for 5 years, he’s talking income, not outgo.

    13. Dear Alan,

      I live across the street and have been coming to Laytner’s for years. I feel like it’s family. Kudos to you for employing good people and providing the training and support to enable them to grow, learn, and treat every person who enters the store with grace and professionalism. I have seen the same people there for years and that speaks to the culture you and the team have created. I wish you all the best. Will miss you all.

    14. Drew says:

      Could it be the west Siders were busy shopping on Amazon instead of supporting small business?

    15. Pedestrian says:

      A sad story but an uplifting one too. Continued good luck on the East Side.

    16. diane wildowsky says:

      Thank you Laytners! Love your sheets. Will miss shopping in your store, but totally get it. All the best to you, your family and your staff. You will all be missed in the hood.

    17. Kathleen Treat says:

      We will all miss you – especially those of us who do not buy online……Bonne Chance!

    18. Ronnie Tuft says:

      My very best wishes to Alan Laytner. He gave a wonderful and informative interview. He is a mensch, caring for his employees and for his neighborhood. He deserves a good life. Be well and good luck to you, Alan.

    19. Roger Wolfe says:

      I hate to see “mom and pop” stores close; they have given our neighborhood its charm and character. As an U. W. sider since 1972 the entire character of the neighborhood has changed and has been replaced with mall stores, far less sky, and less diversity.
      Our losses just mount up!

    20. Carol says:

      THANK YOU, LAYTNERS. You will be missed!

    21. Big Barry UWS says:

      Thank you, Alan, for explaining the reason behind the closing of your UWS store (while rent may not have been the reason, it is still sad that family owned businesses cannot profit anymore). The reaction that the UWS community has had shows how much the store meant to the community and how it will be missed. Best of luck to you and your family.

    22. Joey says:

      Nothing remains the same. All the best to the Laytner family and their employees. They will be missed.

    23. Linda Davis says:

      Best of luck to all the Laytner’s. The store will be missed on UWS. Thank you for the true story.

    24. Carla Wolper says:

      Best of luck to you. Your willingness to explain was lovely and totally understandable.

    25. Ronald says:

      Yes, thanks for the story and to Alan Laytner for keeping the store going for as long as possible
      –Ronald

    26. Rita says:

      You will definitely be missed!! Have been shopping at your store for 40 years, ever since we married and moved to the UWS. Just bought a quilt for our daughter yesterday. Great to hear that FINALLY there was no landlord greed involved in the decision.
      Sending you and your family best wishes.

    27. barbara Simpson says:

      I have lived here for 34yrs I love your atore
      I am sad

    28. Karen Eckert says:

      When I bought my spartment, my friends gave me a genetous gift card from Laytner’s. I still had $80 on it when I was told by the manager thar the time had elapsed. I attempted to reach management, no respinse.
      I never entered the store again.
      Good riddance.

    29. Peggy says:

      We have loved your store and will be sad to see you go. But thank you for being here and have a great retirement.

    30. Drew says:

      Maybe if people started shopping in stores rather than Amazon these things wouldn’t happen.

      • Sonia Jaffe Robbins says:

        Totally agree. Where’s the convenience of shopping online where you can only “see” the product in a picture, but can’t feel it or move it as you might in real life. Catalogue shopping did not force bricks-and-mortar stores to go out of business — Amazon and other Internet behemoths have.

    31. Joy Weiner says:

      Good luck! Great attitude!

    32. Lucette says:

      You can blame landlords sometimes but in this case not a factor
      If you are part of the buying public and buy on line or bought at bed bath and beyond you contributed to the demise of this local merchant

      Quality of life and a neighborhood depends upon foot traffic and walking is healthy. Just read all the writing on the need not to be sedentary. Sitting in front of a computer searching for the cheapest is not good for physical or emotional health.

    33. chris woo says:

      I, like many uwsers will miss Laytners and this was a lovely goodbye article. But the negative comments following re landlords are really sad and ignorant. I have heard the Zabars family quietly helps a lot of small biz tenants in that area. Make sense if you’ve ever wondered how a wonderful thing like a second hand book and record store can afford uws rent. I would think w any other landlord in charge, it would be another bank. btw no affiliation w any real estate concerns here.

    34. I remember Laytner’s when it was on 86th St. between Broadway & WEA, where the Parlour Restaurant is now.

    35. Ann O’Shea says:

      Have the employees and owners discussed the possibility of a workers owned and operated co-operative? It seems like a lot of elements would make Laytners a good candidate for a co-op.

    36. Carol says:

      It is important that the landlord lives in or is a part of the community. They have a face. They depend on the neighborhood. The box stores do not live in or have a part in the community, and if not profitable, easily pack up and ship out….no problem for them.