West Side Judaica’s Clearance Sale Has Neighbors On Edge; Owner Says ‘It Doesn’t Look Promising’


Photo by Karina.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A new “Clearance Sale” sign that went up on the window at West Side Judaica on Broadway between 88th and 89th Streets has neighbors worried. The judaica store said it was closing two years ago, and was only able to hold on after an outpouring of support — and shopping — by fans of the store.

Asked this week if this is the end, owner Yakov Salczer said he doesn’t want to say he’s closing. He did that last year and he doesn’t want to sound like the boy who cried wolf. But “it doesn’t look promising.”

West Side Judaica opened in 1934. Salczer bought the business in the 1980’s, and brought it to its current location. It sells a wide variety of Judaica, from books to religious items like Tefillin. J. Levine, another Judaica store, is about to close, leaving only two such stores left in the city.

Salczer said his rent is $24,000 a month for the past three years, and he can’t make it anymore. He has seven years left on his lease. He asked his landlord to lower the rent because “rents are going down on the UWS,” but the landlord wouldn’t budge.

“If I can raise some money, I’ll stay.” He’s going to try to do that through a big sale on everything, 30-80% off, which started yesterday. It will go on as long as he has merchandise.

So, he said, “we’ll see.”

We’re waiting for a response from the landlord.


Photo by Rachel.

HISTORY, NEWS | 26 comments | permalink
    1. Stace says:

      Ugh, awful. These are good and kind people and the store is so important to the community. We bought our son’s kippah here for his bris and it was such a special moment for us. I sincerely hope they can survive.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        you can’t pay 24k a month in rent on selling Stace a kippah for $20. I’m surprised this store is still around, as everyone knows the internet has completely taken over for items like this.

        • B.B. says:

          Quite honestly don’t think owner’s heart is in it anymore. Reading things from last go around with threat of closure the guy just seems stuck in a mindset that having a physical retail is *it* and people will simply show up, period.

          https://forward.com/life/faith/380091/how-loyal-customers-saved-83-year-old-west-side-judaica-from-shutting-down/

          Jewish communities aren’t just about the UWS. Staten Island, parts of New Jersey and other local areas are seeing an uptick if not boom in new Jewish households. If you own a business and your customer base is moving online why wouldn’t you want to follow?

        • sam says:

          not just that – even if you don’t want to go to the internet, how many menorahs or kiddush cups does one household need? I’ve certainly bought beautiful items here, but it’s a ‘special occasion’ store, not a place I have a need to go to on a regular basis.

          As painful as it is to see these old, local businesses no longer thrive, there’s a point at which the business is just no longer selling what the community wants to buy.

          Instead of struggling to keep covering an exorbitant rent and losing money, maybe the better course is for the owner to actually retire with what he’s got left. He ran a good business and supported his family and hired employees for many years. Sometimes maybe that can be enough.

    2. B.B. says:

      Again? Didn’t West Side Judaica go through this last year or so?

      J. Levine is closing due to mainly changes in retail brought about by rise of online shopping. However they own the property (IIRC) and that area is booming real estate/construction wise so Mr. Levine will likely be ok.

      • Mark Moore says:

        Plus it’s not like judaica is a consumable or perishable product. Once you have some you don’t need any more.

      • Ll says:

        What really breaks my heart is when west side Judaica announced it’s closing in 2017, J.Levine said it had no plans to close since they own the business, and now look what happened.

        I remember reading in the Jewish paper in which they interviewed the owner of west side Judaica and he mentioned the increase in rent.

        Hopefully something can be done. Plus, spaces stay Vacant for years, so why wouldn’t the landlord decrease the rent

    3. Mark Moore says:

      Every time I hear these rent stories it sounds like people are just working for their landlords.

    4. LivesonUWS says:

      Great. Another community business closing down. Another store front that will be empty. I don’t understand how a local business can afford a 24,000 dollar a month rent.

      My most radical idea for all of these empty storefronts are: after 10 years of being vacant, take away the commercial zoning or license and convert them to housing.

      • Josh says:

        Better yet, have the city take them by eminent domain and let the city rent them out.

        • SarcasticSam says:

          Great plan. The city is such a great landlord. I mean NYCHA and all the city buildings are beacons of smart management.

          Not to mention, the taking of private property for no reason is bound to found legal in every court in the land.

    5. CBD Girl says:

      Maybe they should start selling kosher cannabis, and cannabis-laced matzas, and bongs, of course.

    6. Glen says:

      Everyday the first $800 in sales must be earmarked for rent (and the 3.9% commercial rent tax, let’s not forget about that). That is an unsustainable figure.

    7. wombatNYC says:

      On another note – The CVS on 97th and Broadway ( SW Corner ) is closing as of June 3rd .. Gotta be some serious rent on that space

      • carol says:

        that’s a Walgreen’s on 97th and Broadway….there a CVS on 96th and Amsterdam

        • wombatNYC says:

          My Bad- I meant Walgreen’s is closing on 97th and Bdwy on June 3rd

          • dannyboy says:

            I expect that Extell’s development at Broadway and West 96th Street will escalate proximate commercial rents.

    8. carol says:

      Sorry..but I only buy my Judaica online

    9. Rudi says:

      Has he reached out to Helen Rosenthal’s office? Maybe they can help negotiate with the landlord.

    10. Marylou Zimmerman says:

      Thank you for this story. UWS is my old neighbourhood and whenever I visit NYC I make a special visit to Westside Judaica to shop. I hope it stays open but $24k monthly rent is daunting. As consumers we need to show compassion and understanding. We are living in a an astonishing moment in history and none of us knows where it will lead but bashing shopkeepers is mean and leads to nowhere even when humor and levity are employed. Digital high tech shopping and usurious landlords have an ironclad stranglehold over store owners; talk about stifling creativity and entrepreneurship. We need to support our local stores!!

    11. Glenn Richter says:

      One correction: The store’s apparent closing will leave only one Judaica store in Manhattan, not the city. There are more Judaica stores in NYC, especially Brooklyn and Queens. Whatever, West Side Judaica’s demise will be a sad day, indeed, for those of us who frequented it and know its staff.

    12. Sean says:

      Lamenting the loss of small businesses and retail in America is a fool’s game. The automobile and now the Internet is what changed the game. Mom isn’t at home like in the 1940s. It happened first when the suburbs were built and now it’s happening in the cities. We have more retail space per citizen than anywhere in the world and we don’t need it. All these malls built over 30 years ago are obsolete too just like a great many other things. The middle class has shrunk. Mom doesn’t need a soup tureen these days. Millennials do not shop and they don’t have the space for a lot of stuff. They are portable. Basically an economy built on the acquisition of stuff is over.