Paper House, the Happiest Little Store in the Neighborhood, Saved From The Brink

By Carol Tannenhauser

There’s something new about the window of Paper House, the beloved, 39-year-old party store on Amsterdam Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd Streets — and astute WSR readers spotted it and brought it to our attention. It’s not what’s there, but what’s not: the For Rent sign that has hung for nine months, like Damocles’ sword, over this small independent business.

Owner Kenneth Loo explained that he had been on a month-to-month lease for those months, living under the shadow of that “humongous sign,” while the landlord sought a new tenant at a higher rent. But none materialized. So, this month, the landlord offered Loo a long-term lease, at a rent the business owner could afford. He wouldn’t reveal exactly how long it runs, but assured us he’d be around for “several years.”

Kenneth Loo.

Loo, 64, is quietly ecstatic. “I’m so good,” he said, smiling, “And my customers are good. Some of them were so worried.” He has been in this country since he was 33, but still grapples with the language.

Why did he come here? He reacts as if it should be obvious. “For the American Dream,” he declared. When he left his home in South Korea, that country was still struggling to rebound from the Korean War. Loo came here for a better life.

Did he find one? “Up and down,” he laughed, but added that his two children are grown and both college-educated, so things have turned out “pretty well.”

The almost-autumn sunlight streams through the unimpeded window. The store is surprisingly deep. When asked why customers love it so much and are so loyal, Loo said because “we are old-fashioned.” The first thing you see as you head down a long, colorful aisle is a display of Pez dispensers. If you’re an impulse buyer, beware! You’ll find everything you could possibly need or want for a party or holiday, and much more (including a Darth Vader rubber mask and a paper one of Donald Trump.)

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Paper House is staying in business,” said long-time customer David Langlitz, who lives in the neighborhood. “This is my go-to place for everything—weddings, birthdays, all kinds of celebrations, thank you notes, decorations.”

Loo and David Langlitz.

”I want to thank all my loyal West Sider customers,” Loo said, in conclusion. “And my landlord. He gave me a good opportunity.”

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 27 comments | permalink
    1. JSN says:

      Hurray for a reasonable landlord! Paper House has supplied all my daughter’s birthday parties through the last 20 years. It is a neighborhood institution. Its departure would have been depressing.

      • Sherman says:

        How was the landlord “reasonable”?

        The landlord couldn’t find anyone else to rent the space to so he renegotiated the lease with Paper House.

        This is not being “reasonable”. It was a calculated and rational business decision by the landlord. It was based on the law of supply and demand, not altruism.

        That said, it’s nice to see a local business continue to serve the neighborhood. I shop there myself and I wish Paper House continued success.

      • JSN2 says:

        JSN, you still hold parties for your 20 year old daughter? LOL.

    2. Tostonesfix says:

      Great news! This store has saved my skin many times.

    3. Jodi says:

      Oh, I’m overjoyed! I absolutely love this store. I wish Loo continued success and happiness.

    4. Judy says:

      This is great news! Thank you for the story.

    5. NYYgirl says:


    6. lynn says:

      I’m so happy to hear this news! I’ve been shopping at Paper House on a regular basis since I moved to the UWS 7 years ago. It reminds me of the old Woolworth’s store, they have so many items to choose from, and things you can’t find anywhere else in the near vicinity. Congrats on the extended lease! 🙂

    7. Claudia Yoo says:

      Hi Carol, I’m Kenneth Yoo’s daughter, Claudia Yoo. We wanted to thank you for writing such a heartwarming article, that supports local business in NYC. My father is the most humble hard-working man I know, and he is a representation of the absolute good that immigrants can bring to this country and I’m so happy and proud to see his hard work being noticed and appreciated. Thank you, again, and wishing you happiness, health and success!

    8. Lese says:

      Thank you Carol for such a great article, and for West Side Rag for publishing positive stories about the UWS. So much good happens here. I love the Paper House – Ken, Alicia, and everyone who works there. And it has the best stuff – beautiful and funny cards, great wrapping paper, candles – everything!
      -Longtime UWS resident.

    9. liz says:

      This kind of store needs to be supported by more locals; kudos to the hard-working Mr. Loo who helps keep our neighborhood unique and friendly

    10. lyla b ward says:

      I don’t know Mr. Loo, but I want to congratulate him on coming out on the right side of a landlord/rent struggle. Not many retailers can make that claim. And as a former party store owner (1974-1989), outside of the city, I want to congratulate him on maintaining that happiest of destinations.

    11. Bob says:

      I want to thank Mr. Yoo and the landlord especially. Paper House is truly an anchor of the neighborhood. It’s a place that anyone can walk into and feel comfortable. And sometimes the decorations (like those face masks) are hysterical.

      I try to patronize this store as much as I can (a friend absolutely *loved* a stuffed dog I purchased there a few years ago. If the landlord need more rent income, raise the rents of other stores in order to subsidize this one.

    12. ka says:

      YAY!! So very happy!!

    13. Ish Kabibble says:

      Great news! Hope they are around for a very, very long time!

    14. Anne says:

      I have always thought that we should boycott the new tenants that come in and displace the old tenants. That way people will be reluctant to pay the outrageous rent only to be boycotted when they displace the mom-and-pop stores. But that takes neighborhood organization To preserve our mom and pop shops.

    15. Marci says:

      I’ve been worried we were going to lose The Paper Store, so this is great news! But was it necessary to say “he has been in this country since he was 33, but still grapples with the language” when that doesn’t have anything to do with the story?

    16. Carla WOLPER says:

      This is heat warming

    17. NYWoman says:

      You always can find something to amuse in that store

    18. Susan S. says:

      Hooray! This is one great store. they have cards
      and much more. I went in the back for the first time yesterday and saw so many paper products for entertaining for parties and just every day uses.
      it’s the place to go for paper products of all kinds and fills the gap Gracious Home’s left when it closed on the west side. The people working there are very friendly and helpful. The owner came in the store and told many concerned customers that his lease was renewed and we were all so happy for him and for us

    19. This is wonderful news not just for Kenneth Loo but maybe a learning lesson to other landlords here on the UWS. I have been a loyal customer to the paper House for 39yrs. and remember it when was two stores in one.
      Congratulations to the landlord!!!
      And wonderful news for the Paper House and to Kenneth and to Mr. Loo’s wonderful team.

      • Sherman says:

        What exactly is the “learning lesson” for other landlords?

        The landlord tried to find a tenant who would pay a higher rent. He couldn’t find one so he renegotiated with Paper House.

        The space was more valuable occupied than empty. This is called business. What is the “learning lesson”.

    20. Jane says:

      I am so happy and relieved to hear that Mr. Loo is staying! This is also my go-to store for balloons, cards, party plates and napkins, Halloween goods and more. I have been shopping there since my kids were little.

    21. Christine B says:

      Fantastic news!! The Upper West Side (and I) love Paper House! The absolute go-to store for cards, balloons, party materials and fun gifts. My family and godsons are very familiar with PH wears :). Ken has also been a thoughtful mentor to me in my own start up business, with advice and support I am so grateful for. Congratulations to Ken for his many years as a successful businessman, the American Dream come true!, and for his persistence in seeing this tough time through to a great new lease. So so happy you’ll be with us for years to follow!!

    22. AZ says:

      We are so happy you keep going. ..your store are one of the few left… you are part of our heart..CONGRATULATION

    23. UWSSurfer says:

      I am so happy that Paper House was able to obtain their lease!

      They have so many cute things. I love their paper, silk, and foil hanging decorations for every holiday and season.

      I bought some darling coin purses with photos of puppies on the front. They have lots of fun Squishies too.