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