Gold Leaf Stationers is Deemed Essential and Open; ‘I Want to Help the Kids’

The New Normal.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Gold Leaf Stationers, on Amsterdam Avenue between 89th and 90th Streets, is open for business. Fasil Yilma, a personable and popular neighborhood small business owner, applied to the state and received the designation of “essential.”

“They asked me what is the reason I have to be open, and I said because the students are working from home, and the parents are working from home as well,” Fasil explained, in a phone call. “I have a stationery store and I’m supplying educational materials and copy paper, printing supplies, notebooks, and all that. They replied, ‘Yeah you are an essential business, but all you can do is either deliver to customers or curbside pickup.’ So, now, I’m blocking the front door with a table, saying I am open for business, and customers come and tell me what they need and I bring it to them.”

The sound of an ambulance interrupts him.

“It’s now become a consistent part of the city, every five minutes,” he said, when it passed. “I think, what I’m going through with the business is nothing. Thank God I’m not sick.”

Fasil has poured his heart into Gold Leaf Stationers. He came to America in 1990 from Ethiopia, when he was 19 years old, to attend college, and worked in a stationery store on West 109th Street in the summers. In 2000, he became the manager of Gold Leaf, and in 2005, a fifty-fifty partner.

A peek inside.

“I want to help the kids,” he said. “I was hoping the state would treat me like a grocery store and limit the number who could come in at one time, so they would have an outlet. I have to tell them now, ‘I’m really sorry, you can’t come in.’” Sales are down 80-85%. Fasil has laid off his employees and isn’t taking a salary. “The way my business works is, you don’t always know what you need until you walk around.” (The last time I was there, I needed a polar bear eraser.)

“It’s so unreal,” he concluded. “As an owner, usually you interact freely with customers. And now, people are fearing people. It’s sad. People move away from each other. It’s like a nightmare to see the city look like a ghost town.”

Fasil said he will try against the odds to remain open. ”I’ll keep doing it until it’s an impossible task,” he said. “I’ll continue to open, as long as I can pay my expenses, and serve, for my part, the community.”

Unmasked for a moment.

Gold Leaf Stationers’ hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The phone number is 212-877-7900.

* If you are or know a retail store in the neighborhood that is open, let us know at

NEWS | 38 comments | permalink
    1. Bob Lamm says:

      It’s a great store and Mr. Ylima is wonderful. I wish him and anyone working there good health. I hope he can remain open and get enough business to survive.

      • Benoit says:

        Gold Leaf is clearly a great store, but, uncomfortable with superlatives, I feel that calling it the “best stationary store” on the UWS is a bit of a hyperbole or easy exaggeration. While I like Gold Leaf, I feel that Stationary and Toy World (125 West 72nd Street) is as well stocked, as friendly and as helpful as Gold Leaf. In fact, when I was looking for an item that was sold out, they took my name and called me a few days later saying that the item had come in and been set aside for me. Very personal and friendly touch. Thanks, Donna.

    2. Sharon Schuur says:

      Gold Leaf is the best stationary store on the UWS. Good luck Fasil and thank you for staying open.

    3. Maria says:

      This is a wonderful neighborhood store run by a wonderful man. With all the new work-from-home and home school needs, I hope that the community can offer Fasil their support.

    4. Marci says:

      I’m really glad to see this article. My husband and I go to this store now and then and always love it and the owner when we do; but I confess we often don’t think of it for when we need something. This is a good reminder that we should be buying from a small business owner rather than Staples. We need copy paper right now, and that’s where we’ll go buy it.

      • Sherman says:

        @ Marci

        I wish Mr Yilma luck with his business but your comments make no sense.

        The last time I checked Staples is employing NYC residents, paying rent and paying NYC taxes. Staples is also a vital part of the community and you make it sound like there is something inherently wrong with shopping at Staples.

        Do you think the neighborhood would somehow be better off if Staples closed?


        • Josh says:

          Yeah, Staples is a great store. But it is also a giant corporation and is not as invested in the neighborhood as a small mom and pop shop. Also, try getting the same level of service from Staples that you get from Gold Leaf.

          A couple years ago, I bought a $75 fountain pen from Gokd Leaf. Staples had the same pen about $15 cheaper. But at Staples, I could see the pen in the case. At Gold Leaf, Mr. Ylima took each pen out of the case and loaded them with ink so I could try them. When I commented on what I liked or disliked about the way it wrote, he gave me another to try based on my feedback. If I wanted a smoother nib, he gave me one with a smoother nib, and could talk about each pen and its attributes. He could do the exact same thing with the $1 ball point and gel pens. The manager at Staples didnt even know who had the key to the fountain pen case, and no one could tell you anything about the different pens except the price and how many they had.

          So yeah, there is a big difference between a store like Gold Leaf or Staples. And if I could have one or the other, I choose Gold Leaf.

    5. West86 says:

      This is so true that until you walk around, you don’t know what you need. I would suggest Fasil opens up an Instagram account and starts snapping pictures of the products and post on Instagram. That way customers can “stumble upon” a product they realize they really need, and buy it. We love this store and always support it.

      • Maria says:

        Maybe if we all write to Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal in support of the store and of Fasil’s request to allow people into his store in a limited way. It makes no sense that the hardware store across the street allows people in, and it is not due to size of GoldLeaf because bodegas, small grocery stores and wine stores that are smaller all allow people into the store. Send an email to

      • HelenD says:

        That’s a great idea! Someone in my building was emailing tenants to ask if any of us had any legal size stationary and we all forgot about the smaller stores. There’s Stationary and Toy Store on 72nd street too.

    6. Natali says:

      I’m sure he’s very nice but I don’t know that I would agree his business is essential at a time like this and when places like CVS carry what kids need. Yes it’s normally preferable to support a small business but when you go to CVS you can also get things worth going out for like food and medicine. You should not be going out just for stationery.

      • Annoyed says:

        Natali, don’t you ever have anything good to say? It seems like all you write are negative comments.

      • Carol says:

        I’m happy to receive local recommendations, and all for staying in business. I am just so confused over this “essential” thing. I’m unsure if it’s more of a City or State thing, and I would guess that it is as political as anything else, but what baffles me the most is why the sidewalk vegetable vendors aren’t considered essential. If I can have some protein in the freezer and am able to grab a cauliflower and a zucchini from the sidewalk guy, I can avoid a trip to the grocery store – at least avoid going to store as frequently as I now need.

    7. Julia says:

      I placed an order last week with GLS by email and after some back and forth to identify exactly what I wanted, it was delivered. I believe he delivers after the store closes at 6.

    8. Chris says:

      Thanks for letting us know! I will make it a point to buy something from him to show my support.

    9. Coron says:

      Wow!! What an amazing story! Fasil- do you have a website?

    10. Darwin says:

      This is a lovely local store and we frequent it whenever we need supplies. The toy store on 72nd Street is nice too, but that’s a hike. Please support Fasil and other small businesses like Mani Grocery on Columbus and 94th. They are here for us without the craziness of the big chain stores. Stay safe everyone!

    11. Kassie says:

      It’s a wonderful store. I wish him the very best.

    12. allison says:

      I love Fasil. He’s so kind to my daughter. Always so helpful. I hope the store does well and he stays healthy.

    13. Lis says:

      Thank you for the curbside sale of jigsaw puzzles!

    14. Lesli Klein says:

      Yea! Fasil! Passed by last week and was very happy to see you and chat about you being a necessary business…Be safe. Be well.

    15. Albert says:

      One of the finest and friendliest stores on the UWS. it’s a real pleasure to go in and pick up some little thing or other and chat with the owner. We hope they can continue to thrive after the plague passes.

    16. nadine marder says:

      love this!

    17. Gerald Lynas says:

      So glad to hear it Fasil. I will need more Micron 005 fine pens soon.
      G. Lynas

    18. Carol Lazare says:

      It’s a great store and he is a wonderful man. I hope local folk patronize his store even in these crazy times. He’s there for us. We should be there for him. He actually cares and shows it by being open. What’s Amazon doing for the UWS?

    19. Eve says:

      Fasil! Your former CPTC teammate wishing you the best of luck and good health, and best wishes for the store! Hope everyone can support the store- it’s a great shop. Eve

    20. Amy says:

      Thank you Fasil! Great store and so appreciative of your willingness to sacrifice to help the community!
      Neighbors….let’s all remember to continue shopping local once this is over. We may pay a little more in the short run for this or that….but these are the people who are part of the community and will do their part to “give back” in ways we never imagined. Small business is also what makes us feel like a community — and they need our ongoing support!!

    21. Elinor Greenberg says:

      I am happy that Fasil is doing this. He has always been so pleasant and helpful to me as a customer that Gold Leaf is my go to place for supplies.

    22. Constance Bosworth says:

      Gold Leaf has always been essential
      to the neighborhood. I am an artist, and they
      are the BEST framers. Robert does excellent
      work, and the prices are very reasonable.
      Good luck, Fasil! Thanks for staying open
      during a time when supplies are most needed.

    23. Donna says:

      We love Fasil. He is kind and smart and funny. Gold Leaf has a great assortment of art activities and stationery products. We purchased a great puzzle, which we keep on a side table and work on little by little. Fun family activity for all ages.

    24. Chris says:

      We love Fasil. He is kind and smart and funny. Gold Leaf has a great assortment of art activities and stationery products. We purchased a great puzzle, which we keep on a side table and work on little by little. Fun family activity for all ages.

    25. Nancy says:

      A wonderful local store that I have shopped in for years. I am glad that it can remain open and will head over there soon for art supplies & printer paper.

    26. Bill says:

      I stop in about once a week at this wonderful store. The day before he closed we were talking about the essential need for school supplies, as I bought new folders and organizers, and stocked up on paper and printer ink as our children begin remote schooling. For high school “spring break” homework, my daughter was assigned a list of creative projects to choose from, including “learn to paint a picture in the style of Bob Ross.” I told her earlier we couldn’t get paints—now I know we can. Thanks Gold Leaf and WSR!

    27. StevenCinNYC says:

      Nice story! Sounds like a very good guy.

    28. Patty Dann says:

      I love this store! An oasis in the ever- changing city! I get my pens& paper for writing my books & essays, but it is much more. Conversations with Fasil are a gift.

    29. Deborah Yaffe says:

      Gold Leaf Stationers is a great shop, and Mr. Yilma and staff are knowledgeable and friendly, it’s a welcoming place. And they carry a wide range of supplies. One example, I needed some fabric dye but not a whole bottle. They had fabric dye pens which were exactly what I needed, I never imagined such things existed. I’m so glad they’re in the neighborhood.


      Thanks to any store that is willing and able to stay open, as allowed by NYC, in these difficult times for all. During normal times we see so many storefronts closed. Stores are part of the vitality, especially during these anxious times.

    31. Sally Campbell says:

      I am SO delighted to find this out. They are my favorite store not only for what they sell but for who they are, truly helpful, kind, funny and real.