With heavy heart, I report that Arnold Hatters has gone out of business after almost 50 years and 3 generations.
Thanks to a commenter who tipped me to the store's closure, I called the hatters last week and spoke with owner Arnold Rubin's son Mark. He told me things have been bad since Black Friday. The holiday season and the cold weather, their usual picker-uppers, didn't pick up.
"I'm selling a product that in the 21st century is a luxury item. People need to eat. So they're making do with last year's hat."
Combine that with the economy's effect on Broadway, the Rubins' bread-and-butter. "We've lost 20 Broadway shows and I've lost my costuming business. On a slow day, a costumer might come in and order 12 fedoras, 16 applejack caps, and a cowboy hat, and that bad day would turn everything around." Then the theater costumers vanished, too.
2007: the windows full of hats
But the economy is not entirely to blame.
Arnold Hatters first vanished from their original location, across from the Port Authority, in 2003 when the city seized their property, along with the entire block, in an eminent domain grab. Today, the New York Times tower stands on that site.
today: an empty shop
A little battered but still sturdy, Arnold Hatters survived the move. In October 2007, at their new location further down 8th Avenue, I talked to the owners' sons, brothers Peter and Mark Rubin. They were struggling to regain their lost customers.
"Manhattan’s funny," Mark said back then, "We’re just four blocks away, but it’s another world down here. We’re down 40% of what we did in our last year in the old location."
Now, with the economy in freefall, they are down for the count with no plans to reopen. On their website they write, "Due to the worsening condition of the economy, we have had to close our doors and go out of business. We're very grateful for your patronage over the years. God bless you all."
the Rubin brothers in 2007
In a city that has waged an assault on small business, where multinational corporations, chain stores, and banks dominate the urban landscape, mom and pops like Arnold Hatters, already hobbled by Bloomberg's vision of development, will continue to vanish in this weak economy. And men and women who've only known the family business, will join the ranks of the unemployed.
"I'm positive if I was still in the old location, I'd be weathering this economy," said Mark, "Instead, with three kids and a mortgage, I'm writing the first resume of my life."
On Hats & Hatters
Arnold Hatters Revisited