A guest post by Emma DeCorsey
The beloved Upper West Side store Granny-Made is closing on July 31, exactly 27 years after its opening. Its owner Michael Rosenberg is one of the city's true mensches. I worked there for the first five years I lived in New York.
Opened on August 1st, 1986, it began as a closet-sized boutique specializing in handmade knits for women and men during the sweater boom of the late 1980s. Like Florent with Gansevoort St., it was partially responsible for turning Amsterdam Ave. from sketchy to idyllic shopping street.
Michael named it after his beloved Granny Bert Levy, who knitted sweaters for WWI soldiers and later for her children and many grandchildren. Around 9/11 the store morphed into a baby and childrens' clothing and gift store in order to remain open and to reflect the rapidly changing neighborhood, while still carrying womens' sweaters and a vast array of rare & wonderful gift items. It always had a certain magic about it.
In 2010, my fourth year working there, our landlord at 381 Amsterdam refused to extend our lease as he planned to clear the entire half of the block for a big-box store--bank, Duane Reade, no matter. The neighborhood was outraged, but of course big money won out. We moved up the street to 467 Amsterdam, where the price to pay for staying true to our neighborhood roots was double our previous rent. George Beane, the owner of 467 deserves special mention for renting to us because of his belief in small mom-and-pop stores, and charging us a little under market value. Another mensch.
We were hopeful that the bigger space and the bigger-ticket items like playroom furniture might generate sales we couldn't have had before, but in the end it wasn't enough. I can't count the number of times I'd show something to a customer and they'd say, "I saw that cheaper on Amazon."
John Hamm in the bathroom, by the Goo Gone
Working there was like being part of a crazy little family, and Michael took great care to make his employees feel at home and taken care of as best he could. My coworkers were Ruth Hornbein, veteran sweater designer; Adele Salzberg, master buyer, decorator and creator of the iconic window displays; Hanna Mooney, an Austrian grandmother of two; and Gracie May Rosenberg, Michael's Havanese who was born in 2002 and became the store's official mascot, asleep in her chair and awaiting love all day long.
We all loved talking about movies and TV and we would sneak in the New York Times crossword when Michael was away. Adele and I kept a framed picture of Jon Hamm in the bathroom. I will forever be unsure of just how I, a Brooklyn-dwelling downtown theater actor and singer with no interest in children, came to find my day job there, but Michael and the girls were the reason I stayed. I left at New Years' 2012 and have yet to find a boss as good as Michael.
Granny-Made is a true piece of old New York, and each day I worked there was a million times funnier and more quality and more real than that piece of shit show Girls. Lena Dunham wishes she had the experience I did!