The NYC Firestore has been in business since 1991, first on Lafayette and then on Greenwich Avenue. Owner Noam Freedman wrote in to let us know that his shop has been forced to shutter.
"The end came five years ago when they closed St. Vincent's Hospital," Noam says. "This pulled several thousand people out of the area each day. For the past five years we have been dying a slow death, borrowing from here to pay there, depleting our savings, selling our home, trying to find a level where the math worked, but each year the target moved a little further away. This year we were finally done in by construction all around the shop, road closures, and the final blow--the building was wrapped in scaffolding two months ago. A perfect storm for retail failure."
It's an all too familiar story for small businesses in the post-St. Vincent's urban blight of the Village.
Noam and Annie. Photo: DNAInfo
Noam offers the following description of the shop's final hour:
Tonight we pulled the gate on the Firestore for the last time. It's been over 24 years, but I can remember so vividly the guys from L20, and other units visiting the old FDNY Medical Center on Lafayette, asking "What's all this?" when we opened "New York Firefighter's Friend" in March of 1991. They seemed surprised that anyone would open a "Fire Store.” They knew about "Cop Shops," but a "Fire Store"?
It was the very definition of a local "Mom & Pop" store. The entire space was maybe 250 Sq Ft. I built much of the shelving and storage from scratch, and my mother and father, Ellie and Nate, were there most days for the next 12 years. My sister Talia and I would work when it was busy or the parents needed time off.
A year or so later we expanded next door. And in 1997 we opened our own "Cop Shop" next door to that called "New York 911." We had 15 years at Lafayette St. and now more than 9 years on Greenwich Ave. It has been an honor for my family to be a small part of the First Responder Community.
Now, what I opened with my parents and sister, and where many other friends and family have worked, I close with my wife and son. Three generations have worked the store.
Our very last customer was a family with a little, chubby-cheeked blonde two-year-old boy. He wanted the fire rain boots that were still in the window. Annie got the boots out and showed them to him. He grabbed them and held them to his chest. The parents offered to pay for them, but Annie declined. Then she said, “Here, he should have the helmet to match,” and handed them a kids’ helmet. The little boy’s smile was huge. Then Annie handed them the kids’ fire raincoat so he could have the full outfit. He was a very happy little boy. I cannot think of a better last customer than a wide-eyed little boy who wants to dress like his heroes, and maybe, like many of the kids that used play with the trucks on the floor of the shop, he will one day be a real firefighter.