Friday, May 20, 2016

Surma the Ukrainian Shop


Located on 7th Street in the East Village, Surma the Ukrainian Shop has been in business since 1918 -- nearly a century.

photo via Mille Fiori Favoriti

Reader Andy Reynolds hears the news that they're closing in the next month.

He writes, "Was helping the older woman who works there open the gate this morning. She's like, 'Three more weeks and I'm outta here.' I asked her if it was a landlord/rent thing. She told me the owner--of the shop and the building--was selling the building. She's worked there 38 years."

(Rumor confirmed.)

photo: Gudrun Georges

Last year, The Ukrainian Weekly did an in-depth story on the shop and its history.

Mike Buryk wrote that Surma "was like a lens sharply focusing all those bits and pieces of my Ukrainian ancestry in one very inviting place. The smell of beeswax and the sounds of Ukrainian music coming from the record player always greeted me. As you walked through the door a bell tinkled in a welcoming way with each new customer."

photo: Gudrun Georges

When his grandfather, Myron Surmach, passed away, Markian Surmach returned to New York from Colorado and took over the shop.

“If I didn’t come back, the store was going to close,” he told the Times in 2009.

"No place stays the same for 15 years," remarked Jim Dwyer in the paper, "certainly not in Manhattan. With a few exceptions, Ukrainians have long since drained from the Lower East Side. So have the artists living cheaply. 'The homogenization of city life is not unique to New York, or this country,' Mr. Surmach said. 'It’s all over the world.'"

In Ukrainian Weekly, when Buryk asked Surmach how long Surma would last, he answered, “As long as my personal interest in Ukraine continues and evolves, Surma will be here.”

This weekend is the annual Ukrainian Festival on the block--will it be Surma's last?


BrooksNYC said...

Oh, NO.

This is a real knife through the heart. I'm so sad!

Downtowner said...

My grandparents were married across the street at the old St. George's Church. I bought Ukrainian sheet music here many years ago. Sad to see it close, but not surprising with the dwindling Ukrainian population in the area.

Richard Federico said...

Well this one hits home for me, but always felt the inevitable was going to happen with this place. My wife and I have been going here every year before Easter to buy our Ukrainian Easter Egg dyes wax and styluses. We are not Ukrainian, but artists and my wife teaches the Ukrainian egg design and coloring technique to her students. We also buy their honey, and even now there are two jars of Surma clover and honeysuckle honey in the cupboard. Surma was/is a unique and authentic gem that catered to a very special niche market and it always impressed me that they survived this long! This is just another cultural loss to the once great city of New York. As Trump would say "it's a catastrophe, it's a real disaster". I hope they are closing on their own terms and not being squeezed by greedy landlords looking to re-create suburbia.

Linda said...

It's always sad to see old businesses close, especially good, old fashioned family businesses.

Orysia Tracz said...

"When his grandfather, Myron Surmach, passed away, Markian Surmach returned to New York from Colorado and took over the shop." I think you meant to say that after Markian's father, Myron Surmach Jr., passed away - that's when Markian returned.