Dress Shoppe II, East Villag Indian Boutique is closing

Dress Shoppe II, East Villag Indian Boutique is closing

Entering Dress Shoppe II is like entering an emporium of colors and fabrics. The shelves are stocked with saris and hand-embroidered fabrics, the shelves are stocked with kurtas and salwar suits, and even the ceilings are covered with intricate tapestries. Below the main floor of the store, there are two storage floors stocked with stacks of additional products. Everything must go before January 31st.

After nearly 50 years in business, the prized East Village store is closing. After nearly two years of fighting related to the pandemic, combined with a dispute over the owner, the loss of her husband and her own health problems, Saroj Goyal, the owner, decided that closing the store was the best option.

“Every moment is special here,” said Goyal, 72, over hot tea one December afternoon. Every now and then, he would pause the conversation to help a customer who had walked in, sharing suggestions and telling them to review the store’s instagram.

Ms. Goyal and her husband, Purushottam Goyal, immigrated from Delhi, India in the 1970s. It was Mr. Goyal’s idea to open the business in 1977; the store soon became a slice of South Asia in Manhattan.

For decades, the couple traveled to India to find unique items to sell. “My husband walked from town to town to collect all these things. He had a very particular taste, ”said Ms. Goyal, picking up a handmade beaded fabric.

In September 2019, Mr. Goyal died, a loss that still hurts Ms. Goyal every day. The store now has several memories of his life. “My husband made me laugh a lot in this room. All day, every day, we were together for 50 years in this store, ”Ms. Goyal said, crying.

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There is a portrait of Mr. Goyal hanging high on the back wall and a book full of customer handwritten tributes on the checkout counter. “The world is a little less good with his passing,” wrote one person. Another: “Your presence is physically missed, but your spirit is everywhere in this place.”

In addition to mourning her loss, Ms. Goyal had to think about how to keep the store running; administrative matters had been the domain of her husband.

In February 2020, he called his landlord, Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association II, to discuss the rent. Cooper Square runs low-income housing cooperatives on the Lower East Side; rents for those buildings are subsidized by income from the company’s commercial properties. Ms. Goyal made an appointment over the phone with someone from the office, but when the time came, she said, no one showed up.

Later that month, a representative from Cooper Square came to the store without warning and demanded a lump sum payment of all back rent, Ms Goyal said. Shortly after, the pandemic struck and it was difficult for the store to rack up sales for several months. Then, in February 2021, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. About four months later, in June, Cooper Square sued her for more than $ 265,000.

“We are saddened that the Dress Shoppe is leaving, but we have to remain a fiscally solvent project,” said Dave Powell, CEO of Cooper Square. “We respectfully but categorically dispute Ms. Goyal’s characterizations of interactions she has had with staff.” Mr. Powell added that the Dress Shoppe occupies their largest retail space. “So not having a tenant to pay rent at that store was a severe blow to the financial health of our cooperative,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Ms Goyal’s story caught the attention of the internet.

In December 2020, Nicolas Heller visited the store and published about it on his Instagram page, @newyorknico, who has more than 760,000 followers. “When I do these posts, the reaction is always positive, but some companies resonate more than others. With this, there were so many people commenting with souvenirs of purchases there, from Saroj’s husband, just beautiful anecdotes about the store, ”he said.

the supermodel Bella Hadid reposted Photos of Mr. Heller, writing: “Please, please, please let’s visit @dressshoppenyc and Ms. Saroj Goyal to show loving support for them! He has dedicated his life to this business and we must remind him how important it is! ”

Brandon Stanton, the creator of the Humans of New York blog, which has more than 17 million followers on Facebook, wrote a mail about Ms. Goyal in July. “When I met her, I was very touched by her story and her kindness,” he said. The fact that Goyal stayed out of the inner workings of the business left her vulnerable, Stanton added, which was something her readers sympathized with. “Many people recognized similarities in their own cultures, or the interactions between their own older parents or the women in their lives.”

He said he also helped mediate a deal between Ms. Goyal and the owner, and they reached an agreement in which Ms. Goyal would pay $ 130,000 to Cooper Square and leave the store at the end of January. Mr. Stanton started a GoFundMe to collect donations for Ms. Goyal, which raised nearly $ 500,000.

For the store’s many loyal customers, the news of its closure is emotional.

Nadine Hanson, 30, first discovered Dress Shoppe II in 2014, the year she moved to New York. “I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and was exposed to very little South Asian culture there,” she said. Ms. Hanson, a waitress, finally became close with Ms. Goyal, and the two even spent Christmas Eve together at the store in 2020. “I feel like it’s family now,” Ms. Hanson said.

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“The East Village is changing so much, it has changed so much, and this is another nail in the coffin,” said Jenny Goldberg, a 39-year-old therapist. “Dress Shoppe is a place you could always walk into and be greeted with love and stories, tea offerings. It was a little sanctuary in the middle of the busy city. “

Kate Mueller, 28, a graduate student who worked part-time at the store, said her favorite memories there were the long talks she had with Ms. Goyal. “Between helping organize things, we just sat down and talked about life,” he said. “It is these types of stores that are the soul of this city.”

Now, Ms. Goyal’s focus is to sell as much of her shares as possible before she has to vacate the property at the end of the month. she has a etsy shop, which Ms. Hanson helped her set up, and she plans to create her own online store to keep the business alive.

But Ms. Goyal will miss the physical store. “I love talking to clients and dealing with them directly,” he said. “I am very grateful for the East Village, for my clients for giving me all their love and support.”

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