Displays of Judaica have given way to hip young men’s clothes and accessories at 23 Essex St.
When Chris Jennings and Alex Hage-Boutros moved into their new store a few weeks ago, one of their many challenges was cleaning out menorahs and other items left by the previous tenant, a Judaica store that closed this spring after calling Essex Street home for six decades.
“It looked like a Jewish museum in here,” Hage-Boutros said in an interview this week.
These days, the space boasts a whole different vibe: that of the young, the hip, the modern-day urban male. The two young partners, who graduated from Pace University this May, opened Ethik Clothing Company at 23 Essex St. earlier this month after experimenting with pop-ups.
In the last couple of years, we’ve been following the plight of Israel Wholesale Imports, at 23 Essex Street. Heidi Yousef has run the Judaica store for the past 15 years, but last month she finally made the decision to call it quits. Not so fast. Michael Bolla, the real estate developer behind the Madison Jackson building, is coming to the rescue.
In the Jewish Daily Forward, Bolla, an observant Jew, explains why he felt compelled to step in: “I was literally walking by the store and I saw this woman standing [outside] with these old candlesticks… and I said, ‘Darling, what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I have no customers.’ And I said, ‘You are not going to get them like this, darling.”
23 Essex Street.
It looks like Israel Wholesale Importing, Inc., at 23 Essex Street, is closing for good. Heidi Yousef, who has managed the store for 15 years, told us last spring the business was shuttering. Somehow she was able to keep it open for another year, but one of the last remaining Judaica shops on Essex Street has now apparently reached the end of the line. The last day in business will be Friday.
It’s a familiar situation: the store simply doesn’t have enough customers these days to justify the rent (around $2500/month). Israel Wholesale Importing has been located on Essex Street for 60 years. There’s a possibility the store will re-open in Brooklyn, but that’s not certain.