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.”
Reporter Paul Berger added:
In an April 3 telephone call, Bolla pledged to cover Yousef’s rent over the coming months, but he was vague about what the future would look like for Israel Judaica. Yousef’s stock would have to improve, he said: “We have to give her a concept. We’ve got to get her moving.”
Yesterday, in The Jewish Week, Bolla shared more details about what he has in mind:
…he arranged financing (including some of his own funds) that gave the store another month of life. And he started to outline a plan that would convert Israel Judaica, which carries a limited stock of decades-old kipot and posters and similar assorted items, into what he calls “the Judaica store of the future,” a savvy enterprise with a high-visibility Internet presence and work-study students from nearby New York University.
Bolla, managing partner at Douglas Elliman, has obviously concluded that marketing the Madison Jackson to Orthodox Jews is smart business. Following last week’s big feature in the New York Times, he says, there’s been interest in the project from all over the world. But Bolla is definitely taking an interest in neighborhood preservation well beyond the converted school house at 371 Madison (these efforts are rooted in personal as well as professional interests). In the days ahead, you can expect to hear more from him about other Lower East Side landmarks. Stay tuned.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mr. Bolla would rescue the historically and architecturally significant Bialystoker Home–an Art Deco
building that survives as a major visual element on East Broadway
reflecting the Jewish legacy of the Lower East Side
in its design and ornament. The Home functioned for 80 years, until
November 2011 when residents were vacated to other facilities and the
building and adjoining garden were advertised for sale as, “a highly
desirable development site.” Unprotected by landmark
status, the building is threatened by demolition from an imminent sale
to new owners.
Wouldn’t it have also been wonderful if the tiny but vocal minority who have tried desperately to save the Bialystoker Home (short of describing it as the next Pennsylvania Station) would have lent their voices and–their business–to this Judaica store which is an actual running business, and in my eyes, far more important to the Jewish legacy of the Lower East side than the dubious “visual element” of the Bialystocker Home.
Bolla is trying to maintain a Jewish community in the LES which is hard enough. Most of the Judaica and Jewish stores in the nabe are gone for a reason. The housing priorities are geared to Asians and Latinos, not to the older Jewish community that has been squeezed out by gentrification.
LES has always been about being an immigrant moving up the ladder and getting the hell out of the LES to better places.
I have been sending clients to that store for years
Galleria J Antonio 47 ave A has an collection of Judiac that is made in America.
we send people who need a gift that is more conservative in nature, but, lots of times they find it closed
So what’s the latest here…the gates have been shuttered for weeks and I see a “for rent” sign on the store???
Michael Bolla says it’s still happening; just taking longer to put it all together. We’ll have a full update soon.
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