Blatt Billiards Closing Greenwich Village Factory After 70 Years

By Andrea Swalec on October 7, 2013 9:19am 

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Amid the cafes and clothing shops on bustling Broadway south of Union Square, a five-story factory is still churning out pool tables just like it has for the past 70 years — but it won't be there for much longer.

After making custom pool tables at 809 Broadway since 1943, Blatt Billiards has sold its building and is packing up to move to New Jersey by the end of the year.

The company, one of the last remaining manufacturers on valuable Downtown land, specializes in handmade game room furnishings, third-generation business owner Ron Blatt told DNAinfo New York on a recent tour of the factory.

"Nobody does this work anymore. It's a lost art," said Blatt, 71, pointing out elaborately carved designs on the sides of maple and rosewood tables.

In addition to moving its manufacturing operations to New Jersey, Blatt Billiards will open a new store to sell the pool tables at 330 W. 38th St. near Ninth Avenue by January, Blatt and co-owner Bruce Roeder said.

Blatt's grandfather Samuel Blatt founded the company in The Bronx in 1923. When the Cross Bronx Expressway was designed to tear through the building, Blatt Billiards relocated to 809 Broadway.

Each floor of the 35,000-square-foot building is dedicated to a different part of manufacturing the tables, which weigh 1,000 to 1,800 pounds each, have names like Claridge and Friar Briggs, and take six to eight months to complete.

On the cabinet-making floor, members of the 48-person staff cut wood and carve details onto the sides of the tables. A couple floors up, workers on the finishing floor turn table legs on lathes and polish surfaces. Another floor is dedicated to antiques and has pool tables stacked to the ceiling four tables high.

Blatt Billiards is the only company of its kind in New York City and one of just a few in the country, Blatt claimed, naming Dustin Hoffman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Hanks as past customers.

Most Blatt Billiards tables cost from $20,000 to $65,000, but the price can climb depending on the materials and level of detail a customer wants, Blatt said.

A celebrity designed an all-teak pool table with ornate carvings and marquetry inlay work in 2005 that rang up to $185,000, Blatt said, declining to name the buyer.

That craftsmanship will soon cross the Hudson River, when Blatt Billiards' manufacturing operations are moved this fall to a one-floor, 55,000-square-foot warehouse in Wood-Ridge, N.J., which Blatt said he expects will be more efficient than lugging the tables between floors in their current building.

Blatt and Roeder sold the building for $24 million in May to a buyer identified only as 809 Broadway Associates, as public records show and The Real Deal reported.

The 4,000-square-foot ground floor is being marketed by the real estate firm RKF as retail space available in June 2014. A floor-to-ceiling glass storefront will be installed, according to the listing.

Blatt, a Rockland County resident, chose to sell the building — he plans to retire in the spring and hand over control to extended family members — but he called the departure from Broadway "bittersweet."

"We've been here our whole lives," he said, surveying the block from the business' front door and recalling where clothing, hat and shoe manufacturers once operated.

"It used to be a neighborhood," he said. "Now, all gone."

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