EAST VILLAGE — A beloved East Village clothing store announced this week that it would be closing after 18 years in business.
The Jill Anderson boutique on East Ninth Street between First and Second avenues, a go-to clothing store for its artsy and unique designs, will shut its doors for good this Sunday. Anderson said a combination of bad luck, high rent and the day-to-day difficulties of running a business recently made her decide to close the shop.
"This was like the heart here — this beautiful store," said Anderson, in between hugging a stream of well-wishing customers who came into the store as much to see the designer as to buy her wares. "I loved making people happy. I loved to sew."
Anderson said she finally made the decision to close the store last week after barely holding onto the business for the past few years, even though she hasn't been able to keep up with demand for her clothes.
The rent for her store doubled three years ago, she said, and last year Hurricane Sandy hit. Then her credit card machine broke down, and electrical equipment burned out in the basement.
"There just isn't any protection out there for small businesses," said Anderson, who designed the dress writer and director Debra Granik wore to the Academy Awards in 2010 when her film "Winter's Bone" was nominated.
But Anderson didn't just make clothes — she also knitted together a community of like-minded people with a shared appreciation of her style.
"It is a place where people loved to gather and meet friends," said Miriam Sirota, a real estate broker who lived in the East Village before moving to Bedford Stuyvesant and has been a customer for the past 16 years.
The Jill Anderson store became a gathering space for Sirota and others in the neighborhood in the days following 9/11, she said.
"It is more than just a store. It's an institution," Sirota said.
Sirota said most of her clothes were made by Anderson, including the "Italian Widow" dress, the "Parachute" skirt, a jumpsuit tuxedo and a white silk jacket.
"It is handmade," she said. "You can't get that anywhere else."
Jane Kornbluh, a former East Village resident, said the designs were perfect for her as a woman in her 50s.
"It's the only store I can go and I feel the clothes look good on me," she said, adding that each year her husband gets her a Jill Anderson piece for her birthday.
"It's a tragedy. It's like a death," Kornbluh said.
In the chaos of closing up shop, Anderson said she hasn't decided if she will continue with an online store or fold the business altogether.
"I have to get through this first," she said.