Little did Jeff Greenberg, who was an optician at the time, know that they were about to take over his life.
After 23 years in business, Elan is closing at the end of February. It's a casualty of MTA construction, building repairs and a steep rent hike, Greenberg said in an interview Friday, surrounded by marked-down objets d'art.
"People have been coming here all week and saying, 'I never noticed you here' — and that was because of all of the construction," said Greenberg, 58.
"You basically had to walk over a moat to get from the street to here."
Work to correct structural issues in the Muste Building, which houses Elan, began in 2007, according to Department of Buildings records. That work included the installation of scaffolding in front of the store, Greenberg said.
When the scaffolding was removed last summer, MTA work to connect the Broadway-Lafayette B, D, F, M and downtown 6 train station with the Bleecker Street uptown 6 train station shifted to Elan's corner, an MTA spokeswoman confirmed.
"The sidewalk being blocked — that killed my whole [fall and holiday] season," Greenberg said. "It was absolutely miserable. It just made us so invisible."
The final blow to Elan — which specializes in decorative arts ranging from Art Deco through the 1970s and mid-20th century — was its landlord's announcement in January that the month-to-month rent would increase by 150 percent, Greenberg said.
"I can't imagine being able to pay what [Manhattan] landlords are asking," he said, declining to provide the dollar amount of the rent increase.
In advance of Elan's Feb. 29 closure, its remaining items are marked down 40 to 60 percent.
Greenberg said that after the store closes, he plans to sell antiques at auctions, flea markets and online — and to take some much-needed time off.
"After all this," he said, "I'm going to just need to relax."