HUDSON HEIGHTS — A popular cobbler fixed his last pair of shoes in a small shop that residents said has served the neighborhood for at least 30 years.
J. M. B. Shoe Repair, at 213 Pinehurst Ave., near West 187th Street, closed Monday after its owner fell behind on rent, locals said. The ramshackle store, known for its eclectic collection of odds and ends in the storefront window, is the second shop to close in the same area in weeks.
It was located on a stretch of one-story Art Deco retail space, which also housed Ahn's Vegetable & Fruit Store. That store closed in early January because of the rising cost of rent, its owner said.
The owner of J. M. B. could not be reached for comment, but Gus Perry of Stein-Perry Real Estate confirmed the store was out of business. His firm represents the landlord, which is now renting the shoe store space along with Ahn's Grocery.
"I don't think this is a case of a greedy landlord," he told DNAinfo Friday.
"As a small business, it's hard," Perry added. "There is a lot of pressure to keep up with the times and technology, to make sure you are up to date with your industry."
The owners of a neighboring dry cleaner and Chinese food restaurant said the business closed on Monday.
“This neighborhood is not a high-traffic area, so your business really has to be something the people who live here need and want,” said Aram Gozubuyukian, owner of Pleasant Cleaners & Custom Tailors. His shop at 810 W. 187th St. has been in business on the stretch for 42 years.
Neighbors lamented the cobbler's loss this week.
“This is another neighborhood business that seemed like an indefinite fixture, part of the fabric of the neighborhood,” Melissa Moschito, who contributes to the local blog Hudson Heights Gazette, wrote this week.
“Of course, change is inevitable. But we'd like to also think of it as a chance to brainstorm about what we'd like to see in our neighborhood.”
The shoe repair shop has counted several tenants over the years, and was most recently owned by a Haitian man known only by his first name, Alex, who listened to Gospel music and worked at all hours in the cluttered shop.
“It was the kind of place where you always go in and say hello, but don’t actually know each other’s names,” said area resident Marie Venuzio. “You just always assume they’ll be there. “
Several residents said they are concerned bigger changes may be coming on this small stretch of Hudson Heights that some call “Sesame Street,” noting its quaint small town feeling at the top of Manhattan.
Some said they fear the closure might portend the end of the stretch's quaintness.
“It’s like losing Mr. Hooper,” one resident said while walking past the storefront on Wednesday, referencing a beloved storekeeper character on the PBS children’s show.
Perry said he understood neighbors' apprehension about the changes, but said he believed both recent closures reflected the challenges of running an aging business.
"Everyone loves mom-and-pop stores," he added, "but can we all say we support them as much as we could? Do we shop at big stores instead? Do we use Fresh Direct? These are the things we need to be asking ourselves."