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Billy's Antiques Holds Funeral For its Tent

By DNAinfo Staff on March 10, 2012 7:06pm

By Sarah Tan

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

NOHO - Billy's Antiques and Props has folded its tent for good.

Billy Leroy, a fixture on Houston Street and the Bowery, and friends folded up the well-worn tarp that covered the shop that sold furniture, antiques and curios for the last three decades, and placed it into a mahogany coffin. Leroy's closing down the shop to make way for a new building.

"It's the end of the old Bowery, the last of a 150 year old tradition, now they can have their Starbucks," Leroy said.

A smaller version of Leroy's shop is expected to open in the new building.

Leroy is also moving on to host a TV show on the Travel Channel about antique collecting he said is called "Baggage Battles."

After the tarp was placed in the coffin, Leroy and old friends and patrons, carried the casket once around the block.

"It was the last hold-out, the last of the originals," Clayton Patterson, 63, a long-time friend of Leroy's said about the tent shop. . 

Jenner Furst, director of a fictional film based on Leroy's tent called "Dirty Old Town," said that he, too, was sad to see Billy's close. 

"It's just impossible to have a structure like this in New York nowadays," Furst, 28, said. "And the clientele has changed, it's just a lot harder for him to make money here now."

Leroy also took down multiple newspaper clippings written about his store that he had hung up on a wooden shed at the side of the lot. 

"It's very sad for me to say good bye to the old Bowery, but it's not the same Bowery that it was," he said. 

The landlord, Tony Goldman, plans to build a brick two-story building on the site where the tent once stood, though according to Leroy, he has promised not to turn it into a Starbucks.

Nonetheless, Leroy still expressed bitterness at the recent commercialization of his neighborhood.

Shaking a tambourine as his wife, Lorraine Leckie, played a guitar and sang, Leroy proclaimed to the crowd and curious onlookers outside the metal gate, "Say hello to Starbucks, say hello to Rag and Bone, say hello to the end of the old Bowery!"