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Longtime First Ave. Shop Frenchman Closes, Taking Winter Wonderland With It

By Heather Holland | February 19, 2013 1:34pm

STUYVESANT TOWN — Every year during the colder months, when business was slow at his First Avenue air-conditioner shop Frenchman, longtime owner William Konuik transformed his store into a winter wonderland for the community to enjoy free of cost.

During the holidays, the usual stock of air-conditioners was replaced with elaborate Christmas displays, including hundreds of toys and lots of fake snow. It became well known in the neighborhood for its annual Christmas parties, which included horse-carriage rides and live music, and ran for more than three decades.

But now that tradition has come to an end.

Konuik, 85, has retired due to health concerns, said his son, Glen Konuik. The store near the corner of East 20th Street has closed for good, but the business is still running out of a warehouse in Williamsburg, he explained.

"I decided to retire the store on First Avenue, and now it is in the family trust," said Glen Konuik, whose family owns the building and the storefront that once housed the Frenchman. "We have always run the business out of its warehouse location, it was just that nobody knew that."

However, the closure hasn't hurt their bottom line, because most of the business wasn't coming from the storefront anyway, Glen acknowledged.

"It doesn't pay to keep the store open," said Konuik. "I haven't decided what I want to do with the space now."