GREENWICH VILLAGE — Iconic Village record store Bleecker Bob’s closed its doors forever on Saturday, after the owner’s landlord sold the building to a frozen yogurt chain following two years of litigation, owners say.
“[The landlord] wanted us to make it into more, but there wasn’t anything more we could make it into,” said JK Kitzer, the longtime girlfriend of Bleecker Bob, (whose full name is Robert Plotnik).
“The Dead Boys [album] is still going to sell for $15. It’s not going to sell for $100, Louis Vuitton-style.”
Over its more than four decades of existence, the record shop, officially known as Bleecker Bob's Golden Oldies, became a haven for rock stars and record nerds alike, and even appeared in an episode of “Seinfeld.”
Kitzer, who met Bleecker Bob behind the counter in 1996, has been helping to manage the store since Plotnik was paralyzed by a major stroke in 2001.
She claims their landlord, Al Rosenthal, was looking for a business at the 118 W.3rd St. location that generates $15,000 a month to operate out of the space, while Bleecker Bob’s wasn’t even able to make $10,000.
The store had been on notice for more than a year that it would have to move out, Rosenthal told DNAinfo.com New York last year.
“We’re letting them stay there until we get somebody, so it works for both of us,” he said in July, adding that there was stiff competition for the 2,000-square-foot space near the corner of West 3rd Street and MacDougal Street, at the heart of a boutique- and restaurant-filled hub. Forever Yogurt, a national chain based in Chicago, finally inked the deal on a lease for the spot in Februrary.
Kitzer started to cry when discussing the tough decision of whether or not to tell Bob — who has had little role in the store's operations since his stroke and currently lives in an assisted living care facility — that after 31 years on the corner of West 3rd and MacDougal Street, his store is no more.
“I’ve been kind of breaking down this week asking friends if I should tell him — 50 percent say yes, 50 percent say no,” Kitzer said.
As she reminisced about the record store and the man behind it, dozens of customers walked in and out of Bleecker Bob’s, a mixture of disheartened regulars and blissfully unaware first-timers.
Jake Cochran, a 22-year-old farmer from Harrisonberg, Va. who came to the city to perform a couple shows with his band Money Cannot Be Eaten, perused the West 3rd record store for the first time on Saturday in search of Talking Heads and Frank Zappa albums.
He was dismayed to learn that after 46 years, Bleecker Bob’s was shutting down.
“It’s tough to see places like this disappear,” he said. “Whether or not I’ll ever come here, it makes me feel good just knowing its here and it brings a sense of history to the neighborhood.
Jujitsu instructor Harley Flanagan, 46, said he started coming to Bleecker Bob’s in the 1970s as a teen growing up on the Lower East Side.
“Back in those days there weren’t too many places that sold punk rock records,” Flanagan said. “I used to come to the old location. They had a couple pinball machines. I used to cut school and hang out there.”
He admitted being a bit depressed about Bleecker Bob’s closing down.
“It’s just a sad thing,” he said.
But Kitzer hopes that beyond just mourning the loss of the iconic store, longtime shoppers also remember the decades of record buying experiences they had there.
“We’re very upset but also very proud,” she said. “We’re proud we’ve been here this long.”
Kitzer continues to search for the right moment to tell Bleecker Bob that his legacy, at least in its physical form, is gone forever.
“I will know when the timing is right, but I’m not going to hit him with a ton of bricks just yet,” she said.