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Rent Hike Could Force Houston Street Army Navy Store to Close, Manager Says

By Serena Solomon | August 28, 2013 4:11pm
 Henry Yao, the manager of Army & Navy Bags on East Houston Street.
Henry Yao, the manager of Army & Navy Bags on East Houston Street.
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — A store that has sold military surplus clothing on East Houston Street for more than 40 years could be forced to shut down after its landlord demanded a rent increase and improvements to the storefront, the store's manager said.

Henry Yao, manager of Army & Navy Bags at 177 E. Houston St., said landlord Serge Hoyda paid the store a rare visit three weeks ago to announce the rent increase.

While Yao is still hopeful Hoyda will accept his counter-offer of a lower rent increase or at least allow the store to remain open until after Halloween, Yao said the store could shutter as soon as September.

"I will miss my customers — that is why I don't want to go," said Yao, who has managed the store for six years and is often praised in comments on the store's five-star Yelp review.

The store currently pays $3,800 a month for its 300-square-foot space, Yao said. He would not disclose how much Hoyda wanted to increase the rent.

"You cannot survive like that, especially Army Navy. It is low in price and good quality," he said.

Hoyda did not immediately respond to a call and email for comment Wednesday.

The store's owner, Zygmunt Majcher, who Yao said lives in Poland, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The rent increase was first reported on blog the Bowery Boogie.

As part of any new lease agreement, Yao said Hoyda told him the facade would also need to be updated.

"Even if I was to stick with the rental agreement he had, I would still need to fix the front of the store to make it more high class," Yao said.

Other tenants along the block include the pricey new restaurant Preserve 24, Russ & Daughters and American Apparel.

Hoyda also owns part of the land where the Children's Magical Garden nearby is located on Stanton and Norfolk streets. He recently ordered the construction of a fence blocking community gardeners from accessing his land.

Yao said he has tried to find another location in the neighborhood, but he doesn't think he'll be able to afford to reopen nearby.

"The Lower East Side has changed so fast just because of the young people," Yao said. "The rent is sky high."