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Reduced Rent Hike Could Save Houston St. Army-Navy Store, Manager Says

By Serena Solomon | September 24, 2013 11:53am
 Store manager Henry Yao said he will be able to keep his job because Army & Navy Bags will remain open. 
Store manager Henry Yao said he will be able to keep his job because Army & Navy Bags will remain open. 
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DNAinfo/Serena Solomon

LOWER EAST SIDE — Victory Day has arrived for a Lower East Side military surplus store facing a huge rent hike.

Army & Navy Bags, which has been at 177 E. Houston St. for more than 40 years, will likely be able to remain open after its landlord agreed to a lower rent increase than he had initially offered, manager Henry Yao said.

Last month, landlord Serge Hoyda said he would nearly triple the $3,800-per-month rent for the 300-square-foot space, but backed off after the rent hike drew media attention, Yao explained.

"I am really happy and I still have a job," said Yao, who has managed the store for six years and is often praised in comments on the store's Yelp review.

"I would have been kicked out if it wasn’t for all the [news media] stories.”

Yao said that a few days after several publications including DNAinfo New York published stories on the impending rent increase, Hoyda personally called Yao to offer a smaller increase. Yao, who declined to disclose the rent figures, told him it was still too much.

Hoyda had also demanded Yao improve the front of the store to look more like other tenants along the block, including the pricey new restaurant Preserve 24, Russ & Daughters and American Apparel.

On Friday, Hoyda again called the store, offering Army & Navy Bags a rent increase that is a little less than double its current price and something the store could afford, according to Yao.

"It is still going to be very tough," he said. "He will take all our profit."

The landlord's assistant is currently drawing up the new lease, Yao said, but he still does not know if Hoyda will insist the front of the store be changed.

"I hope not. I don't have much money," he said.

Hoyda did not immediately return a call or email for comment.

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

Hoyda recently caused controversy elsewhere on the Lower East Side when he fenced off nearly half of the Children’s Magical Garden on Stanton and Norfolk streets, which he partly owns. The fence blocks access for community gardeners to Hoyda's part of the lot.