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Camouflage Clothing Store to Close After 38 Years After Rent Is Tripled

By Mathew Katz | January 22, 2014 2:47pm
  The store is one of several longtime favorites shutting down after huge rent increases.
Camouflage Clothing Closing Down
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CHELSEA — Even Camouflage couldn't hide from Chelsea's sky-high rent increases.

The trendy men's clothing store, which opened in 1976 at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 17th Street, will close by Feb. 2. The store's landlord more than tripled its rent from $7,000 to $24,000 a month, Camouflage owner Norm Usiak said.

"Small businesses like this don't make the margins, like fast food, that pay that kind of rent," Usiak said. "The neighborhood is indoctrinated with tourists, people visiting the High Line and Google. You don't find old New York-style clothing stores — it's more national-style franchise."

The store's closure was first reported by Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.

Usiak first opened Camouflage 38 years ago with Gene Chase, providing a spot for stylish locals to pick up high-quality, brand-name men's clothing. Chase died of AIDS in 1996, but Usiak continued to run the store.

He's now holding one last blowout sale, with merchandise like Perry Ellis shirts and designer pants going for 50 to 70 percent off. He's also selling the store's fixtures and furniture at a heavy discount.

"There's no bitterness here," said Usiak, who hopes to teach merchandising classes after the store shutters. "It's what happens. It's happening all over the city. Now every street seems to have the exact same stores."

The store's landlord did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Camouflage is one of many long-lived Eighth Avenue stores that have been forced to close in the face of skyrocketing rents over the past year. Just last week, gay gift store Rainbows and Triangles announced it would close after a rent increase. Camouflage's next-door neighbor, Paradise Cafe, shut down after two decades in the neighborhood when its landlord doubled the rent. 

"There's no more flower shops — the stores don't service the neighborhood anymore, they service the traffic on the street, which is tourists," Usiak said. "What can I tell you? New York is becoming like a mini-mall."