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Subway Store Selling Soccer Apparel and CDs Going Out of Business

By Katie Honan | April 2, 2014 5:47pm | Updated on April 2, 2014 8:24pm
 La Villita Records inside the 74th Street station is set to close, according to its owner.
La Villita Records inside the 74th Street station is set to close, according to its owner.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — A shop hawking soccer apparel and CDs inside the 74th Street Transit Hub is set to shutter because the owner has run out of money and owes thousands in back rent, she told DNAinfo.

Sandra Benaranba, 43, also says that the MTA stymied her efforts to change her business, allegations the agency denies.

Benaranba, of Jackson Heights, has operated La Villita Records inside the 74th Street subway station since 2009, she said. It was not clear when the last day will be.

She once lined the walls with soccer jerseys from stars like Lionel Messi and Antonio Valencia, and often played soccer DVDs on a large TV, drawing crowds of straphangers to watch outside her store.

But declining sales and the popularity of bootleg CDs and internet downloads has left her short on cash and unable to restock the store for months, she said.

"The music on the internet is basically free. People don't want to buy anything," she said.

She also says her landlord, the MTA, hasn't been helpful.

But the MTA denied the allegations and said that the business suggestions Benaranba floated, including a nail salon, weren't feasible.

The shop doesn't have any plumbing or access to water, which a nail salon would require. And adding a water supply would require extensive construction, all at a cost to Benaranbam, according to the MTA.

She hasn't paid her $2,400 monthly rent to the MTA since October, and has also struggled to pay insurance for her store, which costs more than $1,000 a year, she said.

Last year, Benaranba, who has a 15-year-old daughter, said she took a job as a housekeeper cleaning offices just to make ends meet.

"I am working only to pay the bills and to pay the rent," she said. "I lost everything, all my money, in this store. I don't have anything left for myself."

She's due in Queens court on Thursday for the rent issue, and Benaranba hopes to settle the situation.

The station is the second busiest in Queens, with more than 16 million riders in 2013, according to MTA statistics.

But the volume hasn't seemed to help.

"All the CD stores in the city are closing," she said. "There's no more business."