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The Shroud of Kors

My business, Dubé Juggling, has been in operation since 1975 – all 39 years in Manhattan. A legacy brand, we are fortunate to have over 100,000 names in our database, including many well-known performers such as David Blaine, Penn and Teller, Cirque du Soleil, and Ringling Brothers. But none of this matters much when up against a Goliath and the real estate market of New York City.

I have leased at 520 Broadway in SoHo for 23 years and was the first “upscale” tenant in my building – a departure from the type of tenancy in the building up to that time – primarily sewing factories. For sometime, I became the showpiece for management as they toured prospective new tenants through my space as an example of where the building was going. My pioneering efforts there were valued and rewarded by more favorable rents. However, as a commercial tenant, there is no rent protection, and business life in a market of rising rents can be harrowing.

When my management called to set up an appointment in person with my landlord, I was worried. I was sure that there was no problem with our behavior as tenants, no complaints nor any outstanding debt. The landlord would not make a visit for such matters. As scheduled, on July 25th, one day before my birthday, my landlord visited me at 520 Broadway. He sensed my angst as he said, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” and explained that my property was being leased to clothing retail giant Michael Kors and that my lease was not being renewed. A few days later, I received a termination of lease, effective August 31, 2013. Online, the story was already old news. Kors had leased the ground floor retail and second floor. But, the company later opted for the 3rd floor, which my business occupied. 520 Broadway was to be their international headquarters and flagship store.

This was our banner year for media exposure. We were featured in the New York Times (see here) as well as the Wall Street Journal, and, on October 16, 2013, I was honored to be named one of the “10 Best Classic Stores In NYC” by Gothamist. I was in good stead, alongside legendary shops such as Bloomingdale’s, The Strand, Pearl Paint, Bigelow, and FAO Schwarz. However, at the time, writer Rebecca Fishbein had no idea that I was being given the boot when, ironically, she wrote:

It may seem strange that one of the city’s standout old school stores caters specifically to jugglers, but at least there’s some proof New York still has a unique soul, even while it seems poised to be eaten alive by banks.

When I emailed her, the staff of Gothamist, who knew me well, was horrified and immediately requested a phone interview for a follow-up story, which you can read here.

I have negotiated a stay of execution until January 6, 2014, only a few short weeks away. I have been combing the boroughs of New York City as well as New Jersey to find appropriate space for my business. It has been a daunting task; I occupy an entire floor of my building – 5000 square feet. I have not only a warehouse full of inventory, office equipment, furniture, and machinery to contend with, but I also have to consider employees, a showroom, and a brisk walk-in trade in my relocation. Rents everywhere have soared. Areas of Brooklyn and Queens are as expensive as Manhattan. I have explored a myriad of possibilities. There are simple options available to anyone outside the city, such as just moving the contents of my business temporarily to one’s basement and garage. But in NYC, every square inch of space is coveted and priced accordingly.

Construction has been underway in the building, seemingly everywhere around us. Everything in the building is about Michael Kors. Time is running out, and I am feeling very closed in as a black netting covers the building for exterior work. Our light, as well as our prospects, have been substantially dimmed by the Shroud of Kors

Note about the Numbers: My rent is $12,500 per month. However, the market for SoHo is TWICE that (about $25,000 per month per floor). Michael Kors will be renting three floors at $350,000 per MONTH in a 15 year leasing deal. That’s $4,200,000 per year.

9 Responses to The Shroud of Kors

  1. How sad I am to see that you are losing your home. This destruction of NYC is no less reminiscent of the destruction of NYC for eminent domain in the 1950s when buildings were torn down for the roadways to be build. I feel like it is the story of the Cross Bronx Expressway all over again.

    You need the ease of the walkin space for your business and the horror that you are being taken from Manhattan where the customers flourish are to be denied the ease to restock their wares.

    Have you looked in the communities of Rego Park and Forest Hills Queens which is near the trains and on main thoroughfares where a person can get to location from Union Square, Central Park or WS Park in less than hour and be back in the city within the same time frame? There is lots of space available and office buildings are offering prime locations here. Some office buildings are offering 33 bucks square foot to be had.

  2. Brian,

    I have been enjoying your pieces for a couple of years, particularly as I am a native New Yorker who relocated to Connecticut 30 years ago. This is an extremely stressful situation for you, please remember to physically relax while you are going through this.

    One of my partners has two sons that manage commercial real estate in Manhattan, and I have classmates that probably could help network for you as well.

    Send me an email if you would like some introductions.

    Best of luck,

    Jeff

  3. BASTARDS!!!
    Yikes.
    I know you will find a great space in a great neighborhood. You are lucky that way. Big hug.

  4. We first met in 1977 when I came out for the IJA convention in Delaware. At that point you were working out of your apartment in The Village. I have seen you perform excellence and also grow your business huge. I am sure you will end up in an excellent place, Brian. Remember, with the internet you can have contact wherever you end up–be it NYC or San Diego or New Zealand.

  5. Brenda Sartori says:

    My dear cousin Brian…my heart is very sad hearing this news ..I do not understand this world today and it’s attitudes. U are in my prayers. Much libe…B

  6. Brenda Sartori says:

    Much love…. (sorry. Typing on my phone)

  7. My sympathies. The world moves so fast these days that by the time you have re-adjusted to the ever changing trends and fads, it has once again moved on without you.

    The only way forward is to do something totally unique in spite of what everybody else seems to be doing, which is what you did in the first place.

    I am sure a man of your ingenuity will prosper.

  8. That’s a huge building for MK.. Bags bags bags.. LOL


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