New incarnation of Pearl River Mart in works – Grain’s New York Business by Adrianne Pasquarelli April 13, 2015
The popular Chinese department store is closing its SoHo shop at year-end, but it may come back under new leadership, says owner Ching Yeh Chen, who would remain a consultant.
Shoppers, don’t fret. There may be a second chapter for Pearl River Mart, the Chinese department store known for its inexpensive yet eclectic wares.
Last week, Crain’s reported that Pearl River would be closing its 30,000-square-foot SoHo location at the end of the year because of a fivefold rent increase.
Since the news, Ching Yeh Chen, Pearl River’s president, who owns the store with her husband, Ming Yi Chen, has received countless calls from brokers and real estate developers hoping to continue the Pearl River legacy. Some developers have even offered to collaborate with Pearl River, she said, declining to elaborate.
“The response is overwhelming, and it means that this is an institution in New York,” said Ms. Chen. “People are convinced there’s life here, that Pearl River is a name that can be continued.”
While she and Mr. Chen are exploring options for a smaller store south of Canal Street, where prices are cheaper, she’s also in talks with Nathan Baden, landlord of the current three-level space at 477 Broadway, on possibly moving to the building’s less expensive fourth floor. However, even if a downsized version of the store returns, Ms. Chen said, she would like to take a back seat and bring in outside help to run the new version of the business. She dubbed it “Pearl River, Chapter 2.” Ms. Chen, who is 69, and Mr. Chen, 76, would like to remain on as consultants. Their children do not work in the retail industry and aren’t interested in operating the store.
Since last week, shoppers have been aghast at Pearl River’s demise, many voicing their dismay onTwitter.
“Just sad that NYC rent is too much for @PearlRiver_Mart…Soon NYC will be nothing but Big-Box stores. Sad,” tweeted Jerry Hagan.
During the weekend, shoppers stormed the Broadway store, stocking up on gold foil paper, straw slippers and paper lanterns before the items sell out. Ms. Chen said in recent days, the store tapped into a new customer base—those who have not been familiar with Pearl River.
Since the store is not closing until December, she will continue to order the same amount of inventory. Some larger items, like a lion door guard made entirely of marble, have been marked down by 50% for some time in preparation of the closure.
“It was even busier than Christmas time,” said Ms. Chen of the weekend shopping.
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