Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005

Downtown Express photos by Jennifer Weisbord

Shoppers at Daffy’s newest store at 50 Broadway

Downtowners flock to Daffy’s opening

By Amanda Kludt

At 1 p.m. last Friday, local residents, workers on their lunch breaks, tourists and New Yorkers from all over the city converged on 50 Broadway and poured through the doors of Daffy’s for its grand opening.

The scene inside could only be described as shopping madness. Shoppers pushed through racks of clothing, searched shoe boxes, and scoured the house ware, sports wear and swim wear sections for the bargains Daffy’s is famous for. The shoe section was barely navigable due to the crowd, and the checkout line ran 30 people deep.

However, the mood inside the store proved undoubtedly festive. Two men played trumpet and accordion in a front corner of the store. An ample supply of workers, both corporate and sales people, answered questions and kept things organized. And the owner of Daffy’s, Irving J. Shulman, stood on hand—in a crisp suit complete with a dress handkerchief—to greet customers.

“I am happy with the turnout,” Shulman said. “We were very anxious to get to the Downtown area.” Shulman said he likes the location because there are so many offices and residents. “I think we will help Downtown.”

The store on 50 Broadway is Shulman’s 18th Daffy’s, but his chain started out as one small store in Elizabeth, N.J., called Daffy Dan’s Bargaintown, in 1961. Whereas now he employs 15,000 workers, back then it was just one store and three workers. “I used to work nine days a week then,” he joked.

One of Daffy’s most devoted customers, Carolyn Powell remembers that store vividly. “Back in ’62 we use to all pile in the car and go to Daffy Dan’s. Back when it was just in Elizabeth, New Jersey,” said Powell, who was at 50 Broadway Friday. She said she has been shopping at Daffy’s ever since she went with her family 43 years ago. “This is Daffy’s,” she said pointing to her colorful sweater. “I love it.”

Powell isn’t the only Daffy’s fan. A group of six or seven girls in matching sweatshirts said they were in New York on a school trip to see the Statue of Liberty. When asked if they like the store, they replied in unison, “Yeah!” with one girl saying she wished they had a Daffy’s back in Indiana.

“I love Daffy’s. It’s a great thing to bring here,” said a woman in a business suit on her lunch break who would only give her first name, Adriana. “After the World Trade Center, when all the stores were closed, this is really something good,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who attended a pre-opening celebration the day before said: “Speaking for this community which has endured so much – a community that is still fighting to make a full recovery, I want to thank Daffy’s .. . for bringing us jobs and business and for confirming that Lower Manhattan is still the place to do business…. Let me say it’s great to have Daffy’s as my constituent.”

One Friday shopper, Heather Mitchell, said, “Well, I was dragged here by my co-worker,” motioning toward the woman next to her, Francine Lewis. “She’s been very much anticipating the store opening.”

Lewis admitted it was her third time to the store that day. She said she went in when it opened at 8 a.m. and bought four pairs of shoes (for under $99, by the way.) Then she went to work at 8:30 a.m., got her friend Mitchell to come, and they bought more items. And then at their lunch break at 1 p.m. they came back again. “It’s getting a little crowded now,” Lewis said. The women laughed and said they had to do their shopping in trips.

All of the customers said they were drawn to Daffy’s because of the bargains. In the shoe section, items by names like Steve Madden, BCBG Girls, Rampage, and Kenneth Cole went for 50 percent off their suggested retail price. Other sections from men’s wear to children’s clothing had similar deals.

“I ain’t never seen this many people,” a worker in the men’s shoe section said. Workers said the store had been busy since its opening at 8 a.m. but was reaching a peak at the one o’clock lunch hour.

Shulman said fixing up the building required a lot of work. He said the 20,000-square-foot, two-floor space used to be a bank but had been vacant for years. “No one had put $50 in over the last 50 years,” he said, standing outside the store to take a breather from the crowd. The building is now owned by the United Federation of Teachers, which made the deal to bring Daffy’s.

Shulman attributed the success and the growth of Daffy’s to his daughter, Marsha Wilson, who has run the business since 1981. He said now, as opposed to his busy schedule back in 1961, he only works two days a week. But, watching customer after customer greet the owner and stop to chat, it seems he still has his work cut out for him.

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