Volume 18 • Issue 41 | February 24 - March 2, 2006

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Shaul Yamin will be moving Dick’s Hardware to Gold St. after almost 50 years on Pearl. With the move, the grandson of the store’s founder, Nathaniel Olman, will join the busness.

Condo project hammers small shops into new spaces

By Chad Smith

Businesses don’t usually pack up and leave a few months shy of a 50-year anniversary. But this spring, Dick’s Hardware at 205 Pearl St. will be doing just that. There’s simply no choice.

The story has become common to a Lower Manhattan growing feverishly residential: a lease isn’t renewed, a merchant vacates and a condominium is built.

Dick’s Hardware will be the last to leave this block between John St. and Maiden La. in order to make way for a condo building with new stores. Although many of the Pearl St. storeowners who have already left recognize or understand the fact that the Financial District is becoming more residential, the rich history behind the stores and the onetime block camaraderie make the breakup a hard one, they say.

“We started our businesses as kids down here,” said Shaul Yamin, owner of Dick’s Hardware. Yamin came from Israel in the ’80s and married into the Olman family, who opened and ran Dick’s since 1956. After working at the store for two decades with members of the family, Yamin took full ownership of it about a year ago. Because of the new condo, Dick’s must move a few blocks away to 9 Gold St. Steven Olman, the grandson of Nathaniel Olman, Dick’s founder, will bring the family name back to the business when he becomes co-owner of the new store in a few months. Yamin hopes his customers will follow to this new location; many said they would.

“I’ve been shopping at Dick’s for over 15 years for a reason,” said Jack Kelly, an engineer who works in the Wall St. area. “They’re friendly, quick. That’s always been important to me.”

Yamin’s congenial manner also led to other friendships on his block, as one forged with Ben Davi, owner of Underground Pizza. Underground had been right next door to Dick’s.

“Shaul would always help me out with supplies, especially when I was just getting my feet wet,” said Davi, who has moved his business to 2A Williams St. He also immigrated to America, and from a young age knew he wanted to get involved in the restaurant business. He said that the recent move, however upsetting, wouldn’t deter him.

“The odds were against me even when I first opened up on Pearl St.,” Davi said. “Everyone told me that my space there was too small. I don’t know, though. I just sensed something special about that block.”

To Davi’s dismay, real estate developers also sensed something special about the block. When more and more people began looking for living space in the Wall Street area a couple years ago, Rockrose Development Corp. saw an opportunity.

“This is a great area for families, and these buildings are going to bring a lot more business to the Downtown area,” said Jon McMillan, director of planning for Rockrose. Besides plans to bring a high-end restaurant to this space on Pearl St., McMillan said his company wants to bring stores like Crate & Barrel to accommodate new residents. McMillan didn’t say when the entire project would be completed. Yamin said construction on the block seems to have halted for now.

Rockrose also purchased a building down the block at 211 Pearl St., an old factory once owned by manufacturing giant William Colgate. Rockrose demolished the factory to put in a parking lot but agreed to maintain the building’s neo-Classical façade after local preservationists protested. Balancing the historical integrity of the area and local storeowners’ sensitivities with Rockrose’s new building projects has proved challenging.

When asked about the abrupt manner in which some of the longstanding businesses on Pearl St. said they were told to leave — in some cases, they were give a few months — McMillan said, “Everyone’s rights were spelled out in the leases, and, of course, we tried to reach an agreement where everybody was happy.”

But the whole process was a cold one, said Andrew Wepner, co-owner of Lane Jewelers, which was on the corner of Maiden Lane and Pearl Sts. The jewelry store had been on the block for over two decades before having to move: “I’m just unhappy about the way they [Rockrose] handled it. We didn’t have much time to get out. You need to have some heart in situations like these.” Lane Jewelers has moved a block south to 79 Pine St. near Water St.

Wepner also said he misses the days when he could stop by Davi’s place for a slice of pizza and talk.

“We did have a strong sense of community on this block. I’d help those guys out. If they needed their watches or something fixed, no problem,” Wepner said.

Though distance may sometimes dilute friendships, business remains good, say the Pearl St. storeowners. Even Yamin, who had been vehemently against the move, made some concessions last Wednesday, “It’s not so easy to move a hardware store,” he said, though later added, “I guess it’s time we let people know where we’re going — it’s time to move on.”


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