Volume 19 Issue 54 | May 25 -31, 2007

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Ralph’s sold its last discounted items on Chambers St. last Friday.

Shoppers rush for one last bargain at Ralph’s

By Jennifer Milne

After nearly half a century, the beloved Ralph’s Discount City finally closed its Chambers St. doors on May 18.

Ralph’s, which began in 1963, had been a fixture in the neighborhood and watched office lofts turn into multi-million dollar housing projects throughout the years. The developer, the S. Myles Group, plans to demolish the buildings at 91, 93 and 95 Chambers Sts. and build a 6-story condominium building.

Former owner and founder Ralph Mizrahi, 82, walked around the nearly empty store the day before closing, talking to customers who remembered the combination convenience and grocery store from its fully-stocked days.

“We’re going to miss your store,” a customer said, picking through the remaining bottles of shampoo left on the barren shelves.

“I’m going to miss you, too,” Mizrahi replied.

Jugs of clear film developer sat next to V05 shampoo, and greeting cards hung haphazardly out of their display case. Cases of Halloween cookies sat next to bags of Reese’s peanut butter eggs from Easter. Ralph’s shelves have been thoroughly picked over by bargain shoppers, who hurried to the many cashiers at the exit to the store to pay for their purchases.

Mizrahi, who now lives in Florida, sold Ralph’s to sons Eddie and Mordy after retiring, and said business had declined since 9/11. As he stepped outside of the store and squinted down the block, Mizrahi also noted that Chambers St., between Church St. and Broadway, has seen a lot of building turnover in the past few years.

“Look at how many stores are empty on this block,” he said. “It used to be all [office] lofts, with 75 to 100 people working in each loft.”

Mizrahi says there are no plans to open another discount store. The current owner, Eddie Mizrahi, refused to comment for this article. An employee of the Ralph’s Discount City at 80 Nassau St. said that Ralph’s is not affiliated with the Chambers St. store.

For the more famous Ralph’s, going out of business has been a slow process. The store put up signs a few months ago that said “5 percent off.” The figure was 75 percent on May 17, a day before closing. Mizrahi also said the crowd has increased continually throughout the sale.

“We’ve been going out of business for two months now, and at the end of May it will be three months,” he said. “[The developer] takes possession at the end of this month. It’ll take us ten days to get rid of these store fixtures, but we have to give them an empty building.” Mizrahi said that Ralph’s, which spans 91-95 Chambers St., will be torn down.

Long-time customers like Audrey Harkins, a resident of the area, said Ralph’s closing means other discount stores will have little competition and no reason to keep their prices affordable.

“Downtown has always been the bargain place in the city, quietly serving the needs of the middle class and the elderly, and now both are being pushed out,” Harkins said in April. “Little by little, like affordable housing, it’s all caving in on us.”

Myrtle Alexander, whose daughter lives in Tribeca, came all the way from the Bronx to shop at Ralph’s last week.

“What a pity,” Alexander said. “I know the place well.”

The Chambers St. buildings were purchased by the same developer, the S. Myles Group, for a 63,000-square-foot condominium project, said Lisi DeBourbon, a spokesperson for the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The new development will be a limestone-clad six-story building, DeBourbon said, and it will go through the block to an entrance at 77 Reade St. The commission approved the buildings’ demolition and the development plan in November.

With reporting by Brooke Edwards

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