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Felix Atlasman, the owner of American Home Hardware and More, has become another Hell’s Kitchen small business owner shut down by the pandemic. He’s filed for bankruptcy and the hardware business that’s been on 9th Avenue for 66 years will close.
Atlasman placed a handwritten notice in the window of his neighborhood hardware store at the weekend, sending a message to his landlord. “Dear Alexander Brodsky. We thank you for the opportunity in helping us stay and support the neighborhood all these years. God bless you, your family and the Brodsky Organization. We wish you nothing but health, happiness and success in the future,” he signed off.
The business started as Straight Hardware across 9th Avenue in 1955. “It was started by a gentleman named Bob Straight. Bob ran the hardware store supplying the theatre industry and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood at 613 9th Avenue. My dad bought it in 1989 and we relocated to 590 9th Ave and changed the name to American Home Hardware in 2006,” Altasman told us.
They moved to the Brodsky Organization building in 2006, beneath the property owner’s rental development on the block between W42nd and W43rd Streets. Atlasman estimates that in the 15 years of the lease with the Brodsky Organization they have paid $3.5 million in total rent.
The hardware store relied on 90% of its business coming from workers at Broadway theaters and conference attendees at the Javits Center. Both sources have been shut off for Atlasman for 18 months during the pandemic. In June last year, his business was seen as essential. In an interview with CBS he described how the area had become dangerous and how he kept his shutters down, bringing customers what they needed to the sidewalk. “Pepper spray is my best selling item. It used to be light bulbs,” Atlasman told the CBS reporter.
He has now made a voluntary petition for bankruptcy in New Jersey. “I told Alex, the landlord, it’s the pandemic! I’ve been open as an essential service, but where are the customers? Javits was a hospital. Broadway was closed. Be human. Give me a chance,” said Atlasman. “I’m in the wrong, he’s in the right. I’m sorry that I couldn’t pay him the rent.”
Atlasman, who has worked in the store for over 24 years, is resigned to losing his business and having to start again. “The store is going to get closed. It’s going to be liquidated. It’s just a matter of time, unfortunately. The neighborhood’s going to lose a hardware store, but you might get in a Starbucks,” he said laughing and pointing towards other coffee shop locations in the area.
He doesn’t know what’s next, but this Hell’s Kitchen character is ready for the next challenge. “I want to thank the 9th Avenue customers and my 9th Avenue family. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I want to stay, but unfortunately, COVID has got the better of us. So thank you, everybody — we all survived,” he said.
Locals have started to react to the news. “Another Hell’s Kitchen icon sliding into oblivion. Yes, they were pricey and idiosyncratic, but they had pretty much everything, and darn it, they were ours. They will be missed,” said Renee Lutz Stanley.
Last night, a spokesperson for the Brodsky Organization told us: “They have been a long-term tenant for many years at the site. We are sorry to see him go.”