All good things must come to an end.
Sunset Park residents are learning that lesson as one of the fixtures of the neighborhood’s shopping area, Jason’s, will be shutting its doors for good in the coming weeks. The women’s clothing store has been in Sunset for 75 years and store owners and shoppers are saddened that the shop will soon be no more.
“I’m beyond sad,” said co-owner Alan Eilenberg who has been with the store since 1967. “But the changing neighborhood wasn’t right for our business anymore. Our regular customers have been fantastic. Our problem has been getting new ones.”
Mel Schwartz, co-owner as well for decades, is also saddened by the closing. “We’ve all been a bit nostalgic. It’s been a family business. My father started it. My brother-in-law and I co-own it,” he said.
Along with struggling to find new shoppers, Schwartz believes time and economics also played an integral role in the closure. “We’re getting up in age and there’s no one to pass it on to,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the economy. Some people are not interested in shopping because they have to pay for their rent that keeps increasing.”
At one point, Jason’s had two additional locations, one at 85th Street and Fifth Avenue, which closed in 2010 and one at 73rd Street and Fifth Avenue, which closed around 1995. The 73rd Street location was also shown in the classic film “Saturday Night Fever.”
Schwartz attributes the store’s longevity to its unique selection and prices. “We had the right merchandise,” he said. “Whether it was lingerie or sportswear, we had necessary items at the right price. That’s why I think we were successful for many years.”
Once the owners announced the closing, they were touched by the responses they received.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the Facebook response on the Sunset Parker page when they announced the news. To see so many comments from people meant a lot to me and it shows we meant a lot to neighborhood,” said Schwartz.
Longtime customers also expressed their sadness. “Jason’s was a neighborhood institution and I am pretty sure that every young girl went there with her mom when puberty came knocking,” said former Sunset resident Kasandra Raux. “I was disheartened when I learned about the closing of Jason’s. I will always have memories of going there with my mom and sister.”
Employees of the store also feel the hit. “It’s very depressing coming in every day and telling people that we’re closing,” said Doris Sanchez, who has worked at the store for 36 years.
“It’s like a family here,” said Carmen Crespo. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 45 years so I know a lot of customers are sad. Some have left crying.”
Store manager Maritza Morales also finds the change emotional. “I’ve spend 23 years here and you bond with certain customers. It’s hard because there’s no other business like this around this neighborhood,” she said.
“It’s been around a long time and was very well liked. People have a lot of memories,” said Executive Director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District, Renée Giordano.