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Empire State Building Cobbler to Close After 94 Years

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[Via the idealist/Curbed Photo Pool]

Louis Shoe Rebuilders has occupied a storefront at the base of the Empire State Building for 94 years, but soon it will be no more, joining the ranks of small businesses murdered by rent hikes.

A Midtown staple, the shoe repair shop will close its doors for good at the end of the month, since landlord Empire State Realty has decided not to renew their lease. Current owner Beatrice Barbieri—who took over the shop in 1992—says that she's seen her rent increase from $5,000 to almost $10,000/month during her tenure. Now, she told the Observer, the landlord has driven out smaller businesses on the first floor.

"I think they're going to rent a group of stores together to one person," she said. "They don't really want individual stores anymore. They want less individuality. It's easier to take over one person who owns five stores, than to have to deal with every individual store owner."

On Thursday, loyal customers and members of the preservationist group #SaveNYC gathered on 33rd Street in order to hold a mock funeral, with attendees wearing black and carrying flowers.

Louis Shoe Rebuilders first opened in 1921 at the current site of the Empire State Building, relocating during construction over the course of the decade. Once the building opened in 1931, Louis moved back in to a storefront on the first floor, which it has occupied ever since.

"This store that's closing hit home a little harder than others," said #SaveNYC organizer Lee Greenfeld. "This one is really the face of vanishing New York. This is a business that's been here for 94 years, made it through the Great Depression, made it through everything. This store is part of the fabric of New York."
· Funeral Held for Louis Shoe Rebuilders, Set to Close After 94 Years [NYO]
· Beloved shoe-repair shop booted from Empire State Building [NYP]