Shatsky & Shapiro, a popular West Hollywood dime store, is going out of business, the victim of high rents and the creeping advance of trendy boutiques, restaurants and croissant parlors.
Owners Eddie Shatsky and Arlene Shapiro have been partners in business and life for the last 16 years. They have spent most of that time in the funky store at 8936 Santa Monica Blvd., which for 50 years has offered everything from a needle and thread, to shower curtains, to blank forms for a last will and testament.
Their customers love the place, as they showed when they flooded in last Wednesday for the first day of Shatsky & Shapiro's going-out-of-business sale. Many spent as much time bemoaning the loss of the store and its owners as they did searching the shelves for a bargain.
"Everybody's saying the same thing, 'I'm really going to miss this place,' " said Jan Cummings, a customer for 20 years. "We'll go on strike or picket, do anything, if we think it will do any good. It is the end of an era."
Shatsky and Shapiro said they will close for good when their lease expires at the end of the month.
Crocker National Bank, which manages the property for a trust, has agreed to a one-month extension if the couple wants it. Then the rent will jump from $2,200 a month to $6,300. Shatsky said the store does not bring in enough money to cover the increase.
J. C. Ogilvie, manager of trust real estate for Crocker National, said the rent increase was determined through a survey of rents in the area. "I think the structure of the community is changing," Ogilvie said. "Some of the businesses that have been in there are being outbid for their own stores."
Ogilvie said a women's boutique and a men's clothing store have expressed interest in Shatsky and Shapiro's place.
Shatsky and Shapiro never counted on neon signs or fancy displays to draw customers as do the new shops that are closing in from each end of Santa Monica Boulevard. Their floor is cement. The walls are barren, and merchandise is stacked on plain pegboard shelves. But somehow there is warmth.
"Eddie and Arlene are really a drawing card," said customer Marti Paskal. "You feel like you've known them a long time. And if you don't, you wish you had. They truly know how to create the atmosphere of a mom-and-pop store."
Regulars said they count on Shatsky and Shapiro in a pinch.
Cummings remembers the night that she threw a dinner party and realized at the last minute that she did not have enough holders for her corn on the cob. She rushed down to Shatsky's and found them.
"I've never walked out of here empty-handed," she said. "And if I walk in here looking for one thing, I always walk out with more."
Dan Dietrich came in last week looking for string and ended up with an armful of Christmas wrapping paper. He has also bought dozens of squirt guns from the store.
"That's the only way I can control my dog," Dietrich said. "With a squirt gun." His dog Sheba chews the plastic guns up, so Dietrich returns often to r-arm.
Customers say Shatsky and Shapiro are victims of a trend that some have dubbed "yuppification" or "croissantification."
"It's a very real problem," said Mark Winogrond, director of community development for West Hollywood.
Winogrond said city officials have talked about imposing zoning regulations to protect neighborhood businesses. He pointed to laws in San Francisco and other cities that "provide a balance between shops for residents of a neighborhood with ones that have a more regional customer appeal."
But any action by the city will come too late to help Shatsky, 62, and Shapiro, 54.
The couple said they hope to make enough during the closing sale to give them time to plan for the future.
"It's too hard to think of starting something else with this still going on," Shatsky said.
He said he is an impulse buyer who put things in the store that he liked. Most of the time his instincts were good. Shatsky said the store's clientele, which included artists and actors, appreciated his eccentric tastes.
Although his future depends on the success of his going-out-of-business sale, Shatsky said he had mixed feelings as he watched customers flood in the door.
"It's a rough thing. You take 16 years out of your life for something. If I had to leave for a illness or something that would be different. . . . But we're being squeezed out of business.