East Village Farm Will Close, Leaving Hollywood Theatre Building Vacant

East Village Farm Suzanne Rozdeba

For 12 years, H. Song helped run East Village Farm with his wife and his mother, a grandmotherly woman known to sneak candy into customers’ bags at the counter. But this will be the last month of business for the grocery store on Avenue A near Sixth Street.

“We’re closing at the end of the month,” said Mr. Song, 56, who first identified himself as a partner in East Village Farm Plus Inc., which owns the deli, and then said he is now a manager. “I came with a dream to America. I started with a small store, and then I dreamed of something bigger. But I lost everything. I give up,” he said.

Rumors that the store was closing first surfaced on EV Grieve today.

Mr. Song told The Local that the shop is closing because the building owner – listed as Suh, Yon, Pak Associates, Inc – is making renovations that will last about two years. He said the shop was owned by three partners. “I like my landlord,” he said. “I understand. I have known about this for about four years. My lease finished two years ago but he extended it. He offered me a new lease when he is done with renovations. I pay half of market price now, but he said he would have to charge me market price, and I don’t have the money.”

Mr. Song said he came to the United States from South Korea in 1983 and got his first job working six nights a week, starting at $180 per week, at a fruit and vegetable store in Harlem. In 1986, he opened his first store at Broadway and 32nd Street. After closing that shop, he moved on to East Village Farm.

Mr. Song said he didn’t have the money to open a new store, and is uncertain of his future plans. “I have three children, and one is still a junior in college,” he said.

Though he isn’t aware of the landlord’s concrete plans for the former Hollywood Theatre building, Mr. Song said, “First he said he’d make condominiums with six or seven floors, but it’s a lot of money for construction. He changed his mind.” He said the landlord also discussed keeping the ground floor as a store, and turning the space above the store into a private residence with a rooftop park. “Like Central Park, with trees,” he laughed. “What kind of store, I don’t know.”

He said, “You have Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s come in, and all these big markets. I buy wholesale price, but they sell things cheaper. There’s no competition. Family businesses are no more.”