Landmark NYC store to close, or will it?

Updated: 2015-04-14 05:28

By AMY HE in New York(China Daily USA)

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Landmark NYC store to close, or will it?

Pearl River Mart in SoHo, seller of Chinese and other Asian products, announced its closing on Tuesday. The store has been in business for 44 years, founded in 1971 by a group of Chinese student activists.[Photo by AMY HE / CHINA DAILY]

At the time, direct trading with China was banned in the aftermath of the Cold War, and after Chen picked products from China and had them shipped to New York, television crews awaited the arrival of the cargo ship, informing Chen of the historic significance of the shipment.

"It marked the first time in 20 years that Chinese products were officially received on American shores," the store said in a news release.

Chen's wife began working at the store eight years after it was founded, and has worked there six days a week ever since. The couple is currently based in SoHo.

"I enjoy working here," Chen said. "Although we have more than 30 shareholders, me and my husband are the ones who are here everyday. I'm going to miss this. I enjoy working here, helping customers, opening packages, even cleaning up. We do everything, and it's very rewarding."

Tourists make up the majority of the store's customers today, many of whom said they were visiting because they had seen the news about the store's closing.

Kathryn Reilly, an editor on a week-long trip from London, had previously lived in New York, but never visited the store. After seeing local news about Pearl River's closing, she decided to drop in, picking out some pieces of kitchenware.

"It's a shame that it's closing," she said, "but I thought I'd stop by after I saw the news."

Mary Rice, a New York native, said she had visited Pearl River Mart years ago to buy tea, but had forgotten about the store's existence until she read about the closing in the newspaper.

"It reminded me that this store was here," she said. "Now I'm going to buy more tea."

Pearl River Mart's 40 employees and online website will remain operational until its lease is up in December, the company said.

Mei Hua, a cashier who has worked at the store for more than a decade, said that she feels the same way as loyal customers do. "It's such a shame that it's closing," she said.

But Chen said that she's not worried about what's going to happen to the store next.

"We're so glad for what's happened in the past 40 years between China and the US. We're all so glad that we were a small part of it. We appreciate that we had a chance to do something," Chen said. "Whatever happens is going to happen. We'll try our best. If the legacy of the store can continue, that'll be great. If not, that's fine too, because not everything has a chapter two."

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