I stood outside the shuttered storefront on Fifth Avenue on Friday afternoon and peered through the grating.
The last time I had been here, the place was crammed with all kinds of men’s clothing.
But now it was bone empty, the lights were off, and a notice from the city marshal’s office was taped to the window.
The store's owner had been shot to death last year by some psycho who went on to murder two more shopkeepers before the cops got him.
I had heard the owner’s family was keeping the store open and I wanted to shop there as a personal tribute to a hard-working man who had been cruelly and senselessly killed.
But the place seems to be the latest casualty on Fifth Avenue, my old shopping ground.
I used to live right off the avenue and every Saturday morning I’d go on my weekly shopping expedition, hitting the bank, bagel shop, dry cleaner, and fruit store, before ending up at Picardi’s, a neighborhood butcher.
By the time I got home I was usually staggering under the weight of multiple plastic bags and my arms were stretched out of their sockets.
I started going to other stores after I moved down by Shore Road and my bad back has driven me into the shopping cart generation.
I only live a short distance away, but I barely recognize Fifth Avenue now. Some of the newer stores seem tawdry, peddling junk rather than quality merchandise.
Last One Out…
I stopped by Picardi’s to get some cold cuts and dinner. One of the women who works there cooks these fabulous take-out meals, which are a blessing to a lifelong bachelor who hardly even looks at his oven.
But I’m going to have to go elsewhere for my supper. On the way out, the cashier told me that Picardi’s would be closing by the end of the year.
There is a large Arabic population in Bay Ridge, as well, and they all go to halal butchers.
“I’m sure I’ll be in here before December,” I told the cashier, “but if I don’t see you, take care.”
“Nice knowing you,” she replied.
I walked out onto the avenue that was no longer mine. I saw an elderly woman walking toward me and I wondered how much Fifth Avenue had changed since she was young.
Maybe she had started complaining about Bay Ridge going downhill when she was my age. And perhaps my version of the golden age looked like a steep decline to her.
I know change is inevitable and that neighborhoods are in a constant state of upheaval. I just don’t like it when it happens to my neighborhood.
I walked into a new men’s clothing store near my old home and immediately wished I hadn’t. I looked around briefly, but I didn’t see anything I liked and I bailed before anyone could approach me.
It was time to go home. As I headed back toward Shore Road I thought about the old stores that used to line Fifth Avenue. They’re long gone now, but it was nice knowing them.