A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that an Indian restaurant is moving into the space currently occupied by Zero Otto Nove on Old Route 22 in Armonk. In fact, an Indian restaurant is scheduled to move in next to the Italian restaurant. The Examiner regrets the error.
Shoppers and residents saw a store that had been on Armonk’s Main Street for 30 years shutter its doors on New Year’s Eve.
Another downtown merchant with an even longer run will soon be retiring and closing her doors by the end of February.
For Elida Renna and Angelina Himmelstein, the sisters who owned and operated the card and gift shop The Right Thing since October 1987, they were largely victims of the changing shopping habits of consumers in the digital age.
During their next-to-last day in business, with the shelves already mostly bare, Renna looked back at 30 terrific years but also lamented losing customers to the ease of online shopping for everything from cards and knick-knacks to clothes and gift items.
“Over the last 30 years, the landlord and the community have been very good to us. There were so many positives, said Renna, who opened The Right Thing at 387 Main St. shortly before Halloween and plans to retire.
Ronnie Zeidenberg, owner of Sheep Shack, a woman’s clothing store that has called Armonk home for 42 years, also said she is retiring next month. Unlike the owners of The Right Thing, however, Zeidenberg said she was closing shop because she felt it was the right time for her. She hasn’t been impacted as much by e-commerce because there is merchandise that she carries, both casual and formal, that her customers can’t get anywhere else.
“I think in the past two years I’ve seen that, but I have a very unique business, we’re very personalized, so I think that my customers are the type of customers that will be coming in now to get the sale things, they’re the kind of customers that I don’t think buy clothing online,” Zeidenberg said. “I think they like the personal (touch); this is the right fit. That’s the dying breed.”
For a hamlet to see two venerable businesses like The Right Thing, and Sheep Shack disappear from its downtown landscape within a couple of months might be cause for alarm. However, Armonk Chamber of Commerce President Neal Schwartz said the downtown should be able to weather this mini upheaval.
There is already talk of another shop moving into the space occupied by The Right Thing, Schwartz said.
Meanwhile, several other new businesses have been confirmed for some of the other vacancies or will be replacing existing stores, he said. An Indian restaurant is moving into the space next to Zero Otto Nove on Old Route 22; the Leone Dental Group is expanding to take over the space that had formerly occupied by Bowls; and a Lifestyle Nutrition will be moving into 475 Main St.
Schwartz said many businesses fall prey to “the Amazon effect,” but with Armonk having become a sort of restaurant hub along with some unique shops and spaces that don’t lend themselves to chain stores, the downtown has withstood the challenges so far.
“The people that I know like visiting the downtown stores,” he said. “There are always pressures from online (shopping) and big-box stores, but overall I think we’re doing pretty well.”
North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he will miss Renna and Himmelstein at The Right Thing because they had been a major part of the community. Visiting their shop or many of the other independently-owned businesses in town was like visiting relatives, he said.
“Going in with my daughters one last time on the store’s last day to say goodbye was like saying goodbye to family, as my daughters have so many memories of shopping there,” Schiliro said. “Even more so, they were part of the community’s life, as so many small businesses are. Businesses like this mean the world to the community, and are sorely missed when they close.”
Longtime merchant Judy Willsey, owner of Framings, said she was elated to learn that a florist will be moving into the Sheep Shack space that is next door to her store.
But losing a business like The Right Thing was heartbreaking for Willsey because she also has great memories of having her daughter shop there when she was small. Willsey hopes whatever does move into that space will generate foot traffic and something that is appreciated and has staying power.
“I will be so sad not to be able to pop in and buy something I need for my shop or get a birthday card,” she said of The Right Thing. “And you can bet your bottom dollar you will never catch me in CVS.”
Zeidenberg said a key to retail success today is offering merchandise that customers won’t be able to find elsewhere. She’s appreciative that Armonk residents and shoppers have helped her maintain a thriving shop for more than four decades.
Last week, she posted a sign with the news that she’s leaving at the end of next month. It reads: “Thank you for being a part of your life. You will be remembered.”
“Armonk’s been very good to me,” Zeidenberg said. “Not everybody can say that, not even the big chain stores.”