By LILY KOPPEL
Published: December 24, 2008
It opened 42 years ago, in a time known by some as the Age of
Aquarius, in a Manhattan neighborhood that was a hippie haven. It
endured as a psychedelic oasis even as the hippies disappeared and
the neighborhood, the East Village, was transformed into a pricier
and less scruffy place by the real estate boom that washed across
many parts of New York City.
But now the end is near for Love Saves the Day, a vintage clothing
and bric-a-brac shop at the corner of Second Avenue and Seventh
Street, where the Grateful Dead plays on the speakers and Madonna
picked up a pair of studded boots in "Desperately Seeking Susan."
A handwritten sign announcing that the store will close in the middle
of January is taped to the window next to a pink neon heart shot with
"People come by and it jolts their memory back to their childhood,"
said the store's owner, Richard Herson, 62. "Customers are so
distraught it makes it harder to close."
To say the store is cluttered would be an understatement. Even the
ceiling has merchandise hanging from it: prom dresses, "Star Wars"
figures, Barbie dolls, Transformers and characters from Pee-wee's Playhouse.
The store displays retro toys and objects evoking nostalgia across
generations. There are bellbottoms and platform shoes from the '60s,
Fraggle Rock toys and Smurfs that came free with McDonald's
children's meals, old Playboy magazines, metal lunch boxes and copies
of Life magazine.
Figures of the My Little Pony variety graze in a glass case below
still-fragrant Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Cabbage Patch dolls, Care
Bears and Charlie's Angels figurines convene nearby. Next to the cash
register is a Fisher-Price toy register.
Store closings often are tied to rising rents in Manhattan. But that
is only one reason Love Saves the Day is shutting its doors. Mr.
Herson said the death in August of his wife, Leslie Herson, 65, who
started the store, left it without its soul. "It's hard to carry on
without her," said Mr. Herson, who will continue running a second
store with the same name in New Hope, Pa.
The Hersons met in 1977, when Richard responded to an ad in The
Village Voice for an apartment Leslie was subletting. "We met and hit
it off," Mr. Herson said. "She was an artist and her canvas was the
store. Love Saves the Day really came true for both of us."
Ms. Herson, who grew up in Brooklyn and attended New York University,
shopped at flea markets, designed her own clothes and wore Victorian
pieces that defined her eccentric style.
Her store was a destination before vintage clothing became a staple
of the hipster wardrobe. The rent on the original store was $95 a
month; today it is $11,000.
In an article in 2005 in The Villager, a neighborhood newspaper, Ms.
Herson said the store's quirky name had been chosen deliberately.
"L.S.D.," she said. "Absolutely. You have to understand, everyone was
on something back then. And the Beatles had just come out with 'Lucy
in the Sky With Diamonds.' "
A wall of fame in the store has been autographed by Marc Jacobs,
Debbie Harry, Joey Ramone, Quentin Tarantino, Björk, and Tim Burton.
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars," signed,
Throughout the shop, signs warn against taking photos or using
cellphones. A sign at the door alerts, "unattended children will be
sold into slavery."
"I can't believe it, I'm so sad," said Lauren Levine, a television
producer who lives above the shop. "It's like love is leaving the corner."