It’s the end of an era. Beloved card and gift store, Rogoff’s, is set to close this month.
The orange and green price tags with the Rogoff’s name on their products will soon be the only remnants that people will have to remember the store that has served the community for more than 80 years. What remains on shelves is marked 50% off as the owner tries to liquidate. Rogoff’s, located at 212 Beach 116th Street, is set to close by the middle of the month, according to owner, Peter Patel.
Rogoff’s has been a longtime staple in Rockaway. Archives, the former store awning and a 2013 obituary for one of the former owners, Jerry Rogoff, say the brand started in 1937. However, daughter of the original owner, Sam Rogoff, says he first opened a store called Admiration on Beach 116th Street in 1938, before selling it in 1945 to start his Rogoff’s toy store. Old photos provided by historian James Supple show the original Rogoff’s once stood where Last Stop is now located. It is not clear when the store made the move to its current location. In 1963, the family also opened a second Rogoff’s nearby on Rockaway Beach Boulevard that predominantly sold bicycles and outdoor furniture. The toy store was a go-to for kids and families, many of whom went there to buy kits to make model cars and planes. In 1993, the Rogoff family sold the store. It is not clear who owned it after, but current owner, Peter Patel says his family bought the store in 1998 and they’ve been operating it since, as a one-stop shop for toys, cards, novelties, school and beach supplies and more on Beach 116th Street.
After owning the business for roughly 23 years, Patel says, “it was good when the business was good.” However, it wasn’t always easy doing business in Rockaway. Patel faced a number of obstacles since purchasing the store. Just a year in, he faced a battle with the city, which wanted to remove the Q22 bus stop around the corner from his store in 1999. Business was steady until Hurricane Sandy set things on a downward path. With more than $200,000 in flood damage, especially to stock in the basement, and the store facing a minor ceiling fire just months later in February 2013, Patel struggled with the decision to reopen, but ultimately decided on taking a chance. Once reopened, Rogoff’s dealt with the constant issue of aggressive panhandling on the block, which kept some customers away. Some customers turned to other outlets such as large online retailers like Amazon for their needs. Then the coronavirus pandemic became a struggle that the store has been unable to overcome.
“There is no business,” Patel told The Rockaway Times. “People shop online or go to bigger stores and this pandemic is killing everything. There’s been no business for the past 12 months,” he said. Part of that struggle included having to close the store completely during lockdown from March to May 2020.
Longtime store assistant MaryAnn Lester reiterated that struggle. “It’s been going downhill. People don’t come out the way they did. They shop online. With Sandy, it took too long for us to come back and then people found other places to go,” Lester said.
Patel considered selling the business before closing, but ultimately realized it wasn’t an option. “Nobody is interested in going into this kind of business anymore,” he said. “I feel bad about closing, but I have to do it because I can’t continue losing money.”
Lester, who has worked at the store since Patel took over, says Rogoff’s will truly be missed. “We’ve always had what people needed. People are going to realize what they’re really missing when we close, with school supplies and all that. But we haven’t been getting the business. It’s a shame when you have the buses, the trains and all of that stuff here, it shouldn’t be like this. It should be booming,” she said. Adding that in addition to people missing the store, she will miss the customers. “I’m really going to miss the people,” she said.
Rogoff’s is expected to close sometime next week.
By Katie McFadden
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