The beloved fabric store in NY is closing after 46 years

The Cooper Square MHA has not responded to NBC Asian America’s request for comment.

Goyal said she also never got a single bill with the mail. But one day someone from the company came into the store and shouted and demanded the lost rent in a lump sum, she said.

“I just saw her face,” she said. “I cried and I did not say a word.”

The MHA sued Goyal for $ 265,000, she said. That same year, the pandemic started and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said a hopelessness set in; the business broke down and she alone was responsible for fixing it.

To become a viral sensation

Goyal never used social media, and she had never heard of Humans of New York, New York Nico, Bella Hadid, or any of the sites that first told her story as a solo businesswoman. It started with a customer’s Instagram post, and documentary filmmaker Nicolas Heller (@newyorknico on Instagram) captured her story.

He made a post to support her, and before she knew it, business was starting to pick up speed. When Humans of New York introduced her, Dress Shoppe II’s phone exploded.

Vidur Bahl, left, and Yaman Walia try kurtas at Dress Shoppe II, an Indian clothing store on the Lower East Side of New York, on November 4th.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

“I called my son, ‘My phone is broken, Prashant,'” she recalled. “He said, ‘Let it ring, Mom. If you give a million dollars, you’ll not get this kind of publicity. You do not know who is supporting you.’

The ensuing weeks turned Goyal into a sensation throughout the city. Celebrities began sending their support to Dress Shoppe II; Hadid even paid Goyal a visit and texted her good luck before her lumpectomy later in the year.

What she did not know was that Brandon Stanton, from Humans of New York, had created a GoFundMe page in her name, and it was slowly accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars. She was not familiar with the concept of crowdfunding, and when he informed her, it was pure confusion.

“My age group people, they think I begged,” she said. “That I’m a beggar.”

Among the offerings at Dress Shoppe II is a collection of 100 year old Indian textiles.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

She said shame and condescension broke out from people in her life.

“One of my friends, she called me and said, ‘Saroj Ji, it looks like you’re begging people,'” she said. “I did not even know what GoFundMe is.”

She confronted Stanton, she said, but he stood by his decision and said that without the money, she might fight for her life. At first hesitant to accept, she eventually used much of it to pay the Cooper Square MHA and settle their lawsuit. More still went to business expenses. As the store now enters the last few months, she is in the process of hiring movers and web designers to move on to online sales.

The last months of the store

Goyal is worried. The number of things that need to be moved out alone is staggering. Her husband was a collector, and the passions of his life are housed in the store’s backyard, reminiscent of the Room of Hidden Things from “Harry Potter”.

But so far, it’s business as usual. The store is still a colorful, warm getaway for regulars and the city’s strollers who happen to stumble inside. With a small team of employees, she keeps the spirit alive while she can.

“Going in there is such a great experience,” said customer Ahana Kaur, 21, who moved from Delhi, India, to the United States to study. “It feels very familiar and comfortable. It reminds me of home.”

South Asian areas of Manhattan are rare, Kaur said, so when she found Dress Shopp II, its singularity caught her. She had an immediate connection with Goyal – they both speak Hindi and have roots in Delhi. Although the closure is a bitter pill, she said she hopes whatever happens is best for the store owner.

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