LaVanda Bryant considered the custom jewelry store at the corner of Chapel and Orange out of her price range. Then she found bargains on four pieces—because the store’s going out of business. The physical store, that is.
Blame it on a lousy economy and a congested nearby bus stop, said Robert Lang.
He and business partner Kimberly Arpaia were about to go into their third year of business.
But they couldn’t keep up with the hefty $4,000 monthly rent in a timely fashion. So the landlord did not renew the lease.
“Our last day is the end of April,” he said.
Between now and then, even for a non-jewelry, non-shopper maven, the store looks to have big bargains.
“We’re not going out of business. We just won’t have a storefront,” Lang said.
He and Arpaia launched an e-commerce site. So far it seems to be going well.
Lang said that he loves the neighborhood and the people he’s met. “We really wanted to [stay], but the financial economy is still lousy.”
He said the business will maintain a local presence at fairs, juried shows, and Ninth Square events.
In the short time the store has been in business, Lang (pictured) has taken a leadership role among the merchants of the Ninth Square. He helped to form an informal organization that called attention to drug dealing being carried on along Chapel Street; and also to public urination in the semi-concealed spot off Orange Street and behind ArtSpace’s “Lot.” There is now a fence up on Orange; Lang can happily say au revoir to the inadvertent public pissoir. He reported that illegal commerce on Chapel, particular by the bus stop, has also diminished.
Bus Stop Congestion On Chapel
What has not been fixed, he said, is the congested bus stop/transit point at Orange and Chapel.
It’s been a bee in Lang’s bonnet, and he still wants to leave a message for the powers that be in that regard: “If they ever get to moving that [bus] stop, that would definitely help Ninth Square” merchants.
Asked whether the bus stop in particular has contributed to the demise of the store, Lang was adamant: “Wholeheartedly I believe the congestion on the sidewalk doesn’t really invite people to come down to the neighborhood to shop. It frightens a lot of shoppers away with the transfer station/bus stop there.”
“They could be the nicest people in the world. It’s not inviting for people to pass through a crowd,” he added.
Shopper Bryant, who works at nearby Gateway Community College, came from the other direction. The crowd was not a problem for her.
Rather, until recently, perception had been her impediment: that Arpaia Lang is for people richer than she is.
That was dispelled this Christmas when another nearby lower-end store didn’t have what Bryant wanted. So she dared to enter the light-filled open spaces of Arpaia Lang.
It was shopper’s love at first sight. She bought that Christmas gift, and later one-caret white gold earrings she wears proudly.
“You guys are so pleasant and nice,” Bryant said to Kimberly Arpaia as the latter wrapped up one of four new purchases, which included more earrings and bracelets.
“We’re heartbroken. We were shell shocked” when she learned the lease would not be renewed, Arpaia said. “What do you do when you put heart and soul and money” into a place and it doesn’t work out?
Then she answered her own question: “We just keep moving,” she said. Maybe when the next chapter begins, she’ll better be able to understand why the store’s fate was to close, she added.
Then Arpaia and her customers hugged each other.
Lang said that “tons of people” have been coming in to express their regrets. “Today we had three different people who take the bus. They never have been in here. They came in [today] for the first time and they said they’re sad to see such a pretty store go,” he reported.
“We hate to see Arpaia Lang leave. It was such a wonderful store and great addition to the neighborhood. We hope to have to new tenants in the spring,” said the landlord, Bill Christian.
The steeply discounted all sterling silver jewelry is priced from about ten to a hundred bucks. The store hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.