NEW YORK, April 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- SoHo Chinese department store Pearl River Mart today announced plans to close its doors at 477 Broadway by the end of the year. The independently-owned retailer will leave behind a 44 year legacy of introducing quality Chinese goods to New Yorkers and serving as an inspirational resource for numerous artists, designers and fashionistas. Located in the heart of Manhattan's SoHo district, the three-level, 30,000 foot store and its 15,000 products have been featured in virtually every major fashion and home deco outlet. Over the years, Pearl River has attracted such A-list celebrity clientele as Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Aguilera and Adriana Lima.
Citing rising rent costs and increased competition from online retailers, husband and wife principal owners/managers –Co-Founder Ming Yi Chen and President Ching Yeh Chen, respectively— have made the decision to close Pearl River at the end of their current lease in December. The store --which employs 40 full time staff— and its online shop (www.pearlriver.com) will continue to remain fully operational through the end of the year.
"My journey with Pearl River has been a long and rewarding one," said Pearl River Co-Founder Ming Yi Chen. "When we first opened our doors, my colleagues and I simply wanted to create a small window into the Chinese culture. The recognition we've received over these four and a half decades has been a wonderful validation of our original vision. If we did our job right, Pearl River will continue to live on in the hearts and memories of our customers."
While the closure of its massive storefront location is imminent, Pearl River is currently exploring ways to expand their e-commerce division. In addition to significantly lowering operational costs, the transition would allow the company to continue serving their loyal customer base while also retaining many of their current staff; the majority of whom have been with Pearl River for more than two decades.
"The decision to close our store was not easy but our current business model simply isn't sustainable in today's retail landscape," stated Pearl River President Ching Yeh Chen. "Should we decide to pursue a new direction with Pearl River, it will be imperative for us to capture the unique shopping experience that our customers know and love."
Founded in 1971 by a group of overseas Chinese student activists to promote cultural exchange between the U.S. and China, Pearl River began as a small shop in New York City's Chinatown. Over the decades, the store expanded and relocated to several locations in downtown Manhattan before settling into its current home in 2003. As it approaches its final months, Pearl River will be hosting various appreciation events to thank their loyal customers for their years of support.
The History of Pearl River
Pearl River first opened its doors in 1971 as "Chinese Native Products" in New York City's Chinatown. Founded by a group of overseas Chinese immigrants, which included members of the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance –a labor organization devoted to protecting the civil rights of overseas Chinese living in North America— and student activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong, the concept behind the small shop was simple: to introduce quality Chinese goods to America.
Although seemingly innocuous by today's standards, it was a novel idea at the time. Due to Cold War tensions, direct trading with China was banned. As a result, co-founder Ming Yi Chen –who just completed his post doctorate in chemistry at Wisconsin University— handpicked Chinese products from a major department store in Hong Kong and had them transported by cargo ship to New York. Television news crews awaiting the arrival of the shipment informed Chen of its historic significance: it marked the first time in 20 years that Chinese products were officially received on American shores.
Stocked with products barely known to Americans at the time --soy sauce, bamboo steamers, and Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book"—the store became an instant success, developing a reputation for carrying unique and hard-to-find items from the People's Republic of China. In addition to attracting Chinatown residents and curious New Yorkers, the shop also drew the attention of the FBI, who paid frequent visits to ensure certain items –specifically Communist-themed materials— were not illegally donated from the then Mao-led Chinese government.
After President Nixon officially ended the U.S. trade embargo later that year and following his historic visit to China in 1972, American public interest in the country began to steadily grow -- and so did Chinese Native Products' customer base. In 1978, the store officially rechristened itself "Pearl River" and relocated to a larger space in the heart of Chinatown. The move proved to be a watershed moment for the business as it began attracting members of the then-burgeoning downtown New York art scene. Pearl River soon became a source of inspiration –as well as a resource— for many notable artists, fashionistas and designers looking to imbue their work with an exotic flair.
After relocating to the corner of Canal Street and Broadway in 1986, Pearl River products –everything from qipao dresses to paper lanterns-- began appearing regularly in top fashion and home deco publications (i.e. Vogue, Elle, InStyle) as well as popular American films and television programs (i.e. "Miami Vice"). Nestled on the second and third floors of an old warehouse space, the store was regarded as one of New York's best-kept secrets in retail.
Pearl River was officially introduced to the SoHo masses in 2003 after moving to its current 30,000 square foot, three-story location at 477 Broadway. Its success continued to reach new heights as it quickly established itself as a leading shopping destination in downtown Manhattan and entered the world of online retail with the launch of PearlRiver.com. During this period, the massive new store was featured on numerous national and international TV shows including "Oprah Winfrey", "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", "Trading Spaces", among many others.
Throughout its 44 years, Pearl River has attracted a number of A-list celebrity clientele including Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Aguilera, Isaac Mizrahi, Vivienne Tam and Adriana Lima.
About Pearl River Mart
Pearl River Mart is a Chinese department store located at 477 Broadway in the heart of Manhattan's SoHo district. From kitchenware to fashion and everything else in between, Pearl River features over 15,000 unique products across three massive floors. A one-of-a-kind shopping experience, the store and its goods have been featured in the New York Times, Oprah and Vogue, among many others. Visit www.PearlRiver.com or follow us on Twitter @PearlRiver_Mart for the latest updates.
©2015 Pearl River Mart
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SOURCE Pearl River Mart