| Family Diary |

Off the Rack: Chapter 10

Central location, no construction needed, a price I could afford. It seemed too good to be true


I beeped my car from down the block and smiled when I saw the letters of the personalized D-RAMA license plate my cousin Rikki had bought for me. It made me smile each time I got into my car — and after yet another disastrous viewing with a real estate agent, I needed every reason to smile.

Looking for a storefront was hard. “No one warned me about this part of running a business!” I vented later that night.

“This new spot doesn’t work?” my mother asked.

I shook my head. “Way too small.”

“That’s a good problem,” she said. “Look how much you’ve grown.”

The next morning, I got in my car again and drove up and down the streets near Coney Island Avenue, looking for “to lease” or “for rent” signs in the windows. No luck.

I was heading back home when I saw it — a tiny red sign in the corner of a window on Avenue M. I swung into an empty parking spot and peeked through the dusty window. When I called the number on the for-lease sign, the realtor came right away.

I walked in and thought, this spot is perfect. There were tall ceilings, fresh white walls. When the realtor walked me to the back, I saw there was an entire room of... were those actually fitting rooms? The storefront literally had everything I needed for D-RAMA. I could already picture how I’d organize the racks and design the store.

“How much?” I asked the owner.

He quoted a price. I almost started dancing. That night, my parents came down to see the spot —and they were just as excited as I was. Central location, no construction needed, a price I could afford. It seemed too good to be true.

It was.

After my parents saw it, we asked for a lease. My uncle, our lawyer, looked it over and we called the realtor back to schedule a meeting to sign the papers and exchange keys. The night before we were supposed to sign, he called.

“There’s a slight change of plans, Rhama. You can still have the lease, but the owner wants more money.” He quoted a new number more than double the original.

I pressed mute and repeated the conversation to my parents. “Should I still go for it?” Everything was so perfect that maybe it was worth squeezing for the higher price.

“Absolutely not,” my father said. “It’s not even about the numbers. It’s not yashrus. If this is how the landlord operates, you don’t want to deal with him.”

It was hard to let go, but I trusted my father — and I trusted Hashem had a plan. I spoke into the phone again and told the realtor, “I’m not going forward with you.”

I hung up and went to join my family at the menorah. It was Chanukah that night. And as my father lit the candles, I wanted to cry. It had been so hard to find the ideal place. Would I ever find another one?

“It’ll be okay,” my father reassured me. “You’ll find something even better — you’ll see. It’s all going to work out.”

A few days later, I was at an appointment on Quentin Road.  As I left the appointment and looked for my car, I noticed an empty storefront across the street. A chassidish man inside was showing two men around.

I ran across and knocked on the window. “Is this place vacant?” I asked when a man, who introduced himself as Mr. Miller, opened the door.

“Yes, do you want to see it?”

When I nodded, he explained the men would be done in a few minutes.

After they’d left the storefront, Mr. Miller called me to come in.

“What do you want this place for?” he asked. I told him about D-RAMA and my vision. “I’ll tell you what — those men want to build this out as office spaces, but I like your vision. If you want to take this place, I’ll give it to you.”

I looked around the empty room. It didn’t have fitting rooms or an office like the other spot, but that wasn’t anything a week’s construction couldn’t fix. When my parents came to see it, they agreed: the spot was great. And in a day’s span, I went from having no idea where D-RAMA would move to leasing a beautiful storefront.

It was my personal Chanukah miracle.

My parents took a leap of faith and signed as my guarantors on the lease. It was a new expense, but I was confident I’d be able to pay it each month.

Little did I know, COVID-19 was only three months away.

to be continued...


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 769)

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