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Missing minks: Furrier's death, store closure leave owners out in the cold

Morton Fur Design Corp. in Oceanside  was

Morton Fur Design Corp. in Oceanside  was shuttered after the death of owner Morton "Morty" Lichtenstein. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Some Long Islanders who sought to take their furs out of storage as winter nears have faced a labyrinthine trail to locate their coats and stoles after the death of a furrier known as Morty.

One customer of Morton Fur Design Corp. said she went to the store in Oceanside on Nov. 9 expecting to greet Morty and recover her furs, only to find the business shuttered.

The customer, who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted by animal-rights activists, said she soon learned that Morton "Morty" Lichtenstein, "a sweetheart of a man," had died months earlier. He was 82.

After visiting a neighboring business, Bella Hair Salon, she got a phone number for the store's rental agent. The rental agent suggested that she contact the Nassau County Sheriff's Department, which gave her the phone number for Hempstead-based Bennett Movers, which had taken possession of the furs after the fur business was evicted.

"I totally lucked out -- I got them all back," she said after retrieving her furs from Bennett. "Of course if I hadn't chased down all of my leads...it never would have happened. I feel really bad for the people who either don't know the situation or don't know how to proceed."

David Gravagna of Bennett Movers said his company took possession of about 200 furs when the business was evicted in June. Initially a sign was posted on the door of Morton Fur Design directing people to Bennett, he said, but eventually the sign was removed.

"We have about 50 coats left," he said. "As a courtesy, we've been keeping them. We don't have any paperwork. It's kind of a mess. The landlord was only responsible for 30 days of storage."

Compounding the problem is that many of the fur owners are elderly.

"It's an older clientele," Gravagna said. "They're harder to reach. We've been spreading word of mouth."

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