Customer service has been the hallmark of retailer Goldman Bros. for 71 years. The Hicksville institution, which sells athletic gear, shoes and uniforms, is the sort of place where regular shoppers call ahead to make sure "their" salesperson will be available to wait on them.
But after successfully weathering 11 recessions, Goldman Bros. will close its doors and Internet site permanently at the end of the year. The 12th and most recent recession delivered a crippling blow, exacerbating an already difficult environment for independent merchants, its owners said.
"We have the expenses of a big store but we don't have the buying power and attraction power of a big store," said Win Goldman, 54, who with his wife, Liz, is the third generation to run the business. " . . . There is more competition and price competition, and those other recessions weren't as deep and [were] shorter lived."
Goldman Bros. has 30 employees working in the store and its Internet operation.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, retail stores proliferated, as did online merchants, while the region's population growth was not quite as dramatic, he said. In good times there was enough business to go around. But throw in the economic downturn, wary consumers willing to forgo service to save a few dollars and the high expenses of running a business on Long Island and the situation becomes untenable, Goldman said. Over the past four years revenue has fallen about 25 percent.
"You can't substantiate the costs on lower [sales] volume," Goldman added.
Consumers now scrutinize every purchase, focusing on price, said Hofstra business professor Barry Berman.
"This is the death of an institution people will miss," said Berman. "I remember my daughters getting their first ice skates at Goldman Bros. There was a sense of service . . . and a sense that even if it were a couple of dollars more, it was worth it."
The store was founded by Morris Goldman, an auctioneer from the Bronx who bought a Hicksville clothing business in 1939 and moved his family up the block. When he died in 1950, his sons, Irwin and Howard Goldman, Win's father, took over the business. Win Goldman has worked at the store since he was 14 and began running it with his father after graduating from college in 1978.
The Goldmans made the decision to close the business with a heavy heart, they said.
"It wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't so good," Liz Goldman said.
The Goldmans and many of their staff practically grew up together. As a child, Liz Goldman, who is now 48, said she shopped at the store with her family, got her first job there at 16 and met her husband at the store.
Tracy Goldstein, 56, of West Islip, said he used to wait on Liz Goldman and has worked there for 38 years.
Why have employees stayed so long? For Mark Coffey, 52, of Stony Brook, the tears say it all.
Pointing at Win and Liz Goldman, the 15-year employee said, "They're great people to work for."