Volume 75, Number 22 | October 19 - 22, 2005

Villager photo by Gary He

Owner Richard Herson organizes merchandise in Love Saves The Day, the store he and his wife own on Second Ave. and Seventh St. The store, which has been at the location since 1983, will close in January and reopen in a new location in October 2006.

Vintage store from ’60s closing but will be saved

By Daniel Wallace

Love Saves the Day, a veteran vintage shop in the East Village, is closing this January because of an exponential increase in its rent payments. Located at the corner of Second Ave. and Seventh St., the store has been a community icon for almost 40 years.

“It’s a shame,” said Leslie Herson, the store’s owner and founder. “New York is losing its individuality because little stores like mine can’t compete.”

Herson said her previous landlord, who passed away recently, appreciated Love Saves the Day for its historical significance and therefore charged low rent.

“We were paying just over $5,000 a month,” she said. “But now his wife told us we had to pay $15,000, or leave.”

Love Saves the Day is a carnival-like vintage shop that sells clothing, wigs, hats, Star Wars paraphernalia, Transformers, old magazines, posters and general oddities. Inside, immediately to the right of the entrance, there is a rack of old Life magazines in vinyl sleeves hanging from plastic human fingers.

The air overhead is traversed by steel dowels, which are suspended by chains from the ceiling, and from which hang a jungle of trinkets, wigs and little stuffed men wielding knives. A shirtless mannequin with long black hair and a goatee, who looks like a lost pirate of the Caribbean, sits on a foldout chair in the center of the floor, guarding two vintage clothing racks.

Baskets on the floor hold piles of severed limbs, bloody and, of course, rubber.

“It’s sensual,” said Herson. “It’s sensory overload. When people walk out they say, ‘What the hell just happened to me?’ ”

A saleswoman behind the counter who wore a long tie-dyed robe and whose (real) fingernails — 6 inches long, half-an-inch thick — were curled like deer antlers, said Herson was extremely sad.

“This store is like her baby,” said the woman, who wished to remain anonymous.

Herson opened Love Saves the Day in 1966. Born in Brooklyn, she was a hippie and New York University student in the ’60s, an art major who designed her own clothes and frequented thrift shops. She became so knowledgeable of the thrift business that she decided to open her own store.

When asked if Love Saves the Day could, perhaps, be an acronym, Herson laughed.

“ ‘LSD.’ Absolutely,” she said. “You have to understand, everyone was on something back then. And the Beatles had just come out with ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.’ ” She admits to having dabbled in drugs back then.

With the help of friends, Herson first opened Love Saves the Day at 77 Seventh St., where she paid only $95 a month in rent. Since then, the store has switched locations; and it has become famous.

In 1985 “Desperately Seeking Susan” starring Madonna was filmed in Love Saves the Day, after which the store became a Hollywood icon.

“Studios started calling, looking for props,” said Herson. “And a lot of celebrities came by.”

Herson said that multitudes of celebrities have come through her store over the years, including Julia Roberts, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Bacon and a slew of rock stars, all leaving signed magazines or photographs.

Love Saves the Day has been at its current location on Second Ave. for over 20 years. Herson and her husband own a similar store, slightly larger, in New Hope, Penn. Both stores are doing well. Herson manages the supply and pricing for both stores and therefore no longer has time to design clothes. When asked which product is the stores’ bestseller, she laughed.

“Well, I’m embarrassed to tell you the truth,” she said. “But we sell fake poop. And that’s our biggest seller.”

Herson said she believes the future for independent stores is bleak. But she is not ready to give up. She is currently negotiating with the owner of the building in which Tokyo Seven is located, at 64 E. Seventh St., which will be vacant next year.

“We’ll move there,” said Herson. “The store is too vital to give up. It provides something for the community, a place where young people can come and see history on the shelves. I just don’t think it’s over yet.”

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