After 84 years of continuous operation, CaswellMassey's beautifully-appointed flagship store at Lexington & 48th St. will close this Saturday, April 3, at 6:00 p.m.
At this point the store has only a fraction of its usual merchandise left on its shelves, but is worth a last-chance trip to see the gorgeous antique wood furnishings and to take advantage of a great deal: Sign up for its mailing list, and get a 25 percent discount on your in-store purchase. When I was there on March 18, I stocked up on Gardenia Body Lotion ($17), Bath Gel ($16) and Talc ($12); Almond & Aloe Body Balm ($18); Almond Talc ($12); and beautifully scented Oakmoss Luxury Liquid Soap ($25), all for about $75.
Caswell-Massey will re-open on April 21 as a stall in the new Limelight Marketplace, the retailing reinvention of the old Limelight nightclub at Sixth Ave. and 20th St. The size of the space, in the Limelight's "Apothecary" on the second level, will be something akin to the space allotted vendors at the holiday market at Grand Central; with the small footprint, it will carry only a limited amount of merchandise.
The company says the Limelight operation was already planned before the store closure, and it hopes to find a new location for its flagship retail store by later this year or early next. But it had to shutter too quickly to find an immediate replacement.
The store opened in 1926 in the old Barclay Hotel, now the InterContinental New York Barclay. Like so many closures these days, this one comes as a result of landlord greed -- or ignorance, perhaps. One source speculated that the hotel's owner, the U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group, is "European and doesn't understand the value of the store."
IHG told Caswell Massey late last year that it would not be renewing the store's lease due to plans to allow a financial institution to take over the space. "We believe their decision is quite regrettable, given the store’s historical and cultural value," Caswell-Massey wrote in a note published on its Facebook page. The store originally was told it would have to vacate by February 1.
Caswell-Massey used Facebook to reach out to its fans last December, asking customers to write Jim Abrahamson, president of IHG Americas in Atlanta, to protest the banishment. The company's nearly 1,400 Facebook fans must have had some effect; on January 9, Caswell-Massey reported that an IHG representative contacted the company, saying, "Please make all these complaints stop! It is causing all kinds of headaches around here." IHG ultimately agreed to extend the lease by an additional two months.
Alas, the company confirmed via Facebook last week that the closure is definite: "We did everything we could, but unfortunately sometimes not everything works out in one's favor." Plainly put.
Caswell Massey, one of the oldest American companies in existence (it was founded in Newport, R.I., in 1752), opened its first New York store in 1833 at the corner of Fifth Ave. and 25th St. The Lexington Ave. location is said to have served Greta Garbo, George Gershwin, the Astors, the Vanderbilts... And countless anonymous New Yorkers such as myself.
On a related note: We countless anonymous New Yorkers who like to pamper ourselves can choose from an array of $50 treatments all over town during Spa Week, April 12-18. In the tradition of Restaurant Week, spas around the city will offer a host of facials, body wraps, massages, waxing and more on a prix-fixe basis. Book your appointment now at the Spa Week Web site.
Site registration is required to view the entire list of participating locations, but some of the more alluring-sounding options are the 45-minute Dead Sea Salt Jewel Scrub at Ettia Holistic Day Spa on West 72nd St. and the 45-minute Raspberry and Rhubarb Seasonal Facial at L'Institut Sothys New York on West 57th.