Friday, August 15, 2008

Damiani says so long to Steinway Street

In more than 70 years since its opening in 1937, the P. Damiani & Sons, Inc. furniture store at 32-37 Steinway St. has become a familiar sight in Astoria. The store features 8,000 square feet of traditional furniture, from Queen Anne style and country print pieces to skirted sofas and wooden bedroom sets. "No bulky upholstery that's all the rage right now," Reynold Damiani, co-principal officer and vice-president of the corporation, declared.

Damiani and his brother, Peter, had owned and managed the store since they took over from their father in 1967. But now the brothers have sold their business to Best Quality Furniture, which will replace the store. "We got to a point where handling both the warehouse and store was too much," Damiani said. "After 41 years, you realize when it's time to go."

The history of the furniture store started when the Damiani brothers' father was involved in a business selling dry goods, floor coverings and larger items, such as appliances, in Chelsea. After the government took over the property to make room for new housing complexes, Damiani went back to his homeland, Italy, only to flee back to America during World War I. He eventually established a permanent home in Astoria on the second floor of his new furniture store, which sold mostly floor coverings and furniture at the time.

P. Damiani & Sons, Inc. Closes After 71 Years

The store officially closed Friday, August 1, but the warehouse is still open, with furniture priced up to 70 percent off. The warehouse, at 34-12 38th St., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although the Damiani brothers' children had not expressed any interest in retail or in continuing the family business, they have not officially dissolved the corporation. Meanwhile, Reynold Damiani is currently considering a part-time retail job in another furniture store. "It was a good run. I'm happy and sad at the same time," Damiani said as the final day for the business gets closer and closer.


Anonymous said...

What they don't say is that part of Steinway Street is going down the tubes - they were almost the only old time business left there.

But with tweeded fav, EL MUNDO DISCOUNT, and some of the sketchy 'nightclubs' the area that have, shall we gently say, have law enforcement issues, the area, which as late the 90s was still a good shopping area, increasingly has the feel of other machine products like National in Corona and Roosevelt Ave.

Yet another community going down the drain thanks to the clubhouse.

And the talk about Astoria becoming yuppie.

Sure. If you are born in Lima.

Anonymous said...

Cerveza Dos Equis.
Pour me another one!

Forget about any upscale
(or moderate) shopping on Steinway Street!

Cheap goods now being offered
for the consumption of the area's new 3rd world residents.

Calling all hipsters, yuppies
and artistes. Please save our hood!

Yeah....right....Mr. Delis !

Anonymous said...

Soon the pancho clad indian flute and guitar groups will be performing on the streets and hawking their similar sounding CD albums.

"I'd rather be a swallow than a snail....yes I would....I surely would".

Sometimes I hate Simon & Garfunkel
for making this song the piece of tripe it's become!

Anonymous said...

While I dont totally agree with what you guys are saying.... what did you expect this family to do? The brothers have been working there 41 Years!!! Has anyone heard of retiring? They arent leaving because Astoria is the worst place in the world... and there are too Many "ethnic" people or "yuppies" around... Not even because business was that bad....toehrwise they would have made an explicit point to say.... we cant afford the rent, and costs are too high, no...they are closing because it became too much work for them, just like the owner said. It is sad that such an old time business is shutting its doors, but it had an amazing run, and I am sure they will be able to retire comfortably.

Now....what kind of place will open in its place is another story, but Steinway street was always home to these cheap discount dollar stores.... It was never a nice shopping area, unless you like those types of places.

Only recently did they start replacing some of those dollar stores with higher end national chains like Victorias Secret, bath and body works, and national drug store chains. Steinway street is a better place to walk down today rather than in the 90's.

Anonymous said...

i work part time for a friend who has his business in Astoria.
(not a retail business)

anyway the area is so disgusting in my opinion

the poster who compared it to corona hit it on the head i said the same thing to my wife a few days ago after we parked our car there in the morning (off broadway in the low 40's) and walked to the train

there were so many day laborers milling on broadway along with a few homeless vagrants sleeping in the streets as well

do not even get me started on the lowlife arab-muslim whatever these losers are club on 43rd and broadway

music blasting late into the night and tons of creeps smoking those hookah pipes on the sidewalk

this place is a dump and whoever bought in the area recently must be on drugs

most of the residents appper to not work and they just hang out and drink and smoke all day and night. what a cesspool

Anonymous said...

Steinway Street is getting the same aroma as Main Street in Flushing. Both stink BAD on hot humid days!

Anonymous said...

Steinway Street, like much of Astoria, is so much nicer now than it was 15-20 years ago. Stop hating so much.

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me that most of the people who have posted to this comments are not immigrants and may have forgotten what New York was built on. I have lived in Astoria for 12 years and have seen this area bloom with culture and diversity. Hating on Queens immigrants is the wrong direction.

Might I suggest reaching out to Mayor Bloomberg on your concerns, calling 311 if you see something dirty, setting up your own business.

Steinway is unique in its nature and will one day be different again, but it's up to the residents to make it better.

Anonymous said...

"It is clear to me that most of the people who have posted to this comments are not immigrants and may have forgotten what New York was built on."

No, we all grew up in ethnic communities, and are descendants from immigrants ourselves. The immigrants we grew up with picked up after themselves and shopped for quality goods. They came here legally and didn't pack 10 people to a room. They also were proud of learning English. It seems the latest pack has forgotten what New York was built on.

Anonymous said...

astoria? lol

third world status has been achieved


Anonymous said...

Damiani's furniture was top quality. My family has always bought from them. They were the best. Great family. I am sorry to see such an establishment go. Unfortunately like the Damiani family said "you know when it's time to go". Unfortunately too many people support those cheap-o furniture stores that pump out the crap. What an eyesore that stretch is. Corner of 34ave and steinway is an eyesore.

Anonymous said...

Too many people buy cheap-o-junk furniture which cause great family businesses like this one to close. Damiani's furniture was top quality. They were a great family to buy from, unfortunately like they said "you know when it's time to go". That whole shopping area is pathetic. Everyone sells the same generic crap, cookie cutter furniture. Quantity over quality is what most local consumers want...the ones buying in el mundo disconto. Damiani was all about quality craftsmanship. I am sorry to see them go.

Anonymous said...

Another store on that block, Best C&N Furniture, is also gone. That was a great alternative to Gothic Cabinet Craft and sold good pieces at reasonable prices that were suited for a typical (e.g., small) apartment.

I notice the Rent-A-Center is still in business!

Anonymous said...

Now....what kind of place will open in its place is another story, but Steinway street was always home to these cheap discount dollar stores.... It was never a nice shopping area, unless you like those types of places.

Only recently did they start replacing some of those dollar stores with higher end national chains like Victorias Secret, bath and body works, and national drug store chains. Steinway street is a better place to walk down today rather than in the 90's.

This is spin folks. The old time merchants used to offer quality merchandise and give freely to the community. A strong Astoria was a strong community of consumers. Besides, many of them lived in Astoria.


Landlords who do not care what goes in - take the money and split. They do not live here.

This was the last great middle class shopping area as late as the 90s.

I know people that grew up in Astoria now shun it.

Anonymous said...

No "hating" just factual observance!

Ditmars Blv'd. is on a much higher level, while the Steinway/Broadway nabe has sunk into deep into the muck.

But, then again, that area doesn't have the Vallone's fiefdom brand i.e. on the "Kindred" building or a school named after Judge Charles Vallone either(both visible from the elevated train structure).

Thanks a load, Pete & Sons!

So the area was abandoned
to riff-raff crap shops and clubs.

Poor Julian Wager's tireless efforts with his BID flushed down the toilet!

Anonymous said...

what really pissed me off of the modern steinway is when they lost the italian festival that used to run between 25ave and 28 ave i remember in the 80s and 90s this festival was one of the best around look at that street on steinway now no italians all arabs

Anonymous said...

c'mon here,huh ?
like Steinway was Madison Avenue shopping and inhabitants !
I'm here for a while,since there WAS a Borden's dairy on 35th Ave,where the park is now,when we had both the Triboro and the Astoria theatres,etc.
Astoria goes uuuuuuuuuuup and down,stores and all.
We don't appreciate the yuptards or illegals,fast food stores and starbuk$,off the wall rents for apartments -BUT-eventually things will allwork togther--the illegals mug the yuppies...word gets out,they leave,the illegals ARE SLOWLY GOING TOO--then the rents will come back to normal and they will,we're overflowing with all these brand new multiple dwellings remaining VACANT--
astoria goes up and down.
God bless the Damiani's--they worked very hard and deserve a rest.
P.S. to the 1st poster,astoria's ALWAYS HAD law enforcement problems,we're just not publicized.
The time the daily news published the crime stats precinct by precinct,only the south bronx outdid us(114) for burglary and car theft.

Francine G. said...

Fascinating comments from people who came into Astoria all different periods. Everybody's a little bit right in their perception, so I'll throw in my two cents. Lots of my family came in from Manhattan starting in the 1920s, me in 1945 so I grew up there in the '50s and left in 1971.

I grew up next door to the Damianis, a fine family that held it together on Steinway through all the craziness. True pillars of the community. I'll totally miss dropping in on Rennie and Pete to shoot the breeze.

Astoria was always high crime. Our amusement as kids was watching Det. Roger Horan make his name in the NYPD by arresting errant kids in the side alley of the Astoria Diner (formerly the Modernage Restaurant). We had too many bars, too much heroin, troubled families, and car accidents and arson were out of control.

The difference between then and now is the "good guys" and "bad guys" mostly stayed apart. Despite the mess, most families were intact, finished school, held jobs. And we had a very strong sense of community, covered each other's backs. During the great Blackout, snow storms and hurricanes (we had some major ones), people banded together, the delis handed out free milk and food, helped board up each other's windows.

On many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, those wishing to avoid their extended families met for dinner at the Modernage for the best homemade food -- even neighbors who were feuding put down the sword for a few festive hours.

Many stores on Steinway were higher end, with no chains except Genovese Drugstore. We had great restaurants and plenty of diners. Yeah, too bad the Italian, Irish and German cuisine is gone. By the way, those Egyptians and Afghanis and their hookah parlors have been in Astoria since 1920. They bothered nobody, a way different crowd than the fully scarfed group you see now on Crescent St.

The cops on the beat (we had that!) actually lived in the neighborhood, and knew each family.
Our gangs were white on white, and the black kids were studious straight arrows compared to most of us. One black girl who sat next to me in high school was a niece of Martin Luther King's partner in peace (Dr. Abernathy), and he taught our class from Alabama in real time about the importance of civil rights. Astoria's the birthplace of notables like Chris Walken, Whitey Ford, Tony Bennett, David Schwimmer and others.

Best thing was the short ride on the Steinway bus over the 59th St Bridge to Manhattan -- and the smell of baking Silvercup bread on the way back.

Despite the mixed memories of most us old timers, Astoria was a special kind of place, a real community. Hope it revives somehow.