Skyrocketing rent forces mom and pop pet shop in Queens to close

JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- In an Eyewitness News exclusive, a family run pet store in Queens that's been there for decades will have to close at the end of the month after the rent became just too high.

"I don't want to tell you what I put into it because I'm ashamed. All my life's savings," said owner Larry Paul.

For Paul and his wife Anna, the Coral Aquarium, a mom and pop pet shop in Jackson Heights, has literally been their life.

"I'm going broke personally putting money in trying to keep it open," said Larry.

But times have changed, New York has changed, and the neighborhood has changed. What hasn't changed are Larry and Anna.

"I work with my boss which was like my father and my mother," said employee Bryan Buenaventura.

And some employees have actually grown up with this family.

"It's gonna be really sad," said employee Lucy Patrick. "I also, it's kinda like a fond childhood memory of mine. I used to come in here all the time, I'd bring my friends, my mom would bring me here."

"It's personally owned. You know the owners," said customer Dina Losito. "You see the same people when you come in. It's people in the neighborhood. You see your neighbors here. It's familiar. It's just something it's sad to see go."

One of the reasons why this pet store has remained at the center of this neighborhood is also why the rent has gone sky high: its location.

It sits right under the Jackson Heights train station and bus depot.

"When I bought the store in 1970 it cost $555 a month," said Larry Paul. Rent is now $19,000 a month.

"We've put in over 48 years here," Larry said. "And now I'm throwing it away. I can't sell it because the lease has rendered the store unsellable. No one will look at it. Many people when they saw the lease, they just slid it back through. They can't touch it."

Their last day open will be August 31st. "It's like you know, it's like a family sort of. And it's gonna be very sad just not having this anymore," said Anna Paul.

"We have had an awful lot of good relationships with an awful lot of people. Some of them have cried," Larry said, shaking his head.

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