by Sally Mitani
Abraham Hejazi, who is closing his women's clothing store Allure on the Michigan Theater block of Liberty, isn't the first shop owner to cite the area's diminishing foot traffic as the reason. But he has a novel way of expressing it: "Even the panhandlers have left."
The area, he claims, has long been plagued with what he calls "very aggressive" panhandlers. "They shout at you when you pass by. They have their 'office' in the alley." When the closing of Borders, directly across the street from Allure, eliminated a large source of legitimate foot traffic on the block, Hejazi was afraid the panhandlers would completely overrun the neighborhood.
Instead, he says, since Borders closed, the more ambitious panhandlers seem to have deserted for more lucrative posts. "Look," he says, pointing to a sole homeless person quietly taking shelter under the Borders awning on a rainy morning. "He's just sitting there. I feel bad for him. If I had work, I'd give it to him."
Hejazi's ten-year lease was up last July, but the landlord convinced him to stay for another eight months, and he'll be closing at the end of April--sooner if he runs out of merchandise. He wants to open another clothing store sometime, perhaps on or near Main Street, with slightly lower prices and serving a larger--in all senses--clientele: "Here, I only serve the students, and students around here are very small. My wife is a size six, and she can't wear anything here."
Hejazi started out in the restaurant business: he and his brother Ali owned the Lebanese restaurant Shahrayar on Maynard in the 1990s. Ali (who spells the family surname Hijazi) now owns the Zamaan cafes, on Eisenhower and Plymouth Road.
For the time being, Hejazi says, he is content to focus on his wholesale perfume business.
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[Originally published in April, 2012.]
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