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Eliot Rabin, whose Upper East Side boutique, Peter Elliot, is known for high-end men’s and boys apparel, refuses to follow a state order closing retail business not considered essential. He insists that his $85 pocket squares and $15,000 suits are part of the fabric of New York City: “Why is a liquor store essential and I’m not?” Rabin told The Post.
He admitted that many of the customers who can afford his wares have fled the city for vacation homes, but he’s here to provide “emotional essential support” for the ones still in town. The retailer is also offering them what he jokingly calls “internal vaccinations: Chivas Regal, Kentucky bourbon — have a nip and you’ll feel better.”
Rabin added that it’s also the only course of action for saving his business.
“We’ve applied for every loan, every break … to no avail. We got bubkes,” said the 78-year-old Army vet who once ran on the GOP congressional ticket to defeat Carolyn Maloney in the 12th district. He noted that he had to cut 12 members of his 21-person staff, some of whom have been with him for 35 years.
Opening his doors to reveal a rainbow of pastel shirts and technicolor ties, he said, represents something else as well. “You need to give people a degree of normalcy in such an abnormal time.”
At least one happy customer walked away Friday with a $200 polka dot tie. “I’m a small business owner too, but I can’t send people a drill in the mail [to do their own teeth],” said cosmetic dentist Steven Davidowitz, who’s been shopping at the store for 10 years. “[Rabin’s] customers like to feel things, see things, and have that personal interaction with his amazing staff. It’s like a family.”
Rabin said a handful of customers have trickled in since Wednesday’s re-opening, and he’s fielding requests for suits for future events like bar mitzvahs and weddings. “Some [clients] ask, ‘Do you think you’ll get in trouble?'” he said. “If I do get in trouble, it will be for the right reasons. What are they going to do? Yell and scream at me? Fine me $500? It would be worth it, for me to be able to open my mouth and say this is not equitable. If they try to arrest me, I’ll say, ‘Am I in a police state now?’ They’re not going to arrest me.”
Though he’s not worried about catching the coronavirus, Rabin, who first opened his doors in 1977, said he’s taking precautions: “I spray my Lysol like I spray my Chanel cologne for men.” He only has two employees — one at the register, one on the floor — in the store at a time and is expecting a shipment of masks from Italy to hand out to customers, whom he will limit in the store at any given time. “We’ll never put anyone in danger, ever.”
He added that he’s not worried about the consequences of being open, only the consequences for staying shut.
“I’m fighting for the soul of my company and my people. I’m doing what I think is right to protect my business and employees from this disaster,” Rabin said, noting that the long-time shoe repair shop across the street from his store packed up for good last month. “I hope everyone comes back, but I know they won’t. I’m doing the common sense thing to protect my business.”