I wonder if it was the Christmas ornament I didn’t pay for last month that did them in.
That was my first thought when word came to me that Zinnias at Melrose is closing at the end of February. I’d been in just last month (well, okay, and several times since) looking for holiday gifts for a very particular person, and when all I found was an 81-cent Christmas ornament — a very old, very fragile glass monkey dressed as a clown — Zinnias owner Michael Hardesty insisted I take it, rather than charging me less than a dollar on my credit card.
That’s what shopping at Zinnias was like, for a lot of people, and for nearly a decade. Although last year was the Seventh Avenue antique mall’s best-ever in eight years, Hardesty has decided to close up shop at the end of next month.
“After careful consideration, I will not be renewing the lease on the building,” Hardesty wrote in a farewell posted last week on the Zinnias Facebook page. “Unfortunately, we did not reach a new agreement with the building owners.”
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I tried to get Hardesty to talk to me about why he was shuttering such a well-loved and successful business, but he just shrugged. He didn’t like, he said, to talk about negative things. He loved Zinnias, his customers loved Zinnias, everyone loved Zinnias. He wanted to stay in that euphoric mood, one brought on by finding gorgeous old furniture and lamps and books and décor at really low prices.
Rumors whispered in the antiques community suggest that a huge rent hike and problems with the building — a leaky roof, a crummy swamp cooler — are what’s behind Hardesty’s decision to exit. He wasn’t saying, preferring to remind me of how supportive his customers have always been, and how great his staff is, and how much he’s going to miss everyone.
Hardesty bought Zinnias from antiques guru Michael Todd Robertson (who recently opened his own shop just up the street and also on Seventh Avenue) in 2013, and has nearly doubled the mall’s sales over four years. “I love the store so much that I even got married there!” Hardesty enthused in his social media farewell. “It’s much more than just a vintage store to me.”
Various sales and Third Friday celebrations will ensue over the next seven weeks, as Hardesty and company say goodbye. He has no plans to relocate the business, at least for the moment. “I just need some time to recover from everything,” he confided. “We’ve had a great run, and I want to sit back for a few months and think about that.”