Fine & Klein store site of new hotel

Nov.November 10, 2008 03:36 PM

The site of Fine & Klein Handbags, one of the longtime anchors of The Iconic Orchard Street shopping district, and backdrop of an alleged murder attempt in the 1990s, is slated to become a boutique hotel.

Shimon Avadi, the principal of Lower East Side-based SAS Property Management, said he closed on the four-story walk-up at 119 Orchard Street between Rivington and Delancey streets in June for $4.22 million, or $403 per buildable square foot.

Avadi said he is in the process of demolishing the building, which is currently vacant but once housed a clothing store and two studio apartments. In its place, he plans to build a 40-room boutique hotel. SAS Management also owns 175 Orchard Street, down the block from the the handbag site, which houses stores and residential apartments.

The building was previously owned by Murray Klein and Julius Fine, business partners who began selling leather goods on the Lower East Side in 1945. Their legendary store, Fine & Klein Handbags, had been located at 119 Orchard Street since the 1960s, according to Kervin Vales, a Halstead Property vice president who represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.

The store, heralded  by New York City travel guidebooks like “Fodor’s” and “Lonely Planet,” was part of a world-famous shopping district that was not subject to the mid-20th century blue laws that required stores to be closed on Sundays in much of the city, according to Laurie Tobias Cohen, executive director of the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy.

Fine & Klein Handbags was “an institution,” she said. “They had beautiful bags, and you were going to get a better deal” than at a department store.

The store was closed and the building put on the market roughly a year ago, after Murray Klein passed away, according to Julius Fine’s son Frederick. Klein and Fine purchased the building in July of 1967, according to city property records.

In February 1995, the longtime partnership was marred by tragedy when Fine’s younger son, Stephen, was charged with hiring a hit man to kill Klein, according to the Daily News. In August of that year, the paper reported that Stephen died of complications from a brain hemorrhage at City Hospital Center at Elmhurst after being transferred there from Rikers Island, after a long series of illnesses.

Frederick Fine would not comment on operations at the store in the aftermath of the arrest, or the terms of the agreement between his father and Klein. According to city data, Julius Fine received $2.05 million from the sale of the property to Avadi, while Murray Klein’s share for the same amount went to the executor of his estate, Esther Klein.

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