Edith Weinheim made her dream come true when she opened Designer’s Corner in 1978, selling clothing and accessories, and doing what she truly loved.
More than four decades later, that dream has fully run its course as Edith retires, saying goodbye to a long-standing Riverdale business.
Designer’s Corner — located up until late last year at 3725 Riverdale Ave. — was a staple of the neighborhood. Yet, when it was time to consider the shop’s future — especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — Edith admits the decision to close her doors for good was one she didn’t make lightly.
“The time has come for me to learn who I am outside these four walls, and I could not be more excited for the road ahead,” Edith said in a note posted on the empty storefront.
“I am filled with such joy, pride, happiness, fulfillment, and also tremendous sadness to be ending this chapter of my life.”
Growing up on the Lower East Side, Edith moved to Riverdale after she turned 19 because she didn’t want to raise children in a heavily populated neighborhood.
“I didn’t want to be far away from Manhattan,” Edith said. “So, to me, Riverdale was like being in the suburbs, but close enough to the city where I can go to the city whenever I felt like it.”
When she opened Designer’s Corner, Edith’s goal wasn’t to be like every other retail store, but to give customers more of a hands-on experience.
“The basis of my business was not for the customer who’s an online shopper,” she said. “This is someone who wanted to come in and have the social experience of being wardrobed, shown how to dress, giving them ideas and advice. That’s what we were all about — very one-on-one personal service.”
But Edith didn’t start her business on Riverdale Avenue. Instead, her earliest days were from a small space she rented in The Whitehall selling jewelry and accessories. It was her success there that led to Designer’s Corner.
And despite the changing fashion industry over the years, Edith says she always managed to keep her inventory interesting.
“I always prided myself in trying to carry very unusual things, not things where you can see yourself coming and going,” she said. “I know that it’s my buying that allowed my store to sustain 42 years. People always commented on my taste level.”
Edith understood the need for more variety when it came to retail in the neighborhood, and tried to expand over the years by carrying more than just items for women.
“We had no gift stores here, we had nothing for men, we had no children’s stores,” she said. “I tried to implement all of those categories in my one store with women being the primary.”
But then came the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Edith to join many other retail stores in closing for a good chunk of time between March and June last year. She saw that what she was selling wasn’t what people needed in the current landscape. Because of that, the future of Designer’s Corner was a bleak one.
“When I was allowed to reopen, it occurred to me that people’s lifestyles were changing,” Edith said. “I didn’t go into work on June 23 saying, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m going to retire.’ I did think that the fashion industry was going to change because of COVID, and it’s going to be quite a while before it comes back to what it was. If ever.”
Before the coronavirus, Edith would travel the country, attending fashion trade shows. She even attracted customers from outside the neighborhood purely from word-of-mouth.
“I had customers from Jersey, from Connecticut, from Westchester, and Manhattan, in addition to local,” Edith said. “I could have never survived with just local trade.”
Those who frequented her store every so often despite living further away surprised Edith, and made her feel good about the business. And she wasn’t alone in running the store. For part of that time, son Jeremy Kamm joined her.
“Those 10 years he was with me, from the age of 16 to 26, there isn’t a customer that knew him that didn’t adore him,” Edith said. “He was extremely helpful in fashion, had exquisite taste, and to this day everyone always asked for him. I would have never been on Instagram or Facebook if my son hadn’t been there.”
Family also was a factor in Edith’s decision to close up shop for good. When husband Danny decided to settle down himself, she was convinced to follow suit.
“My husband came to me and decided he was going to retire,” Edith recalled. “So I said, ‘You know what? Then we’re going to do it together.”
Edith also cited a desire to spend more time with her six grandchildren — some of whom live on the other side of the country — as another reason. Constantly traveling and doing work for the store didn’t allow much time to see them.
“Working six to seven days a week for all these years didn’t allow me the freedom of doing whatever it was that I would like to do at this point,” Edith said. “Now I can play with my grandchildren.”
Although the time has come to close her doors, Edith says she’ll still miss the experience of having Designer’s Corner.
“I’m going to miss my customers, and making them happy,” she said. “When they left the store with purchases, they looked like they had a nice time while they were there.
“It was a social experience.”