Lester's department store is closing after 30 years on the Upper East Side | Upper East Site
Lester's department store is closing after 30 years on the Upper East Side | Upper East Site

Upper East Siders Lament Impending Closure of Lester’s Department Store after 30 Years

The changing face of the neighborhood has claimed another beloved Upper East Side business. Instead of bustling crowds, eagerly getting a jump on holiday shopping, customers that showed up at Lester’s last weekend were welcomed to empty racks and signs the decades old department store would be closing soon. Leaving a hole in the UES retail landscape, neighbors say their fond memories of Lester’s will last forever.

“This is the end of an important era and a commentary about what is going on all over New York City,” Ellen Kot Resnick lamented in an interview with Upper East Site.

Half of Lester's UES department store is now empty | Upper East Site
Half of Lester’s UES department store is now empty | Upper East Site

Explaining how she feels people nowadays depend on big-box stores or chains that all offer the same wares, Resnick said “Lester’s always offered something different and unique.”

For Upper East Side mothers, taking their children to Lester’s — at the corner of Second Avenue and East 80th Street — was a rite of passage. Eden Cayen, a native New Yorker and now UES mom, says she will particularly miss Lester’s because of its shoe selection. 

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“It was so nice having a real, old-school shoe department where kids can get their feet measured and try on shoes before buying, because their feet are constantly growing!” Cayen told Upper East Site.

“I have even found cute shoes there for myself and it’s sad to see locally-owned places closing down.”

Lester's is located at 1534 Second Avenue in Yorkville | Upper East Site
Lester’s is located at 1534 Second Avenue in Yorkville | Upper East Site

Fashion journalist Lila Delilah, better known by her alias the Madison Avenue Spy, explains that Lester’s was a ‘life-cycle’ store for children — all three of her kids got their clothing from there from newborn through their proms.

 “Lester’s was truly an oasis for NYC trends for children,” says Delilah, happily recalling her own children being obsessed with unique bracelets offered by the shop. 

“My kids would make me take them to Lester’s after school to check out the new styles.”

Delilah added that Lester’s became synonymous with summer camp.

Lester's is emptying out as the store prepares to close | Upper East Site
Lester’s is emptying out as the store prepares to close | Upper East Site

“They offered highly curated items, with a real sensibility to them and were always honest.”

In her kids’ early camp days, Delilah says she really appreciated Lester’s staff being honest and making sure she did not go overboard. 

“They were the experts on exactly how many of each item to bring to camp.”

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Founded by Lester and Lillian Kronfeld, this year marks both the retailer’s 75th anniversary, as well as UES store’s 30th year serving customers from it’s 1534 Second Avenue location. 

While Lester’s website and other two stores in Westchester County and on Long Island will stay open — albeit under different management — the Upper East Side store will likely be defunct by year’s end.

A quick peek inside showed near-empty racks throughout the behemoth, with items being offered at a deep 40% discount. 

Lester's is offering deep discounts ahead of the department store's closure | Upper East Site
Lester’s is offering deep discounts ahead of the department store’s closure | Upper East Site

“I could call and they’d not only find the best, most fitting gift, but also wrap it and sent it,” recalled Ms. Resnick, pointing out that Lester’s personalized service can’t be matched by ordering online or going into a chain store.

“No one else can compare.”

While its allure is certainly no mystery, the exact reason for Lester’s shuttering remains one. It is unclear if the closure is due to rising rents, after-effects of the pandemic or personal matters. Lester’s management refused to comment for this story.

Its space is currently listed for lease.

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One Comment

  1. It’s a wonderful store. I was under the impression that Denny’s bought out the stores and that was why the Lester’s brand was shutting down. Maybe that is because of rising rents or the family wanted to sell?

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