By JAMES PERO
In March, a piece of history will vanish from Rye’s Purchase Street as T.D.’s Smoke Shop waits forlornly for its eviction.
On Jan. 27, the longtime owners of the smoke shop, Peggy and Tony D’Onofrio, were greeted in the morning, not by their usual slew of customers, but with news from the landlord of their building—John Fareri of Fareri Assoicates—explaining that they had just over one month to vacate
the building, after residing there for almost 70 years.
And while a final close is imminent, for the D’Onofrios it has been far from the first time the store has faced a penultimate fate.
In 2008, according to Tony D’Onofrio, Fareri took over ownership of the building—which encompasses three other storefronts on Elm Place—and while his original intention was to redevelop the property, the economy took a turn for the worse. As a result, the shop was allowed
to stay and they were offered a slew of one-year leases that lasted for five years.
But in 2013, D’Onofrio’s rent was set to increase to a rate that he said he may no longer be able to afford.
This time, however, when word got out, the smoke shop was saved by a petition, which garnered more than 4,000 signatures from residents and culminated in the Rye City Council drafting legislation for a special permit that would help save the shop.
Under the terms of the permit, Fareri—who was intent on redeveloping the property—would be allowed to forego the terms of a bank moratorium in Rye’s business district by renting out a portion of the building to a bank for a higher price. This increased rent, the council hoped, would compensate for T.D.’s lower rate.
Though the legislation passed in the City Council by a vote of 5-1, a three-month sunset clause—which dictated that the legislation would expire if an application was not filed for the permit in three months—was also included.
On Feb. 7, 2015, after the lengthy negotiations between the city and Fareri to create the terms of the special permit, the window for Fareri to apply for the smoke shop’s special permit expired and the storefront was left without any real idea of where the future would take them; that is, until D’Onofrio was told that the bank wanted his property as well.
“After [the council] had passed that law, Mr. Fareri and his associates came in here to say that the bank had changed their minds,” D’Onofrio said. “They wanted our space as well.”
According to Ferari, both parties involved—the bank and the D’Onofrios—were unable to see eye to eye, and as a result, the application for the permit was never submitted.
“The bank has certain needs. The smoke shop has certain needs. Neither of them were able to be flexible,” he said, specifically mentioning a disagreement over the usage of the shop’s prime corner space as one of the main points of disagreement.
As a result, the D’Onofrios will leave, and while the bank can no longer replace the shop, the ultimate fate of their retail space remains unclear.
D’Onofrio recalls being shocked when he found out that the special permit would not actually save his business.
“I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Now, D’Onofrio and his mother are left to sell the stock left in their store until they’re forced to vacate the premises at the end of March.
Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, was among those in Rye who will miss the iconic store.
“It’s a true shame that their great run is coming to an end, but we will miss them tremendously,” he told the Review.