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So long, Sokol! Old furniture store sells to fancy developer

So long, Sokol! Old furniture store sells to fancy developer
Michael Sokal has closed his Sokal Bros. Furniture store on Columbia Street. It will become a high-end condo.
Photo by Bess Adler

The owner of a sprawling, family-owned furniture store has closed shop after 62 years in the Columbia Waterfront District — leaving a Madison Avenue-based real estate company in charge of the half-block-sized, multi-million-dollar slab of real estate.

Michael Sokol — who ran Sokol Brothers Furniture on the Columbia Street between President and Carroll streets — sold the building last week, ditching the sofa-slinging trade to “retire and do a little world traveling.”

“It’s just time to go,” he said, noting he has watched the rapidly gentrifying area morph from nice into gritty — and then back again.

Sokol sold the property to Columbia Street Development LLC, a Manhattan-based real-estate investment company for $3.3 million on Oct. 31. The sale is one hint that the neighborhood’s slow gentrification is beginning to yield glitzier retail shops and housing.

Sokol’s father opened the store — which showcased antique rocking chairs, cozy couches and sleek wooden desks — the year that the color television was invented and not long after Brooklyn-Queens Expressway sprouted a couple blocks away.

Sokol took over the business in the mid-1970s — before the artists moved in, before the brownstoners took over, before restaurants popped up and before IKEA opened a mile away.

His business stayed strong even as trendy shops opened and closed around him, in part because his store felt like a throwback to another era with friendly faces. “It was a ma and pa institution,” said nearby resident Brian McCormick.

Officials at Columbia Street Development did not return calls, but McCormick said he hoped that the new owners fill the space with a “destination” spot to drive folks to the neighborhood, which has also recently seen a surge in creative types. “It’s comforting to see storefronts that you’re used to,” he said. “But this is part of another wave.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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