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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