By Nathan Duke
Steinway Street has lost one of its oldest retailers after two Queens brothers decided earlier this month to shutter the furniture store their Italian immigrant father founded in Astoria during the Great Depression.
P. Damiani and Sons closed Aug. 1 following a 71-year run at 32-37 Steinway St. in Astoria, but the Damiani brothers are still selling furniture from a former warehouse space at 34-12 38th St. in Astoria until they decide whether to keep the business going.
Reynold Damiani, 61, of Bellerose, and his brother, Peter Damiani, 73, of Jackson Heights, took over the store in 1967. Their parents, Primo and Yolanda Damiani, had founded the shop nearly 20 years after Primo Damiani immigrated to the United States.
But the brothers decided to close the 8,100-square-foot Steinway Street showroom because they decided it was too difficult to run such a large business at their ages, Reynold Damiani said.
“It's sort of a bittersweet situation we're in,” he said. “We are happy to be able to cut back and take a deep breath, but it's sad to leave the area where we grew up. People's reactions were from tears to anger, but most of them wished us good luck.”
Primo Damiani first sold furniture and dry goods as well as providing moving services from a site in Chelsea during the Great Depression. But he relocated his business to a 1,200-square-foot site on Steinway Street in 1937 and eventually purchased adjacent buildings, as well as constructed a second floor.
Reynold Damiani said he and his brother lived with their parents in an apartment above the store during their childhood.
P. Damiani and Sons mostly offered solid wood-based furniture during its early years, but Reynold and Peter Damiani gave it a more modern spin and later became one of the top La-Z-Boy furniture dealers in the neighborhood.
Reynold Damiani said he and his brother will continue to operate their 38th Street site as long as they think it is feasible. He said he is also eyeing a site in Ridgewood, where he might open a new business that would specialize in furniture sales.
He attributes his family business' success to a loyal customer base in Astoria.
“It's the reason we were able to stay as long as we did,” he said. “Astoria is a wonderful neighborhood. I'm very encouraged by the young people who have decided to move in and raise families in the area”
He said his customers viewed P. Damiani and Sons as the go-to community furniture store.
“I think we typified the neighborhood store,” he said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.