Park Slope – Tabeel Rush opened Tabeel Aromatherapy Gift Shop and Salon at 76 Fifth Avenue in 1996, back when Park Slope was a very different neighborhood.
“Oh my god, the changes are so many. When I first came here, I think all the businesses on this block were either black- or hispanic-owned and there were a lot of vacant stores too,” Rush recalled Thursday afternoon. “I remember I used to look across the street, there was a fish market, and there’d be junkies nodding out in front of the fish market,” she adds.
Rush’s shop is filled with gift items, candles, essential oils, skincare and hair products, as well as merchandise from around the world, with many items, such as artwork, jewelry, and handmade cards, crafted by “women in crisis” she points out. “Wherever I go and find women who are doing something that’s helping someone else, I tend to support that,” she adds.
Now, after 21 years in business, Rush has decided to close up shop.
“Trust me, this store has done really well. I’ve made a really good living. It’s done well by me but I’m just tired. There are other things to do,” she explains.
“I’m going to travel for a year,” Rush says, planning to visit parts of Asia and Africa that she hasn’t seen yet.
“Home is Ethiopia, so I’ll be in Ethiopia working with the Hammer Tribe. They want text books, school uniforms, school stuff,” she says. Rush has already collected 18 boxes of books for the tribe and plans to auction off some items from her store to cover the shipping costs.
“Then I also have some stuff I want to take care of in Grenada [West Indies], because half of my family is there. I may open a detox center there,” she adds.
Rush says her decision to close her shop was entirely her own and had nothing to do with the eviction notice she and the neighboring non-profit organization, Imani House, received from their landlord, Fifth Avenue Committee, last May.
Fifth Avenue Committee, a Park Slope not-for-profit, community-based organization working to advance social and economic justice in South Brooklyn, develops and manages affordable housing and community facilities and owns several buildings along 5th Avenue that contain more than 100 affordable housing units subsidized by their commercial tenants.
The Fifth Avenue Committee had decided not to renew Rush’s or Imani House’s leases because they wanted to renovate 76 Fifth Avenue, the building where both businesses are located, DNA Info reported last year. The renovation was part of the Fifth Avenue Committee’s plan to renovate 21 of its buildings in order to preserve 146 units of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents, according to the article.
“We resolved the issue,” Rush says. “We got a lease and everything, but I took one year because I knew that I wanted to leave. [Imani House] took a longer lease. I just didn’t want to stay anymore. It worked out fine. It was my decision. It’s time.”
Bisi Ideraabdullah, Executive Director of Imani House, told BKLYNER Friday morning that the Fifth Avenue Committee renewed her lease for another five years in November, with the option to renew for an additional five years. The non-profit organization, which offers after-school-programs, immigrant services, and a summer camp for over 325 kids, has operated out of the 76 5th Avenue storefront for 25 years, Ideraabdullah adds.
Rush has had a front-row seat watching the transformation of Park Slope. “As soon as they started the talk of the stadium [Barclays], everything started evolving and changing—some good, some not so good,” she recalls.
“I saw a lot of businesses go under because of that stadium. It doesn’t really bring much, unless you’re a bar, because it’s self contained,” she says. “Over the years, across the street there’s probably been seven businesses.”
“I, on the other hand, did really well, because I have a different line of customers, and I wasn’t dependent on the stadium,” she adds.
Will Rush say goodbye to Brooklyn forever? “I keep saying I’ll come back and do the street fairs, but I don’t know,” she answers. She’s promised friends in Ethiopia that she’d bring items that they’ve made to the states to sell, though she’s not certain when or if she’ll return. “We’ll see,” she says.
“I’m so grateful and I’m really thankful for the support all these years. Especially to my customers in the back [the hair salon] because some of them have been with me the whole time I’ve been here,” she says.
“It’s not the end of my journey. To me, it’s just the start of a new journey which will include [her clients and customers] eventually because I’m going to do tours, which I already do, but I’m going to set up more tours so they can step out of this box and see the world on a different plane.”
Rush already has tour guides lined up in Africa and India and will update her Facebook page regularly so her followers will know what she’s got planned.
“I’m really grateful. This has been a really great experience,” Rush says. Building a community and getting to know her customers has been filled with “a lot of tears” and “a lot of joy,” but “overall it’s been a learning experience,” she muses.
“Thank you, Park Slope! It’s been a ride,” she concludes. “It’s not the end, it’s just a beginning for me. There are a lot of other things to come—a lot of things in the works.”
Tabeel Aromatherapy Gift Shop and Salon
76 5th Avenue (between St. Marks Place & Warren Street)
The shop will be having sales up until its official closing date on October 31.
As part of the North Summer Strolls this Saturday, August 26, there will be a Tabura class (a combination of West African Dance and kickboxing) in front of Tabeel Aromatherapy Gift Shop and Salon starting at 5pm.
BKLYNER reached out to Fifth Avenue Committee on Thursday to inquire about their plans for Rush’s space at 76 5th Avenue after she leaves. We will update this post if we hear back.