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Kew Gardens Hills retail fixture packs its bags

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After 20 years in the same shopping center on Union Turnpike and Main Street in Kew Garden Hills, the owners of In Cahoots — a custom picture framing and art gallery — packed their posters and paintings and moved to the end of the borough in New Hyde Park.

Judy Fliegel and Alex Leguisamo, the owners of the gallery, which had been a fixture in Kew Gardens for two decades, decided it was time to move after they saw no end in sight to their five-year battle to keep the entrance of their store clean of broken bottles and sleeping bums.

The gallery’s two owners had tried everything — writing letters and calling their local and state politicians — to get their neighbor, a Key Food supermarket, to move its bottle recycling machines.

“Faced with an unpleasant situation,” Fliegel said she and her partner decided it was time to see if they could make a go of it at the northern end of Queens.

“We pleaded with everyone and no one did anything about the problem because it was not in front of anyone,” Fliegel said. “We did everything we should have done. Now the outcome is far better. We should have moved three years ago.”

Fliegel and Leguisamo opened the new store at 271-21 Union Turnpike at the end of March after closing the old place on the last day of February. The new store, even though it is open, is not finished. Some of the molding for picture frames and pictures for sale are not yet up on the walls and there are boxes piled up throughout the store.

“It is still a work in progress,” Leguisamo said. “It is the same as the old place but new and improved.”

The two who met more then 20 years ago at another frame store where they both worked, are a strange match.

Fliegel, 67, who lives in Hollis Hills, started working after her children were grown. Leguisamo, 44, started at the store after he was forced to drop out of medical school when his family immigrated to New York from Ecuador in 1979 and settled in Richmond Hill.

“I saw his skills right away,” Fliegel said. “We became friends and thought, why do this for someone else when we could do it ourselves.”

She said the New Hyde Park store feels bigger than the old store because it gets much more light. Fliegel was thrilled that they can stop covering the windows to hide the dirt or shutting the entrance to stop the urine smell from engulfing the store.

The setup of the new store differs from the old one because it has a separate area for customers to look through catalogs of prints. The old store had only one counter for the customers to look through catalogs and to go over framing options, so everybody was on top of each other.

She said the move was a tough one, but they had to find new quarters. If the old place had stayed clean, they would have stayed in the neighborhood, she said.

Fliegel does not fear they will lose their clientele because they provide full-service framing. She said their customers can buy a painting or lithograph, then choose a frame and matting and it will be put together in the store. Some galleries outsource their framing work, she said.

Leguisamo said the store is fully equipped. In the basement workshop they cut the molding a client has chosen, join it, put the picture on matting, cut the glass and then put the whole thing together.

“It was a big move, but well worth it,” Fliegel said. “The old clientele are finding us and new people are finding us.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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