NEW YORK — In 1942, Ritz Furs was one of the first luxury retailers to secure an address on 57th Street here. Now, 63 years later, it is closing.

A group of real estate developers approached the furrier with a $25 million offer for its 15,000-square-foot store at 107 West 57th Street. With real estate prices soaring, the third-generation furrier jumped at the price, partly because none of the younger family members wants to carry on the business.

Ritz declined to name the buyer, but said the store will be demolished to make way for an 82,000-square-foot, 35-floor project with 37 residential units and three lower floors of offices. Street-level retail space could take its place.

General manager Keith Tauber, who married the founder’s granddaughter, Nancy, said, “We were made an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

Founder Aaron Kaye established the business as a place where swank department stores and well-heeled women could unload their designer fur coats. Initially, the store sold only secondhand furs, but it eventually carried new merchandise. Ritz occupied five different locations on 57th Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenues. Most of its neighbors, including several other furriers, Steinway, the Russian Tea Room and the Horn & Hardart Automat, are gone.

Kaye built up the nest egg that allowed him to get into the fur business during the Alaskan Gold Rush. He would buy a dozen eggs for $1 and sell each for $1, a company spokesman said.

Stars such as Hedy Lamarr, Frances McDormand, Carol Channing, Laurence Fishburne, Louise Lasser, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Patti LaBelle and Phylicia Rashad were among Ritz’s customers.

Fur coats, stoles and wraps with labels such as Fendi, Revillion, Louis Feraud, J. Mendel, Zhandra Rhodes, YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, Alixandre, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Searle were sold. Ritz also carried vintage fur coats, which constituted about 60 percent of its merchandise.

Ritz kicked off a final sale last week. Designer coats carry 75 percent discounts and all vintage pieces retail for $500 or less.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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