Kenneth Giddon has co-owned Rothmans men’s clothing store in Manhattan with his brother Jim Giddon for 36 years. Last month the shop in Union Square was robbed twice by marauding smash-and-grab gangs who terrorized employees and made off with thousands of dollars in merchandise. An undaunted Kenneth Giddon tells The Post’s Dean Balsamini that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and other NYC pols might be giving up on crime, but he will never surrender to thieves and thugs.
My store on 18th Street and Park Avenue South was ransacked/robbed by the same group of young men, twice in the last three weeks of December. I am not quite sure what the term is when a gang of thieves (five the first time, eight the second time) brazenly tears apart a store, assaults an employee, and grabs as much merchandise as they can carry out. They were not particularly troubled by their actions, and figured a repeat performance, since there were no repercussions, was a good idea.
I have a range of emotions. I am embarrassed that we let it happen, especially twice, although I know that is somewhat irrational. I feel violated that something that we spent so much time creating, curating and making beautiful for our loyal customers can be torn up in a few minutes. I also feel guilty that I was not there to protect my team, or change the outcome in any way.
For the first time in over three decades of owning my store, I stay up nights trying to process what this means for my business, and ultimately, the city that I love.
We called the police both times, but the group was long gone before any help could arrive. We have moved forward to enhance our security, and the police have been very good about adding patrols and coverage in our area.
The responding officers were professional and sympathetic. They said it was happening all over the city, but their message was very clear: Do not engage, the perpetrators probably have weapons, and even if you stop them, or we arrest them, nothing will happen. You will waste your time in the system, and they will not be penalized. So where does that leave us?
The cops said, ‘We are going to catch these guys … but don’t expect these guys to do time.” That’s disheartening.
I am not an expert on criminal justice or reforms. I am just a guy that sells pants.
NY State bail reform, while well intentioned, has been very bad for New York City. Too many people that should be incarcerated are not. The ability of perpetrators to rob my store, get arrested, and come back the next day to do it again, tears at the fabric of this city.
I like the message that new mayor Eric Adams delivered.
However, that message was undercut by the subsequent memo by DA Bragg that he would reduce charges on a number of crimes. I know he wasn’t the DA at the time of our incidents. But the memo was a punch in the gut.
DA Bragg needs to realize that perception is reality. If New Yorkers feel unsafe, the city will struggle to come back. If criminals feel that law enforcement is lax, they will commit more crimes.
My employees are like family to us. They build their careers with us. No one should have to go to work thinking they might be involved in an assault that day.
DA Bragg was elected to enforce the laws, not choose which ones he wants to enforce.
Not protecting businesses is essentially a regressive tax on retailers: economic loss coupled with additional security costs and higher insurance premiums. Shoplifting and gang thefts are rising dramatically in NYC. Bail reform, and lesser prosecution enable criminals to go back to what they do best, many times on the same day, emboldened and without missing a beat.
But we are not giving up.
Rothmans has survived 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic and looting during the riots. In fact, we just opened another store on Ninth Avenue. So we are in for the long run.
I’m encouraged by the fact that the DA heard of our plight and reached out to me directly this week. We had a constructive conversation and discussed a formation of a task force of retailers and law enforcement experts to deal with the situation.
We believe that the Mayor and the DA need to, and eventually will, get on the same page about law and order. Then we can just get back to what we do best — selling clothes to New Yorkers.
We will go to work today, still loving, but sometimes hating, the greatest city in the world.