Pretty much everyone in the West Village agrees: Walter Dikarev is magical.
“I love him,” Rosemary Wettenhall, owner of Madame Matovu, said. “Because he’s like this magic man. He can fix anything.”
For nearly 20 years, Dikarev held court at his small antique clock repair shop on 10th Street between Hudson and Bleecker Streets. Neighbors squeeze into his cluttered shop to chat, all the while surrounded by his cases of glittering watches, clocks, and jewelry.
“[There’s] even [a] special smell in here, the smell of the clock and watch oil,” Dikarev said. “It’s extremely rare; to be in my business and feel exactly like what you could feel maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty years behind you, and feel like you’re exactly in the past century.”
“What I give when anybody’s coming here, I give unto this person my love,” he said. “My love and nothing else. My smile, my love.”
Unfortunately for him and the city he loves, he’s being forced to close his shop at the end of the year due to a rise in rent.
“I guess my business is not profitable, not profitable anymore,” Dikarev said. “Just to survive, I need to raise the prices for my customers and I do not like it.”
For Walter, it’s just a modern take on the David and Goliath story. Big businesses came in and took over the real estate, raising the prices of rent and displacing the patrons who used to visit his shop.
“[It’s the] biggest killing smallest,” he said. “That’s it. [They make] more money and kill the small things. Like bugs. That’s my story of my life.”
Local shop owners describe Dikarev as the “watchdog” of the neighborhood. His decision to fold under the growing pressure of high rent and low sales is unpopular, to say the least.
“Nobody likes my decision,” he sighed. “Everybody asks me please don’t close this business because we just feel very, very alone. [There will be] no business to take care of us here.”
When he goes, the West Village will lose yet another charm that made it so magical.
“It’s losing a lot of the smaller charming shops that help make it what it was,” Sherry Delamarter, the owner of Cowgirl restaurant, said. “I don’t want to whine or be a crybaby about it, but there’s something sad in that passing. That’s something sad for the village as a whole.
“We will certainly miss Walter,” she concluded. “He was a little jewel of a man who fixes jewels.”