The Raga Closet’s Instagram page is carefully curated, featuring retro Afrocentric streetwear looks paired with millennial-style messaging– a glimpse into the creative minds of the East New York couple that established the brand.
Kwame “Wello” Simpson, 25, and Luna Simpson, 23, opened the shop in 2018, branding it as “Brooklyn’s first and only androgynous thrift shop,” a tucked-away gem, housed inside of Rockwell Studios LLC, a co-working and studio space in Bushwick for artists.
“My favorite thing about Rag (Raga),” said Luna, “is that it’s my favorite walk-in closet… Like, you can walk into this closet and get clothes, meet cool creatives. It’s almost like a network.”
After struggling to get loans to open a storefront, the young couple found Rockwell Studios, which felt like a great space to collaborate with other artists and the co-work community. For the past two years, the couple has leased the space and paid upwards of $1,000 a month to keep their shop open. However, in recent months, the owners say they’ve experienced what they believe are tactics to push them out.
“The main tactic would be the scare notices,” said Luna
“They gave us a three-day notice on the 31st saying that we had to leave because we owed, when in actuality, we paid them extra in December. And we paid them in January, but they never gave us receipts,” said Kwame.
When asked to comment, Jen, the manager of Rockwall Studios LLC, who asked not to have her last name printed, said, “They owe many months’ rent.”
“We tried to work out a payment plan, but they defaulted and refused to pay … I feel very saddened that they feel they are being pushed out.”
The two were shaken up after receiving the pay or quit notice, but after doing research on their own and receiving legal advice, they now feel better equipped to handle the hurdle.
New York State Court System says to evict a tenant properly, a landlord must send a notice by certified mail informing the tenant rent is overdue when it is at least five days past the due date, and send a written demand for rent that must give at least 14 days to pay before an official court case starts.
In addition to the notices, the couple says there have been other subtle efforts to push them out:
“There’s this other building, that is now broken down like how this one is, and [management) put their brochures under our doors, showing us that their prices are higher. So I take that as a message, telling us this is what’s happening in the neighborhood, so be prepared,” said Kwame.
Despite this, the duo is trying their best to keep their business afloat by temporarily moving operations online and creating a Gofundme to raise money and locate resources for an official storefront. In the meantime, they’re trying to stay positive.
“The amount of love and the amount of support we’ve received because of this is a blessing,” said Kwame. “Raga’s going up.”
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