Growing up in Poland, Kamila Myzel’s parents always wanted her to be a dentist.
But the New York City transplant — who arrived in the US in 1980 with political asylum amid martial law in her country — had other plans. In 1990, she opened her own chocolate shop, Myzel’s Chocolate, on 55th Street, and has been selling homemade and specialty candies ever since.
“This is sweeter. How does life get better than this?” the 65-year-old Myzel recently told The Post from behind the counter of her 470-square-foot confectionary. “I was living the American dream.”
But like so many small-business owners, the pandemic has threatened her livelihood. Due to sluggish sales, Myzel hasn’t paid her $7,800 monthly rent since April 2020 — the store was shuttered for a total of five months during the lockdown — and has been trying to negotiate a new lease since that July, when her old one expired. However, negotiations turned tumultuous and Myzel said her landlord served her with eviction papers in late August, demanding $250,000 in back rent. The city’s eviction moratorium has protected her so far: It will remain in effect until January 2022.
Myzel said her landlord, Solil Management, is being unreasonable. “They broke me when they served me court papers,” she said. “They doubled the rent,” she added tearfully of the initial $15,000 ask, noting that she’s one of the few businesses on West 55th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues that has survived the COVID-19 crisis.
And it hasn’t been easy. Without the bustling business otherwise brought in by nearby office workers, hotels and foot traffic, Myzel said there were days when receipts were depressingly low. “For how many months, I made $40 a day, $50 a day. I can’t take it any longer. Is the greed and the money more important than the history of the city?”
Myzel’s lawyer, Joshua Wurtzel — whose firm, Schlam Stone & Dolan, is working on the case pro bono — told The Post that while the landlord has come down from their initial offer, the warring parties have yet to reach an agreement. “At a certain point, she just doesn’t have money and can’t afford it,” said Wurtzel. “If she doesn’t pay, they’ll be able to evict her.”
A representative from Solil Management told The Post: “[We] have been negotiating with her and trying to come up with something fair. We have not received any rent since April 2020. I’m just surprised nothing gets paid for us, and she’s open for business,” said the rep, adding, “we’re still looking to make a deal if we can.”
Meanwhile. fans of the beloved chocolate shop around the corner have stepped in to help Myzel.
Councilman Keith Powers, who represents the store’s district, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, wrote a letter to Solil Management on Oct. 4, asking the company “to negotiate, in good faith, a fair and equitable lease and stop the lawsuit against Kamila. This will allow her to continue to run one of the few immigrant, women-owned businesses in all of New York City and provide for her family.”
Instagram influencer Nicolas Heller, better known as New York Nico, is also using his platform to help Myzel. “This place is f—king incredible and I want you all to experience it and support Kamila,” he wrote in a lengthy post, garnering over 21,000 likes.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help offset Myzel’s back rent, so far raising $7,000.
Customers are weighing in on the fight, too.
“I’m incensed,” said Wendy Handler, who just moved to New York and has quickly become a regular. “It’s like David and Goliath.”
Sweets shopper Betsy Polivy told The Post: “We must help this lovely woman who came here from Poland speaking no English — She is beloved by so many. This is who New York is.”
Myzel, who said she is “humbled” by all the support, said the shop is who she is, too.
“You see someone walk in and they get this big smile on their face,” she said of selling treats to her customers. “They turn into children.”
Myzel’s Chocolate, 140 W. 55th St; 212-245-4233, Myzels.com