Mohinder (Paul) GaulatiBy Claudie Benjamin

Mohinder (Paul) Gulati is clear in his feeling that if only the Co-Op board of the building at 2620 Broadway that houses his long-time business would extend the break they allowed over the Covid period, he would be able to stay in business. Paul is lively and very engaging, but the anxiety about keeping the doors of his store open clearly these days is just beneath the surface.

He’s weathered many financial variances over the past 42 years he’s run the West Side Stationers store on the northeast corner of Broadway and 99th Street. But, the Covid period was devastating for Paul who is now over 80. The last few years have been even worse for business. Paul said, “it’s because people have learned to shop online. Even me!”

Interestingly, this man who tends to think of life as the proverbial “bowl of cherries” offers cherries as an example of purchasing trends. “The other day, I felt like having cherries, though this is slightly off-season.” Frustrated in his initial search at nearby grocery stores, his Google search yielded just what he wanted. Locals used to enjoy the convenience of buying pens, pencils, pads of paper, and other writing materials, among many other items, at his stationary store – that’s all radically changed. “the only businesses that are doing well are smoke shops and health clinics. You smoke and then go to the clinic for your cancer.”

Paul’s positive character has only strengthened with time, and he acknowledges he’s been favored by good luck over his half-century living in New York City. Originally, from Pune, a city near Mumbai, he came to New York as an electronics student. He worked as a waiter, among other jobs. He describes his first ten years in New York as a period of finding himself. On a recent weekday morning, he interrupted a conversation to focus on a remote Sikh call to prayer and prayer meeting, which he said inspires observers to devote ten percent of their time to doing good deeds and encourages them to make a monetary contribution. “The message highlights an awareness of God, nature, and self,” he said.

Then, in 1978, he encountered a severely handicapped elderly couple who were eager to sell their business where they had been selling stationary along with an odd assortment of items like sewing needles, sports equipment, and even some books. The couple asked for $8,000 for the business. Soon after, someone came by and, noticing its very large air conditioning unit, asked the price. “I said $8,000,” recalled Paul. “The man paid, and I bought a much smaller one for $300.”

He kept the inventory and expanded to offer mostly traditional stationary items while also offering photocopying and copying services. His wife, Meena, offers tax assistance and notary services. They’ve lived for years across the street at 230 West 99th Street. Their three sons, now an accountant, an attorney, and a dentist, all graduated from the Collegiate High School (at the time on West 77th Street) before going off to college and graduate school. Minderpol, his youngest son, lives in Austin, Texas and helps manage the store remotely.

Does Paul ever go back to India? “Yes. Every year, I go to a health spa in Kerela, and it gives me another year of life.”

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