Store owners squeezed out of Flatbush Avenue
About 20 out of 100 storefronts are vacant in the North Flatbush Business Improvement District. (Photos: RJ Mickelson/ amNY)
By Danielle Sonnenberg
Special to amNewYork
Alex Cohen says he knows which way the wind is blowing down Flatbush Avenue.
He feels it from his small shop, Professional Shoe Repair that same pressure that knocked out a number of small business owners is rapping at his store.
Its not just the dire economy, an older foe also remains: His landlord wants him out.
They just came and said we dont want you here anymore, he said, but he didnt accept a buyout offer on his lease, which has three years left. He pays about $5,000 a month and figures the property owner wants about $6,000 for the 800-square-foot space.
Cohen is holding on where as a number of other entrepreneurs on his block have given up or just failed: Mailboxes of Parks Slope, Video Edge, Accentiques Antiques, Nouveau DÃ©cor, Harriet's Alter Ego. All gone.
It's disturbing, we do have a fair number of vacancies, about 20 out of 100 storefronts, said Regina Cahill, president of the North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District, which runs from Atlantic Avenue to Plaza Street on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
T-Mobile moved into 304 Flatbush Ave., the space once occupied by Video Edge.
As the economy has worsened, landlords in some areas of the city are showing a lot more flexibility with struggling tenants, but the trend does not appear to have caught on here.
Property owners in the area are seeing potential for bigger bucks from bigger names. T-Mobile took over Video Edges space at 304 Flatbush Ave. and Verizon moved into Accentiques Antiques location at 337 Flatbush Ave. a few months ago.
This is about dollars and cents, lets not make it more complicated, said Faith Hope Consolo, head of the retail real estate division at Prudential Douglas Elliman. I think everyone is searching for new, edgy, more financially stable businesses.
Tony Atterbury, a broker with Slope Heights Realty, represents the space once occupied by Nouveau DÃ©cor.
Hes looking for a tenant with a history of steady business and an ability to demonstrate his financial capability to pay rent.
Rents in the area range from about $85 to $125 a square foot, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman. In some of the most desirable parts of Brooklyn, retail rents can go as high as $250 per square foot.
The small shops will likely give way to big chains, a gentrification process many corners of the city have experienced for years.
Expect to see more restaurants like Le Pain Quotidien and Pret A Manger, Hope Consolo said.
Some welcome the potential for a new retail mix on this stretch of Flatbush Avenue.
It's all positive compared to what it used to be- a depressed downtown urban area, said Henry Rosa, a landlord and owner of Triangle Sports, a sporting goods store.
For some longtime residents, such as Joan Erskine, a psychotherapist who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, its an ill wind that is knocking out the little shops.
Its the thing that most breaks my heart, she said.
Alex Cohen, owner of Professional Shoe Repair, is feeling
the pressure to vacate his store at 341 Flatbush Ave.