In Coney Island’s Stillwell Terminal, Magic Gyro, a Mom and Pop destroyed nearly three years ago by Hurricane Sandy, is about to reopen, and a Checkers hamburger franchise is set to debut. Magic Gyro owner Levent Demirgil told ATZ that he will be training employees this weekend and plans a soft opening next week.
“We suffered a lot from Sandy,” Demergil said in an oral history interview recorded in Turkish for the Coney Island History Project’s immigrant narratives series. “We didn’t have insurance. I took personal loans. By taking those we are trying to stay afloat, that’s why we could not open here for three years.” Formerly a gourmet shop with a corner kitchen, the new store will be a Mediterranean Grill featuring healthy fast food such as hummus, salads, and döner kebabs.
Meanwhile, construction has resumed on the north side of Surf’s Franchise Restaurant Row. Next door to Checkers, the Johnny Rockets “Coming Soon” banner is tattered, but the long stalled construction on the burger franchise, whose themed decor is based on retro diners, is once again underway. “They are laying the plumbing under the concrete floor and pouring the concrete next week,” says broker Joe Vitacco, who gave us an update on a lease deal that he closed nearly three years ago in December 2012.
“You ask why we don’t do Mom and Pops,” Vitacco added, referring to our ongoing conversation that began with ATZ’s 2012 post “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” He says that Mom and Pops wouldn’t be able to afford this, referring to the extraordinary delays and ballooning costs due to city and MTA red tape.
On Surf Avenue across from Luna Park, construction on a 5,400 square-foot IHOP has finally begun eight months after construction was expected to begin. The franchisee is Bryan McKenzie, who is also the owner of an IHOP in New Jersey. The delay was due to bureaucratic snafus at the City’s Department of Buildings. At the beginning of this year, ATZ reported the construction had been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets was waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front. Construction had been stalled for so long that skeptical members of the Coney Island Rumor Mill doubted it would ever resume.
Vitacco says that at this point in time he believes IHOP will be open in March 2016, in time for the 2016 season. “This is a testimony to the undying commitment of Bryan McKenzie, the IHOP franchisee, who would not give up when faced by problems with approval by the building department that took 18 months to resolve.”
The one-story building at 1019 Surf is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the city’s zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the Subway Cafe has the one on the right. The two remaining storefronts totaling 3,000 square feet were in fact snapped up yesterday by a Mom and Pop for a kosher pizzeria and ice cream shop, which will also have a party room for kids’ birthday parties.
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