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Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Rockets’

franchise restaurant row

Franchise Restaurant Row in progress on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue: Checkers, Pizza Hut, Red Mango, Johnny Rockets, Applebee’s, IHOP , and more to come. Photo © Tricia Vita

The year is young but ATZ already has exclusive news of the first lease of 2016 on Coney Island’s franchise restaurant row, the north side of Surf Avenue. Broker Joe Vitacco says, “On Friday we signed a lease, for the 1,900 square foot space at 1223 Surf Avenue, with franchisee Nafees Bukhara. Nafees owns the Popeye’s on Surf Avenue and will be opening a Pizza Hut Express.”

Bukhara will also open a Red Mango franchise, for which he bought the rights from Rahman Hashimi, the Johnny Rockets franchisee, as well as a pretzel franchise. The Pizza Hut Express will be on the ground floor to the right of the 6,000 square foot Johnny Rockets, in a building that has been under stop-and-go construction since a lease deal was signed three years ago.

“You ask why we don’t do Mom and Pops,” Vitacco said last year, in an 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.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing vacant lots or illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning.

Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Now it is a mix of franchises and a few Mom & Pops like the Red Doors Bar & Grill and Luna Park Cafe.

Under construction

Construction in progress on Surf Avenue building for Johnny Rockets and Pizza Hut Express. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2015: Coney Eats: Magic Gyro & Checkers to Open, Kosher Pizza Signs Lease, Johnny Rockets & IHOP Underway

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

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Franchise Restaurant Row

Franchise Restaurant Row in progress on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue: Checkers, Johnny Rockets, Applebee’s, Grimaldi’s, and more to come. Photo © Tricia Vita

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.

Magic Gyro Coney Island

Levent Demirgil in his soon-to-open Magic Gyro in Stillwell Terminal. Photo © Coney Island History Project

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.

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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.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Coney Island Openings & Closings: Power Surge, Arcade, Rainbow Shops, Vintage Shooting Gallery

May 14, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Red Doors Bar & Grill Opens on North Side of Surf Ave.

March 11, 2015: In Coney Island, Two Stores and One NYC Landmark Mark 95th Year

February 13, 2015: Coney Island 2015: IHOP Franchisee Signs Lease for 5,400-Square-Foot Surf Ave Store

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Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May and written into the script of the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

UPDATE January 30, 2015:

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 2, 2015: Coney Eats: Magic Gyro & Checkers to Open, Kosher Pizza Signs Lease, Johnny Rockets & IHOP Underway

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

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Coney Island Skyline

First Tower of Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster on the Coney Island Skyline. April 23, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Coney Island’s amusement parks are already open for fun in the sun on Saturdays and Sundays, these photos provide a glimpse of some of the new construction underway this month. Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster, which is set to debut on Memorial Day weekend, is rising on the skyline. In the above photo the first tower can be seen alongside the Parachute Jump, SkyCoaster, PTB Bar’s lighthouse and the Boardwalk’s ornamental lamp posts. Isn’t it a beautiful sight?

Here’s a rendering of how the steel coaster will look when completed. The $10 million dollar ride is Coney Island’s first custom-built coaster since the Cyclone debuted in 1927 and is named in honor of the demolished 1925 Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction

Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Luna Park has also built new booths for water race, basketball and balloon games on the Boardwalk next to Scream Zone’s SkyCoaster. The stands will house the first games on the Boardwalk, which historically had arcades and games galore, since Shoot the Freak lost its lease in 2010.

Game booths Coney Island

New game booths under construction on the Boardwalk. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Friday, ATZ posted photos of two new mom & pop businesses under construction on Surf Avenue and also set to open in May. Lunatic Ice Cream will occupy the former Island Grocery and Luna Park Cafe is across the street from the Cyclone. Next to Stillwell Terminal, a new building is going up to house a Johnny Rockets franchise, but the “Coming Soon” sign may be overly optimistic considering the slow progress of construction at the site. Coming in 2014?

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/27469924@N06/5514450245/

Vintage Sign inside Denny’s Ice Cream, Coney Island. February 28, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In 2012 ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012). With a slew of chains and franchisees coming to the new, year-round Coney Island, the answer is yes, but two new Mom & Pops — Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe– are under construction and racing to open for business in May.

On the south side of Surf Avenue next to Popeye’s, the former Island Grocery is being transformed into a new walk-in shop called Lunatics Ice Cream. Dennis Corines, whose Denny’s Ice Cream operated on Surf from 1968 until he sold it to Coney Island USA and it was destroyed by Sandy, is a consultant to the owners. They’ll be bringing back his vanilla, chocolate and banana pistachio soft serve as well as cotton candy, popcorn, jelly apples and funnel cake. The projected opening date is May 15.

Coney Island Post-Sandy

Coney Island Post-Sandy: Interior Demolition of Storm-Ravaged Denny’s Ice Cream, Surf Avenue. November 17, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On the north side of Surf Avenue across from the Cyclone roller coaster, a new Mom & Pop eatery is under construction in one of the former furniture stores. Set to open as early as May 1st, the 2,400 square foot space is divided into three sections: pizzeria, frozen yogurt counter, and a cafe serving burgers and sandwiches. Co-owner Mike Kukaj tells ATZ that the name of the restaurant will be Luna Park Cafe.

Luna Park Cafe

Luna Park Cafe: New Cafe Under Construction on North Side of Surf Avenue. April 23, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The original Luna Park (1903-1944) was on the north side of Surf Avenue, where Luna Park Houses and Luna Park Furniture are now. Until the early 1980′s the north side was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. Philips Candy Store, now located in Staten Island, was the anchor of Stillwell Terminal from 1930 until 2000 when the terminal was rebuilt and they had to move out.

By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell —closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Now it is home to Coney Island Bar & Grill, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and Applebee’s, which has plans to open a sidewalk cafe.

Under Construction Surf Avenue

New Mom & Pop Business Under Construction on North Side of Surf Avenue, Its name will be “Luna Park Cafe.” April 23, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the new chains and franchisees expected to open this year in Coney Island are Johnny Rockets, currently under construction on the north side of Surf, as well as Burger-Fi, Subway Cafe and Red Mango. Along with Applebee’s, It’Sugar and Rita’s Italian Ice are already open on Surf Avenue, and there are a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins and Subway in Stillwell Terminal.

Johnny Rockets

Building for Johnny Rockets Under Construction on Surf Avenue, Coney Island. April 21, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

December 31, 2013: Amusing the Zillion’s Coney Island 2013 Year in Review

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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Surf Avenue

Surf Avenue Panoramic, North side of Surf, Mermaid Parade 2008. Photo © Whiskeygonebad/Anthony Catalano via flickr

Coney Island, the birthplace of the hot dog and the enclosed amusement park is famous for its quirky authenticity, but it’s about to look and taste more like Anyplace USA. Three national franchises– Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets and Red Mango–have signed leases for the north side of Surf Avenue.

Broker Joe Vitacco tells ATZ, “We rented 8,000 square feet to the Johnny Rockets franchisee. He will use 6,000 square feet for the Johnny Rockets and the remaining 2,000 square feet for another national franchise, Red Mango.” The building next door, 1217, will be built out to the lot-line on Surf for Applebee’s, he said. The restaurants will activate long vacant properties next to Stillwell Terminal, which already has a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins and a Subway and is getting a Checkers hamburger chain. Is the north side of Surf Avenue destined to become a mecca for franchises?

Lot at 1223 Surf Avenue next to Stillwell Terminal and 1217 Surf Avenue. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Red Mango is a frozen yogurt franchise started “many, many spoons ago” (in 2007) in Los Angeles that now has 190 locations nationwide. According to a company press release, it is one of the fastest growing retailers of all-natural nonfat frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies. Johnny Rockets touts itself as “The Original Hamburger” though it was founded in 1986, also in L.A. According to their corporate website the chain has “about 300 corporate and franchise-owned restaurants in 30 states and 16 countries, including 30 Six Flags amusement park locations and 11 Royal Caribbean cruise ships.” In the New York area, the store can be found at 56th Street, South Street Seaport and Yankee Stadium and in Glendale and Forest Hills in Queens, as well as in New Jersey at Newport Centre Mall and in Hoboken. Applebee’s has almost 2,000 locations nationwide and the franchisee already owns 40 restaurants in the New York area.

For the record, the franchisees’ leases are with the individual property owners of 1217 and 1223 Surf Avenue and NOT with Thor Equities. Thor CEO Joe Sitt does not own any property on the north side of Surf east of Stillwell Avenue. Thor’s holdings are on the south side of Surf. The news about Johnny Rockets and Applebee’s has long been rumored because franchisees had first looked into renting Thor Equities vacant new building at Surf and Stillwell, where prices are said to be sky high. Rents on the north side of Surf are about a third as much as Thor’s properties on the south side, a source tells ATZ, with a space on the north side renting for $75,000 and a comparable one in Thor’s building with an asking price of $250,000.

Across the street is Nathan’s, which got its start in Coney Island in 1916 and whose original location is a year-round tourist destination. “In total, Nathan’s products are marketed for sale in over 40,000 locations,” according to the company’s website. Also on the south side of Surf Avenue is Popeye’s Chicken, which is popular with locals and whose franchisee owner has been in business year-round in Coney Island for nearly thirty years.

Nathan's Coney Island

Coney Island Post-Sandy: The original Nathan’s at Surf and Stillwell is Closed Till Spring. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Vitacco has been actively marketing properties in Coney Island to potential franchisees and independent restaurateurs alike, as well as to other businesses, for many years. It has been a tough sell, with 14 months of red tape at 1223 Surf, which is owned by Fox 18 Realty, LLC, due to the property being adjacent to the MTA. Hooters, Outback Steak House and a seafood restaurant are on his get list. “What would you like to see?” he asked when we said we weren’t a fan of franchises.

How about a club with a wave-riding machine? Turns out Body Glove Swimwear had come to him with an idea for a cafe, retail and surf machine, but nothing ever came of it. In addition to an all-season surfing venue, ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island includes a pinball arcade museum, Fascination, frozen custard and a Mangels Whip ride. “The reason it is better to have franchisees is the franchise company has to approve the area, location and lease,” says Vitacco, who believes that Coney Island is a fantastic location. “They have done all of their homework and are experts at analyzing a location.”

While some of our Coney Island friends approve of any new business coming to vacant land and the jobs that it will create, others are critical: “At least Johnny Rockets sort of fits the vibe. But who needs a fake diner when there’s a real one?! (Tom’s),” says Coney Island regular and writer Tara Cox. “In my personal vision for Coney, they should give small, unique business owners the chance to thrive and keep the spirit alive. The whole area will benefit. And what a novelty it would be — a land where there’s only small, interesting and personal businesses.”

Sky Rapids Ride

Sky Rapids Ride at 1223 Surf Avenue and Arcade at 1217 Surf Ave. Coney Island. January 1, 1979. Photo by Abe Feinstein via Coney Island History Project

Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf Avenue was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. Philips Candy Store, now located in Staten Island, was the anchor of Stillwell Terminal from 1930 until 2000 when the terminal was rebuilt and they had to move out. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell —closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. It was mostly furniture stores named after amusement parks. Rides aren’t about to make a comeback due to the high rent, but things began looking up last summer with the opening of the popular Grimaldi’s Pizzeria on the north side of Surf.

Some kind of formula business restriction such as the one in San Francisco, which bans chains in some neighborhoods and regulates them almost everywhere else, would create opportunities for small, independent businesses and prevent Surf Avenue from becoming a strip of franchises. During the hearings leading up to the July 2009 rezoning, a number of individuals and organizations including the Pratt Center for Community Development recommended adopting a formula business restriction policy within Coney East to prevent national retailers and fast food restaurants from locating there. Of course that didn’t happen because the zoning was written to attract these very businesses to Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

December 24, 2012: In Thor’s Coney Island, Discount on Retail Ride of a Lifetime

August 10, 2012: Steeplechase Plaza Under Construction in Coney Island

June 23, 2012: Opening Today: Coney Island Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

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