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Posts Tagged ‘Thor Equities’

Brooklyn Rock

Display of Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Mom & Pop art T-shirt shop Brooklyn Rock is out but not down. After 21 months in Coney Island, the arrangement they had with Thor Equities for space in the developer’s retail building at Surf and Stillwell has come to an end. The 1,500-square-foot store, for which they paid a percentage of income as rent, will be partly taken over by celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers, which is set to open its first New York franchise in May in the vacant restaurant space next door.

As ATZ reported earlier this month, the one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Rock shop was open daily regardless of the season or the weather, and was one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February. “At the end of the proverbial day, it was a pop-up shop and we had a good run,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein, who doesn’t want people to feel sorry for them or villainize Thor, with whom they parted on good terms. “I might get a call at some point to do a pop up in another of their Brooklyn locations. Who knows?”

Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock’s pop-up store at 3015 Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island closed in February. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, aprons and other items are hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in their Bushwick apartment in 2002. Braunstein says they’re relocating the wholesale print operations to a mezzanine space within a larger retail environment in Greenpoint called the Flying Squirrel. “It is an amazing children’s shop that we’ve wholesaled our gear to since they were located on North 6th in Williamsburg. We’re excited at the huge wholesale opportunities ahead and are gratified at the run we enjoyed in Coney.”

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team also wholesaled their merchandise to Coney Island USA’s gift shop, which they hope to do once again. Their previous retail shops include a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market where Century 21 was built, and a Pintchik property across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow. “When you’re an independent little guy, you’re swimming with sharks. We’re still swimming. We’re good. Ultimately we’re survivors,” says Braunstein.

Brooklyn Rock Larry David

Audrey Jakeway wearing Brooklyn Rock’s Larry David tee at preview performance of his new Broadway show “Fish in the Dark.” February 5, 2015. Photo via Brooklyn Rock Facebook

When ATZ interviewed Braunstein for the post that ran earlier this month, the shop had already received the vacate notice, but we did not mention it because they were hoping for an extension from Thor, as had happened last year. At that time, Luna Park offered them a kiosk in the amusement park, but they declined since they were able to keep their store. As for the vacant stores on the north side of Surf, where property owners have leased to restaurant and food businesses, Braunstein doesn’t think the location would bring them as much foot traffic as the south side of Surf.

While Brooklyn Rock is confident about landing a better spot, this story underscores the dim prospects for Mom & Pops hoping to come to Coney Island amid the influx of chains, both at Thor’s property on the south side of Surf and with the property owners on the north side. Currently there are a dwindling number of spaces for lease and Coney Island’s risk-averse landlords prefer the better-funded chains and franchisees. Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

Tenants at Thor’s now fully-leased “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building across from Stillwell Terminal include candy chain It’Sugar, apparel chain Rainbow Shop, the Brooklyn Nets Shop, Brooklyn Beach Shop spin-off Surf and Stillwell, and the soon-to-debut Wahlburgers. The building also had a Little Caesars Pizza pop-up last summer and two incredibly tiny mini-arcades, which are the shameful extent of the amusements required by the City’s Coney Island Comprehensive Rezoning Plan passed in 2009.

Thor Equities mini-arcade

The only amusements in Thor’s retail building are two mini-arcades, the size required by the City’s Rezoning Plan. One arcade is next door to the apparel chain Rainbow Shops. august 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s telling that in recent weeks ATZ’s top ten posts have been about IHOP, Wahlburgers and other chains coming in 2015. In addition to the already opened national chains and franchises such as Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe opened last season. An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem opened on Valentine’s Day. On the north side of Surf, IHOP recently signed a lease to open a restaurant while Johnny Rockets remains under construction and Subway Cafe and Checkers have put their signs up and are almost ready to open.

Related posts on ATZ…

February 4, 2015: In Wintry Coney, Brooklyn Rock’s Hand-Printed Tees Keep Summer Dreams Alive

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

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Brooklyn Rock

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“The French have never left,” says Brooklyn Rock brand manager Seth Braunstein when ATZ asks where the year-round tourists who visit his Coney Island shop are coming from. Located across Stillwell Avenue from Nathan’s Famous, which is also open daily regardless of the season or the weather, this one-of-a-kind shop is one of the few places in Coney to buy a souvenir tee in February.

What makes Brooklyn Rock’s tees out of the ordinary, says Braunstein, is that each one of the shirts is hand-dyed in unique colors and hand-printed from hand-drawn designs by artists Chris Smith and Yukiko Wada, the couple who founded the business in 2002. “We start with white American Apparel tees made in the U.S. out of cotton grown in the U.S,” he says. In the afternoon sunlight, the colors are especially vibrant and conjure up summery dreams on a wintry day.

Brooklyn Rock

Paintings of the Elephant Hotel and the Parachute Jump by Yukiko Wada, hand-screened Tees by Wada and husband Chris Smith. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s landmark Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump feature prominently in the designs along with the magical place names CONEY and BROOKLYN. Among the signature sayings printed on Brooklyn Rock’s tees are “Brooklyn, Entertaining Manhattan since 1646″ and “Keep Brooklyn Offensive.”

Famous faces on their tees include Brooklyn-born comedian and Seinfeld writer Larry David, whose people once bought one for him, Braunstein says with pride. “Tonight, one of our people will be sitting in the third row wearing the Larry David tee at the preview performance of his Broadway show.”

Brooklyn Rock’s tees, hoodies, hats, totes, knapsacks, aprons and other hand-printed items range in price from $15-$60.

One specialty at Brooklyn Rock that you may not expect to find in Coney Island is their book rack, which is stocked with gently read copies of classics by Ayn Rand to Kurt Vonnegut. The used books come from their friends at Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation and Bushwick’s Human Relations, whom they’ve known since their days as fellow street vendors. Books are priced at $5 and $8.

Hand-Printed Tee at Brooklyn Rock

Sleeveless Hand-printed Coney Tee at Brooklyn Rock in Coney Island. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Before opening their Coney Island store in May 2013, the Brooklyn Rock team wholesaled to children’s shops and Coney Island USA’s gift shop. They set up shop in a street kiosk on Bedford Avenue, a shipping container at the now defunct DeKalb Market, and a store across from Barclays Center, where foot traffic turned out to be slow.

Their Coney Island store is in Thor Equities’ retail building at Surf and Stillwell, where current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shops, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co., the Brooklyn Nets Shop, a couple of mini-arcades and the soon-to open Wahlburgers franchise. Only It’Sugar and Brooklyn Rock remain open year round. How did this Bushwick-born Mom and Pop get their foot in the door?

Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed shirt at Brooklyn Rock on Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island. November 24, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Brooklyn Rock’s lucky break came when Braunstein saw a news article about space for lease in Thor’s then-vacant new building and sent them a proposal. Thor Equities had sent out a press release that said: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.”

We remember it well. For ATZ, the biggest surprise of the release was what Thor CEO Joe Sitt had to say about chains vs local businesses: “Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” Sitt said. “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

Hear, hear!

Brooklyn Rock, 3015 Stillwell Avenue, between Surf Ave and the Bowery, Coney Island, 11224. Winter hours are 12 noon till 7pm.

Hand-printed Tees and Hats at Brooklyn Rock

Hand-printed Tees, Totes and Hats at Brooklyn Rock. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

January 22, 2015: Coney Island Rumor Mill: No Rides But Games, Food & Merch Coming to Thor’s Lot

November 28, 2014: ATZ Previews Coney Island’s Small Business Saturday

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

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Wahlburgers Coney Island

The location of the Wahlburgers celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island was publicly revealed for the first time today when signage went up on Thor Equities’ retail building. It’s no surprise –Coney insiders had already guessed because there’s one vacant retail space built for a restaurant and no other comparable spot for lease in the amusement area. In addition to the ground floor, the restaurant space offers rooftop seating.

The sign says “Coming Spring 2015 – Wahlburgers – Our Family – Our Story – Our Burgers” and promotes their website. The next guessing game is when the celebrity brothers–Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg– and a TV crew will turn up in Coney for a site visit. A May 1st opening date was previously announced.

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January 2014. The Coney Island location and the store’s opening are being scripted into the show’s 2015 season.

The building on Surf and Stillwell Avenues across from Nathan’s Famous has been long touted by Thor as “The Retail Ride of a Lifetime.” Current tenants include It’Sugar, Rainbow Shop, Surf & Stillwell Brooklyn Apparel Co. and two mini-arcades required by the City’s zoning law. Wahlburgers’ immediate neighbors will be the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Brooklyn Rock, which sells hand-printed clothing and gifts.

The company announced in December that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island. Wahlburgers will join a number of other national chains and franchises slated to open this year in Coney Island. As ATZ reported earlier this week, Johnny Rockets, Checkers, and Subway Cafe are currently under construction, IHOP is finalizing a lease deal, and the Boston Beer Corporation got a license to operate a brewery to house their Coney Island Brewing Company division.

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Boston Beer Corp’s Coney Island Brewery Gets Conditional Approval from NYSLA

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

December 5, 2014: Wahlburgers Burger Franchise to Open in Coney Island

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Today brought a new twist to the November rumor that an amusement park is coming to one of Thor Equities’ CEO Joe Sitt’s vacant lots in 2015. The latest from the Coney Island Rumor Mill is that there will be no rides (insert unhappy face emoticon) but about 20 trailers with games, food and merchandise. If true, the games would fulfill the “Use Group A” amusement component required by the zoning.

The location is in the heart of Coney Island adjacent to Luna Park’s Scream Zone and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. In recent years, this lot on the Bowery between Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street has hosted failed flea markets and made a mockery of the rezoning in 2009 and 2011. “Festival by the Sea” and the “BK Festival” were granted City permits as a “temporary fair” because a flea market is not a permitted use on this property in Coney Island. A color coded map on Thor Equities’ website currently designates it as “Future Retailer/Entertainment Spaces.”

As a critic of flea markets on land where the Tornado roller coaster (1927-1977) and the Bobsled (1941-1974) once thrilled, we were happy to see the BK Festival and Thor Equities bring in rides, games and sideshows in 2012. Why not do it again?

MegaWhirl in Coney Island

Abandoned MegaWhirl Ride on Thor’s lot in Coney Island. November 11, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals with Thor Equities in the past, the lots remained vacant last year as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.”

Across the Bowery, Thor’s retail building is said to be the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May. There’s a vacant space on Stillwell next to the Brooklyn Nets store that was designed to house a restaurant. Rumor has it that is the location and it’s set to be revealed during the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

Mozzarepa and other street fair food at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park on Thor’s Stillwell Avenue lot, June 23, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Related posts on ATZ…

March 24, 2014: Will Rides Return to Thor Equities Vacant Lots in Coney Island?

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

May 16, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Aqueduct Flea Vendors Make Dismal Debut

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Wahlburg family

The Wahlburg family at last month’s grand opening of Wahlburgers Toronto

Wahlburgers, a burger restaurant founded in Boston by the three Wahlberg brothers–actors Mark and Donnie, and chef Paul Wahlberg– is the latest national chain set to come to Coney Island. The company announced today that New York-based franchisee Big Apple Burgers is preparing to launch six restaurants in Manhattan and one in Coney Island.

“We’re confident that our knowledge and expertise will be a great asset to the Wahlburgers brand,” said John Cestare of Big Apple Burgers. “It’s exciting to partner with the Wahlberg family and brand knowing we share the same values and family-work culture.” Ten days ago, John Castare registered the name “Coney Burgers LLC” after registering “Big Apple Burgers LLC” earlier in November. Since the deal has just been signed, no info on the franchise’s location has been released yet. (Update: here it is!)

The Wahlberg family’s adventures in the burger business is the subject of an A & E TV reality series that debuted in January. The Coney Island location, which is expected to open in May, will be scripted into the show’s second season in 2015. After opening the first restaurant in 2011, they made deals to open locations in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Toronto. Today’s announcement also included 20 franchise locations in Florida.

Wahlburgers

Wahlburgers menu via Wahlburgersrestaurant.com

Will the Wahlbergs’ celebrity help them win the hamburger market share in Coney? Boardwalk mainstays Nathan’s, Tom’s, Ruby’s, and Paul’s Daughter have burgers on their menus as does Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue. White Castle Express serves their sliders at two seasonal locations in Luna Park. Burger franchises currently under construction in Coney include a Checkers in Stillwell Terminal and a Johnny Rockets next door. The Johnny Rockets as well as a Subway Cafe on the north side of Surf have faced construction delays due to post-Sandy FEMA regulations requiring them to raise the floor by 2-1/2 feet. “Some of the regulations they’re making up as they go along,” broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ.

No word on the status of the Burger-Fi which Thor Equities’ Glenn Vogel said last spring was coming to their retail building on Stillwell. Has Wahlburgers grabbed that spot, which includes a roof deck? It’s a pretty good bet. Rumor has it that’s the location and it’s set to be revealed during the reality show. Check back for updates.

UPDATE January 31, 2015:

The location of the Wahlburgers celebrity burger franchise opening in Coney Island was publicly revealed for the first time today when signage went up on Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue.

Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

May 25, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

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

December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?

Read Full Post »

Thor Equities Coney Island

Thor Equities vacant lot on Coney Island’s Bowery at West 12th Street. November 2, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s not surprising that the Coney Island Rumor Mill’s latest rumor is virtually the same one we hear every year–that amusement rides are coming to one of Thor Equities CEO Joe Sitt’s vacant lots next season.

The woeful looking lot on the Bowery is adjacent to Luna Park’s Scream Zone and within sight of the new Thunderbolt roller coaster. One corner of the lot was occupied by McCullough’s Kiddie Park until October 2012, when the 50-year-old park’s long-term lease expired. The rest of the lot was part of Batting Cage and Go Kart City, which also featured bumper boats and a miniature golf course, and was evicted by Thor Equities in 2006. The last time a carnival came to this lot was 2012. The platform of the abandoned MegaWhirl ride remains.

According to the Rumor Mill, the construction of underground utilities are expected to get underway in preparation for a new amusement park to open in the spring. The Coney Island amusement area’s Palm Sunday opener– March 29th– is in 145 days. Despite various amusement operators efforts to negotiate lease deals with Thor Equities in the past, the lots remained vacant this year as well as in 2010 and 2013, when the City issued a stop-work order on a permit for “temporary parking for the amusement district.” We’ll tag this story #HopeSpringsEternal.

Thor's Coney Island

Thor’s Coney Island: Aerial view of vacant lots on south side of the Bowery between W 12th and W 15th where amusements once thrived. July 7, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

August 22, 2013: In Memoriam: Carousel & Amusement Park Operator Jimmy McCullough

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

June 14, 2011: Coney Island Kiddie Park Getting Squeezed by Thor Equities

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

Read Full Post »

Purge Breakout Experience

Purge Breakout Experience in Coney Island, June 12, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

One of Thor’s vacant lots in Coney Island is actually getting an entertainment attraction if only for a three day run. “Purge Breakout: An Immersive Escape Experience” is opening on Friday the 13th and staying through Sunday. Traveling through the U.S. this summer, the escape game/haunted house offers fans of the film franchise “The Purge” an opportunity to step inside the world created by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions. The trailer trucks housing the attraction pulled onto the lot behind Nathan’s yesterday and are setting up.

On the plus side, the attraction will bring people to Coney Island who purchased the $20 timed tickets in advance and are likely to spend money on food, drinks and rides afterwards. If you’re just finding out about it, the tickets are already sold out!

Can we do this again next month for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Related posts on ATZ…

May 30, 2014: Coney Island Fireworks 2014: Fridays, Six Saturdays, and More

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

May 19, 2014: New Thunderbolt Loops the Loop Again in Coney Island

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

Read Full Post »

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