When the shimmery signs for the new pop-up shops went up on Thor Equities’ retail building on Stillwell Avenue, a sign with larger lettering promising ARCADE and a Steeplechase Park Funny Face, Coney’s symbol of merriment, took center stage. But there is no amusement arcade with coin-operated games in Joe Sitt’s “Retail Ride of a Lifetime” Building in Coney Island. It’s a phantom. The door, decorated with a sign advertising Retail Space Available, leads to a vacant space, maybe 10 by 15 feet, that would fit several machines at the most. Sources tell ATZ the arcade use was required to obtain the C of O for the building from the City. Why not get it up and running? Joey Coney Island’s Arcade! There are actually two of these phantom arcades –one on the Stillwell Ave. side of the Building, the other on Surf next to It’Sugar candy chain.
Before the season got underway, at least three Coney Island amusement operators were approached to put games in the building. Sources say an agreement could not be reached because Thor wanted a high rent and the amusement operators proposed revenue sharing, which is standard for owners of arcade equipment placing machines in restaurants and retail locations. Ironically, all but one of the retail tenants in the new building are believed to have revenue-sharing arrangements in lieu of rent, according to the Coney Island Rumor Mill.
On either side of the tiny nonexistent “arcade” are 2,500 square foot retail spaces, the maximum allowed by the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. However, the zoning requires that “At least 15 percent of the Stillwell Avenue and West 10th Street street frontage of any zoning lot shall be occupied by Use Group A1 uses at the ground floor level.” A measly 15 per cent! “A1” includes amusement arcades as well as open booths with games of skill or chance, such as water racing and shooting galleries, which used to occupy the spot in the demolished Henderson Building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop is now.
Use Group C, which covers retail and service uses, is what we can expect to see more of in Thor’s Coney Island. The pop-up shops include clothing and T-shirt boutiques Wampum NY and Brooklyn Rocks, Coney Island Convenience Shop, and the Brooklyn Nets Shop on the Bowery. Candy retailer It’Sugar on Surf Avenue is believed to have a longer lease.
The next chain store to arrive in Coney Island’s amusement district is Rainbow, which sells clothing for juniors, plus sizes, and children, as well as shoes. They’re set to open on the Stillwell side of Thor’s building, across the street from Nathan’s Famous. The Brooklyn-headquartered retail chain has 28 other stores in Brooklyn and over 1,000 locations nationwide.
Other chains coming to Coney Island are Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets, Red Mango and Checkers franchises, which signed leases with various property owners on the north side of Surf Avenue. Until the early 1980′s that 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. The last ride on the north side of Surf– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell —closed in 2005 and is now located in the new Steeplechase Plaza on the Boardwalk.
UPDATE June 13, 2013
Nobody ever said life was fair, but the first word that comes to mind here is DESPICABLE. Remember Maritza, who was evicted from Thor Equities soon-to-be demolished Henderson Building in 2010? She’s had a souvenir store in various spots in Coney for oh, about 25 to 30 years. ATZ wrote about her again in April when she moved her gift shop/convenience store into Thor’s Retail Ride of A Lifetime building (“Thor’s Coney Island: Evicted Souvenir Shop Returns to Its Spot,” ATZ, April 19, 2013).
Well, it turns out Maritza is the ONLY one in Thor’s building who is actually paying rent, in the tens of thousands of dollars, too. The veteran shopkeeper was not offered the 15 per cent of sales deal that the brand-name newcomers from small shops like Wampum NYC and Brooklyn Rocks to the chain It’Sugar and the Brooklyn Nets Store were given. Guess we’ll have to go back and update the December post about Joe Sitt’s press release “To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.” There’s nobody more local than Maritza. Rip up the lease and give her the break you’re giving everyone else, Joe!
Related posts on ATZ…
June 7, 2013: Coney Flea Market Coming to Childs Building on Boardwalk
December 19, 2012: Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?