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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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Coney Island Bowery

On Coney Island’s Bowery, indie amusement operators put up pennants for Memorial Day 2015. Will they be back in 2016? May 23, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thor Equities’ CEO Joe Sitt is expanding his Coney Island empire by buying up three Bowery lots on both sides of West 12th Street. ATZ has learned that longtime property owner Jeff Persily and partner Matthew Weinberg are in contract with Thor to sell their property at 1105 Bowery (309 W 12th St), 1205 Bowery and 1207 Bowery. According to the agreement, the scheduled closing date is December 18, 2015.

The acquisition has set off speculation that the Bowery buildings are destined for a date with the wrecking ball, as one of Thor’s long vacant lots on West 12th Street is zoned for a 30-story hotel. With the purchase of 1105 Bowery, which stretches from West 12th Street to Jones Walk, Thor will own the entire block bounded by Surf Avenue and the Bowery with the exception of one privately owned lot on Jones Walk. Apart from the current tenants of 1105 Bowery, the rest of the Thor-owned lots and buildings on the block are vacant due to rent increases, evictions and demolitions that began in 2007 and culminated in 2010.

1205 Bowery Coney Island

Water Race Game and Gyro Corner are among the tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery, which is being bought by Thor Equities. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

A few days before Halloween, Weinberg met with some of their Bowery tenants, which include a bar and grill, food stands, games and photo and souvenir booths. He informed them the property was sold and that a Thor rep would contact them, setting off rumblings in the Coney Island Rumor Mill. Who will get to stay, for how long, and at what price? Some tenants were told to expect “a moderate rent increase,” sources tell ATZ.

The block where 1105 Bowery is located includes the vacant lot on West 12th across from Coney Island USA where the demolished Bank of Coney Island stood from 1923 until 2010, and the lot where the boarded up Grashorn Building, Coney Island’s oldest building, remains. The bank lot was rezoned for a hotel up to 30 stories, effectively dooming the historic building. Despite public outcry and a NY Times editorial against a wall of hotels on the south side of Surf, which will cast long shadows on the amusement zone, the Bloomberg administration pushed it through. The big beneficiary was Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, who owns two of the Surf Avenue lots zoned for hotels.

A Winner Every Game

A Winner Every Game. This Water Race on Jones Walk is one of the tenants at 1105 Bowery, Coney Island. June 21, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery include Gyro Corner and neighboring games and souvenir stands on West 12th Street. At 1105 Bowery, tenants are Margarita Island Bar & Grill, the 5D cinema, frozen yogurt, a basketball and dart games, water races, a food stand on the corner of Jones Walk and a photo booth and tattoo shop. Gyro Corner was on the Boardwalk, where Nathan’s is now, until Thor sold the property to the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which turned it over to Zamperla. Gyro was among five Boardwalk businesses that got the boot. So did Beer Island, which was reborn last year as Margarita Island on the Bowery.

Margarita Island

On Coney Island’s Bowery, Margarita Island and neighboring games getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend 2015. May 13, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Margarita Island owner Carl Muraca is optimistic about being back in 2016. He said Thor’s rep told him that “Joe Sitt knows you love Coney Island as much he loves Coney Island and he’s glad to have you there. We had a very positive conversation,” Muraca told ATZ. He is also a former Thor tenant, having owned Faber’s Fascination in the Henderson Building, a year-round arcade which lost its lease when the building was demolished. Muraca later moved his arcade to another Thor building, now vacant, on Surf.

Thor Equities also owns the lots on the south side of the Bowery, from West 12th Street to West 15th Street. On the north side, Thor properties include the building housing the Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade and Thor’s new “Retail Ride of A Lifetime” building where the Brooklyn Nets Shop and Wahlburger’s represent the new Coney Island’s displacement of amusements for shiny new retail and franchises.

Jones Walk Coney Island

Still open for business: Airbrush Tattoo stand on Jones Walk is a tenant at 1105 Bowery. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Bowery’s Mom & Pops will be able to afford to stay in their spots next season and get more than a one-year reprieve. All are survivors who’ve had to move multiple times due to changes in property ownership leading up to and since the City’s Coney Island Rezoning of 2009. With redevelopment on the horizon for these blocks, the Bowery could be the last stand for some of these small businesses. As we reported in “The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks” (ATZ, November 2, 2013), an amusement business owner who had leased a small stand on the Walk from Thor in 2008 told us in 2009 that the rent had tripled from $8,000 to $24,000. He declined the space and left Coney Island, never to return.

Jones Walk, Off season

Jones Walk, off season. The long vacant Thor-owned Grashorn building, Coney Island’s oldest on the right. November 4, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 29, 2015: Environmental Assessment Underway at Coney Island’s Shore Theater

October 20, 2015: Goodbye Ghost Hole, MCU Parking Lot? City’s Coney Land Grab Not Just Vacant Land

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

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

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Coney Island Colorado

Coney Island Colorado Diner, Bailey, CO. Photo © RoadsideArchitecture.com

The historic 1960’s hot-dog shaped Coney Island Boardwalk restaurant in Bailey, Colorado, is up for sale again. Somebody is going to be sorry they didn’t buy it in 2011. The asking price is triple what it was back then, making it perhaps the priciest hot dog ever. According to local news reports, owner Ron Aigner is retiring and has listed the property for $1,495,000.

The diner’s designer Marcus Shannon of Lakewood, Colorado, planned a chain of hot dog diners and filed a patent for the design in 1965. The eatery was originally located on West Colfax in Denver. Since 1970, the Coney Island Boardwalk has been on scenic US Highway 285, first in Aspen Park and then in Bailey, about 30 miles southwest of Denver. The bun is 35 feet long and the hot dog 42 feet. Made of concrete-and-steel, this fine example of novelty architecture weighs a hefty 18 tons.

The building has been hailed as “the best example of roadside architecture in the state” by Thomas J. Noel, a Professor of History and Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies at the University of Colorado. In reply to ATZ’s email when the hot dog diner first went up for sale, Noel (aka “Dr. Colorado”) wrote: “We Coloradans should rally to save one of our greatest culinary landmarks, a most delicious morsel of pop roadside art. Hot Dog! Don’t let the Coney Island die.”

The first photo in this post was taken by our friend RoadsideNut, a New Yorker who has extensively documented America’s roadside architecture on her website. Check out the Burgers and Hot Dogs page, where the Coney Island in Colorado appears along with Top Dog, Giant Burger and other architectural wonders.

Broker Jim Urban posted a video tour of the Coney Island Boardwalk diner property on YouTube:

Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2014: ATZ’s Guide to Coney Island’s Honorary Walks and Places

June 10, 2014: What’s New at Paul’s Daughter: Lobster Rolls, Mama Burger Fundraiser, LEDs

January 28, 2011: Colorado’s Hot Dog-Shaped Coney Island Boardwalk Diner For Sale

January 19, 2010: Nathan Slept Here! Coney Island’s Feltman’s Kitchen Set for Demolition

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