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Subway Cafe Coney Island

New Subway Cafe on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Photo by Stan Fox AmusingtheZillion.com

The newest in a slew of chains and franchisees betting on the new, year-round Coney Island is having its grand opening on Wednesday morning. Here’s a first look inside the Subway Cafe, which has long been under construction but until today was hidden behind a steel gate. Located on Surf Avenue across the street from Luna Park, the Subway spin-off features a “Tuscany-style interior” with sofas and photos of old New York. The restaurant’s hours on opening day will be 7:00 am til 10:00 pm.

First introduced as a restaurant concept in 2008, the Subway Cafe is part sandwich shop, part coffee bar. Its decor and layout aim for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and is a little larger than an average Subway. The north side of Surf Avenue already has a Subway, located down the street in Stillwell Terminal, but it does not sell coffee. In addition to Subway sandwiches, the new cafe’s expanded menu includes baked goods, dessert items and coffee offerings.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom & Pops are being pushed out to make way for chains or upscale businesses, the new chains and franchises in Coney are moving into former furniture stores or long vacant spaces. The furniture shops on the north side of Surf have long been in violation of the C-7 amusement zoning and are gradually being replaced by restaurants and bars. As ATZ noted in 2013, when we first posted the scoop on Subway Cafe, rides and amusement businesses aren’t about to make a comeback on the north side due to the skyrocketing rents since the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009.

Subway Cafe Coney Island

New Subway Cafe on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Photo © Stan Fox via AmusingtheZillion.com

“I’m getting more inquiries than ever before,” said broker Joe Vitacco, who would like to bring a seafood and steak restaurant to the neighborhood. “It means that people are thinking about it. But I call half the people I talk to tourists.” Vitacco signed the lease in September 2013 with the restaurant chain for the 1,700 square foot cafe at 1019 Surf Avenue across the street from Luna Park.

Just how pricey is Coney Island’s north side of Surf? The building at 1019-1039 Surf was purchased for $3.1 million by 1019 Surf Ave Acquisition LLC in March 2013 for $3.1 million, according to Property Shark. Vitacco says the buyer was Russian multi-millionaire Yakov Yakubov.

During the hearings leading up to the Coney Island Rezoning of July 2009, 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, as we noted in “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012).

Subway Cafe Coney Island

New Subway Cafe on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Photo © Stan Fox via AmusingtheZillion.com

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

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?

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IhopAfter weeks of rumors and negotiations, it’s finally official: the lease for a 5,400 square foot IHOP at 1019 Surf Avenue in Coney Island was signed on Thursday, broker Joe Vitacco told ATZ. The franchisee who will be operating the restaurant is Bryan McKenzie, who owns an IHOP in New Jersey. Construction is expected to take about four months after the landlord completes the vanilla shell.

The one-story building at 1019 across the street from Luna Park is a longtime furniture store, which is not among the use groups permitted by the zoning. The space is being subdivided into six storefronts by the landlord and the stores are in the process of getting new street numbers. IHOP will combine the three stores on the far left and the soon-to-open Subway Cafe has the one on the right. Two remaining storefronts totalling 3,000 square feet are expected to be snapped up by another franchisee.

Why is Surf Avenue becoming a mecca for franchises? “The franchise is a preference of the landlords in Coney Island,” says Vitacco, who has leased space on Surf Avenue to Johnny Rockets, Subway Cafe and Rita’s Italian Ice, as well as to Brooklyn-based bakery Piece of Velvet for their third store. On Mermaid Avenue, he has leased to such Mom & Pops as a fish store and a Chinese bakery, as well as a Jamaican patty store franchisee.

Surf Avenue

1209 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. Store with shuttered gates is the future home of IHOP. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

“First of all, the franchisees are better funded. They are required to have half a million to two million in assets. They are trained and helped by the franchise company and have a high chance of success.” Many also own multiple businesses, which enables them to spread the risk. The Johnny Rockets franchisee owns several other franchise restaurants, Vitacco says.

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, many of the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. 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, which have no connection to Luna Park.

The relatively large size of the stores is also a factor. The average price per square foot on the north side of Surf is $50.00 per square foot, Vitacco tells ATZ. On Mermaid Avenue it is $45 per square foot. “The difference in price from space to space depends upon the amount of landlord work. A space can be rented in ‘as is condition,’ as a Vanilla Box or as built to suit. The conditions will affect the rent.”

Asked why we aren’t seeing more a diversity of businesses instead of all restaurants and food? Is it too expensive? Vitacco says, “Because food pays the highest per square foot. Remember on Surf Avenue we are limited by the Coney Island C7 special zoning.”

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

According to the rezoning of 2009, permitted uses include:

–Open and enclosed amusements with limited accessory retail. Amusement uses would also include virtual reality and simulated gaming, dark rides, recreational sports facilities and water parks.

–Restaurants of any size, including those with entertainment and dancing. It would also include other complementary uses to amusements uses such as performance venues, bathhouses, breweries, tattoo parlors or wedding chapels.

–Retail and service uses complementary to amusement uses and beach activities such as arts and crafts production and sales, bicycle sales and repair, gift shops, and beach furniture stores. These uses would be limited in size and frontage.

Related posts on ATZ…

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

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

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?

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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.

UPDATE April 27, 2015:

Last week, Wahlburgers released details of the 6,800 square foot franchise restaurant currently under construction in Coney Island and slated to open this summer. Read more at Coney Island 2015: Update on Wahlburgers, Temporary Fair at Thor’s Vacant Lots

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?

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