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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Vitacco’

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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north side of Surf Avenue, Coney Island

1,700 sq foot Subway Cafe with Tuscany-style interior coming to this building at 1019 Surf Avenue. Photo © Tricia Vita

Last year ATZ asked “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012). The latest in a slew of chains and franchisees betting on the new, year-round Coney Island is a Subway Cafe with a “Tuscany-style interior” featuring sofas and a fireplace. Broker Joe Vitacco signed a lease yesterday 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 Surf Avenue? The building at 1019-1039 Surf was purchased for $3.1 million by 1019 Surf Ave Acquisition LLC in March for $3.1 million, according to Property Shark. Vitacco says the buyer was Russian multi-millionaire Yakov Yakubov, who also owns Loehmann’s Plaza in Brooklyn.

First introduced as a restaurant concept in 2008, the Subway Cafe’s 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. Part sandwich shop, part coffee bar, the Subway Cafe will be operated by franchisees with its lease held by the Subway Restaurant chain. They will take possession of a portion of the storefront occupied by the 11,000 square foot Lago Furniture. The furniture shop is on a month-to-month lease while tenants are sought for the rest of the space, Vitacco said.

Subway Cafe

Interior of one of the Subway Restaurant Chain’s Subway Cafes. The concept debuted in 2011

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. Dunkin’ Donuts (also in Stillwell Terminal), Coney Island Bar & Grill (formerly Bratva), Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and Applebee’s will be joined next year on the north side of Surf by Johnny Rockets and Red Mango and Subway Cafe. As we noted last year, rides and amusement businesses aren’t about to make a comeback due to the skyrocketing rents since the rezoning. “I’m getting more inquiries than ever before,” said 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.”

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.

UPDATE January 29, 2015:

After post-Sandy construction delays, Subway Cafe finally has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease

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

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 13, 2013: Grimaldi’s Rings in Coney Island Comeback with Dreamland Bell

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

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

October 3, 2012: Photo of the Day: The Weekday View from Ruby’s Bar

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