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Souvenir Shop coney Island

Maritza Suriano behind the new counter at her souvenir shop in Coney Island. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

On Thursday in Coney Island, ATZ found longtime souvenir shop owner Maritza Suriano moving into Thor Equities new building at Surf and Stillwell Avenues. The most remarkable thing is that her storefront on Stillwell is pretty much the same spot that she leased for decades in the Henderson Building until she got notice to leave before the building’s demolition by Thor. The space is about three times the size of her former space, she said. The lease is for one season and runs through Labor Day.

As ATZ first reported, the building has two other tenants that we were able to confirm: It’Sugar, a Miami-based candy retailer, has the corner store and is expected to open May 3. Wampum, a lifestyle clothing brand and skateboard shop featuring 90% clothing which has two other locations in Bridgehampton and Nolita is slated to open in Coney on May 24.

According to the Coney Island Rumor Mill, a restaurant and bar with a roof deck are coming too but the name is top secret, though it’s said not to be a Hooters. Previous rumors have focused on Wet Willie’s and Hooters. What’s missing from this mix? The bells and whistles of an arcade or other “Group A” amusement attraction required by the City’s zoning in Coney Island. In the past, Thor Equities had advertisements touting Coney Island as “The Retail Ride of A Lifetime,” but has since replaced them with photos of the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel.

Groceries

Stocking up at Maritza’s Souvenir Shop. April 18, 2013, Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

The last time ATZ wrote about Maritza was in August 2010, when her business along with Popeye’s Chicken were being evicted from the soon-to-be demolished Henderson Building. At the time, Maritza said, “When [Thor Equities] makes the new building he promised to give me a 10 year lease, but I don’t know. They’re supposed to talk to me about it, but I’m still here waiting.”

After Thor CEO Joe Sitt announced demolition plans in April 2010, a rendering was released of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. At the time we thought it was a ploy to get demo permits from the City and put an end to preservationists’ efforts to get approval for an historic district in Coney Island. The site is zoned for a hotel of up to 30 stories. Thor’s new building on the Henderson site was finished last year but has remained vacant till now.

After losing her space in the Henderson Building, Maritza relocated in 2011 to a cubbyhole of a shop on Stillwell Avenue under Cha Cha’s. In 2012 she had to relocate again and opened her souvenir stand in a trailer at Cha Cha’s Steeplechase Park. “I’ve been in Coney Island for 25, 30 years,” said Maritza, “Before Stillwell, I was on Surf where the grocery store is.” Her spacious new store has room for groceries and beach gear.

Souvenir Shop

Maritza surveys her new space in Thor Equities building at Surf and Stillwell. April 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

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April 11, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Wampum Clothing & Skate Pop-Up to Open in May

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December 24, 2012: In Thor’s Coney Island, Discount on Retail Ride of a Lifetime

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

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Wampum

Coming to Coney: Wampum Pineapple Brim Anchor Snapback. Photo via wampumny.com

Wampum, a lifestyle clothing brand and skate shop with locations in Bridgehampton and Nolita, is set to open a Coney Island pop-up on May 24. The location is 1232 Surf Avenue in Thor Equities new building. The space is on Stillwell Avenue across the street from Nathan’s. “We just finalized the deal,” Wampum’s Lennon Ficalora told ATZ.

Lennon, 26, and his brother Marley, 24, opened their first shop two years ago and were looking to expand to another seaside location. Coney Island was familiar from trips to the Siren Festival. “We got a good deal,” says Lennon of the 2,500 square foot raw space, which they have leased from Thor through Labor Day. “We’re doing a minimal build-out.” Their neighbor in the still vacant new building will be candy retailer It’Sugar, a Miami-based chain also expected to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

The Ficalora brothers grew up skateboarding in Montauk, where their family runs the Breakers Motel. According to Wampum’s website, Lennon and Marley’s two shops are located next to their mother Helen Ficalora’s jewelry stores and her success as a jewelry designer was influential in their decision to open the Wampum stores. “The Wampum brand embodies the whole lifestyle that comes with skateboarding,” said Lennon, who was the first local kid ever invited to compete in the Van’s Warp Tour National Skateboarding Competition.

Wampum Nolita was named the best skate shop by New York Magazine in 2012. However, the Coney Island pop-up will feature 90 per cent clothing. “We hand print all the shirts and work with local artists. All the clothing is made in America,” said Lennon. The online shop stocks T-shirts, tanks, shorts, hats and beanies. Some of the items are made from 100% organic cotton. T-shirts sell for $30-$40, which is twice the price we’re used to seeing in Coney Island. Asked if the new shop will feature Coney-themed apparel, Lennon said, “I think so. We’re still finalizing it. There will definitely be some exclusives.”

Surf Avenue is set to get an influx of national chains and franchises–Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets, Red Mango, Checkers, It’Sugar. The upscale Wampum is the first small business to lease space in Thor Equities new building at Surf and Stillwell. Why aren’t there more? Back in December, a press release from Thor Equities offered potential good news for retailers and restaurateurs who wanted to get a foot in the door of the new Coney Island: “Thor To Add Local Flavor To Coney Island By Leasing Major Surf Avenue Parcels To Local Brooklyn Merchants At Reduced Rents For 2013.” Thor was said to be teaming up with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help recruit tenants. The idea was to fully lease Joe Sitt’s new building at Surf and Stillwell for the summer of 2013.

May we suggest a contest to attract a Brooklyn start-up with the winner receiving a highly publicized rent-free season in one of Joe Sitt’s remaining storefronts? Amusements in “Use Group A” such as arcades, games of chance or skill, fortune tellers, freak shows, wax museums and other midway attractions should also be given a percentage of space in the building as required by the City’s zoning in Coney Island. The Fascination Arcade, Shoot Out the Star and “Baloon Raceing” were among the old school amusements in the Henderson Building until it was demolished by Thor and replaced by the new building.

Update: This Wampum location is closed.

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Coming to Coney

Coming to Coney: Candy and Gift Retailer It’Sugar. This store is on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In 2011, Thor Equities put up new signage atop the blue construction fence at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, the gateway to Coney’s beach and Boardwalk amusement parks: “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME.” After eight years of real estate speculation and the rezoning of Coney, Thor CEO Joe Sitt’s retail ride finally begins this season. ATZ has learned exclusively from sources that candy retailer It’Sugar will be the first tenant at Thor’s new building at Surf and Stillwell. The plywood has come down from the boarded-up new building, which was completed last January, and interior construction of the corner store is underway for a May 3rd opening of It’Sugar Coney Island.

Coney Island building

Exiting Stillwell Terminal in the new Coney Island, the first sight one sees is Thor Equities generic looking new building. January 29, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Florida-based company was founded in 2006 and is “one of the largest and fastest growing specialty candy and gift retailers in the world with over 70 retail locations,” according to one of their press releases. ATZ went to the It’Sugar store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to check it out.

The place is pink ‘n’ yellow with a sparkly garnet floor and the music is blaring. It’s impossible not to smile at the sight of a supersized, one pound pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a one pound Hershey’s chocolate bar paired for Valentine’s Day until you look at the price tag — $40. There’s also a kiosk of old school candy like Necco Wafers and Goo Goo Clusters, jewelry that looks like sweets, T-shirts and novelty items.

Among the candy retailer’s other locations are the Atlantic City Boardwalk, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Universal Citywalk in California and malls from Alabama to the United Arab Emirates. There are also 22 “shops in shops” in Macy’s including Herald Square and such New York City tourist destinations as Madame Tussaud’s and Radio City Music Hall.

candy-inspired jewelry

Candy-inspired jewelry display at It’Sugar. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The upscale candy store will be the first sight visitors see when they exit Stillwell Terminal and will open in a Coney Island that is rapidly changing. Three national franchises– Applebee’s, Johnny Rockets and Red Mango–have signed leases for the north side of Surf Avenue, on property not owned by Thor. If you’re a regular reader of ATZ, you’ll know we’re not a fan of the plan to “revitalize” Coney Island by bringing in formula businesses and franchises. As we’ve written previously: Coney Island, the birthplace of the hot dog, the roller coaster, and the enclosed amusement park is famous for its quirky authenticity, but it’s about to look and taste more like Anyplace USA.

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June 10, 2013: Photo of the Day: Candy Treats at Coney Island Mom & Pop

December 24, 2012: In Thor’s Coney Island, Discount on Retail Ride of a Lifetime

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March 12, 2010: Photo of the Day: Williams Candy in Coney Island

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