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Posts Tagged ‘small business’

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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Wilensky Hardware

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, a third-generation family business founded in 1920. October 18, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

This year in Coney Island, Friscia Pharmacy and Wilensky Hardware on Mermaid Avenue and the landmark Wonder Wheel are marking their 95th anniversaries. All three first opened for business in 1920. That’s a remarkable feat of longevity in a City where every day we hear about another small business being pushed out by skyrocketing rent, the influx of chains or rampant redevelopment. According to blogger Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York, who recently launched the #SaveNYC campaign to help Mom & Pops, if you add up all the years in business represented, New York City lost 6,926 years of its history in the dozen years from 2001 to 2013.

What do Coney Island’s 95-year-old Mom & Pops have in common? One is still owned by its founding family while the other two were sold to new owners decades ago. All “own the premises,” as Carnegie Deli founder Milton Parker famously recommended in his 2005 memoir. Nowadays, that advice has almost become a prerequisite for survival in New York City.

Wilensky Hardware at 2126 Mermaid Avenue has been owned and operated by three generations of the Wilensky family. “It was started by my wife’s grandfather Samuel Wilensky in 1920,” says Steve Feinstein. Asked if he had any unusual and obsolete pieces of hardware that he could show us, he said the store used to supply Steeplechase Park with bolts up to 1″ x 36″. Unfortunately, everything in the store, including the old stock, was ruined by Hurricane Sandy.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, at 1505 Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Down the block at 1505 Mermaid Avenue is Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island,” as a sign at its entrance proudly proclaims. The banner on the side of the building celebrating the store’s 94th anniversary caught our eye last year and inspired this story. Pharmacist Anthony Morano tells us he has been there 42 years. His partner Frank Giordano retired in 2014 after five decades of service to the community.

It was Giordano who bought the pharmacy from Anthony Friscia in 1960. While we were in the store, business was brisk and an old-timer told ATZ that there had been another owner before Friscia. A druggists directory from 1921 reveals that his name was S. Gentile. Giordano says the apothecary jars they once used to make ointments, as well as measuring scales and other antique items were destroyed when the pharmacy was flooded by Sandy and had to be rebuilt.

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, “The Oldest in Coney Island.” March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Wonder Wheel was built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company in 1920 and designated an official New York City landmark in 1989. Today it is owned and operated by the second and third generations of the Vourderis family. The family patriarch, for whom “Denos D. Vourderis Place” (West 12th Street between the Boardwalk and the Bowery) is named, bought the Wheel 32 years ago this June.

A popular spot for engagement photos, the Wheel has a very romantic history: When Denos D. Vourderis was a hot dog vendor in the 1940s, he promised his sweetheart Lula that he would buy the Wonder Wheel for her as a wedding present if she would marry him. She said yes and he was able to buy the Wheel in 1983 when it was offered for sale by Fred Garms, whose father Herman was its first owner-operator. The Vourderis family restored the Wheel and made it the centerpiece of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

“It takes a lifetime of devotion, hard work, and dedication to preserve this wonderful landmark attraction,” co-owner Steve Vourderis told Amusement Today on the 90th anniversary of the Wheel. “We have a responsibility to ourselves, our family and most of all to dad to make sure its legacy lives on. It also helps to love what you do.”

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, Coney Island. August 9, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Turning 95 is a milestone but this trio of businesses have neighbors who have been around even longer. The original Nathan’s Famous, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016, is the City’s oldest hot dog stand and holds the City’s oldest beer license. Across Surf Avenue on West 15th Street is the 108-year-old Gargiulo’s Restaurant. Founded by Gus Gargiulo and owned by the Russo brothers since 1965, it serves classic Neapolitan cuisine and hosts special events from dinner dances and weddings to the annual Alliance for Coney Ialand Gala.

Two slightly younger neighbors are in their 80’s: The famed Totonno’s Pizzeria on Neptune Avenue since 1924 is on every list of The Ten Best Pizzas in New York City. The world-famous Cyclone Roller Coaster was built in 1927 by the Rosenthal brothers, saved from demolition by Astroland Park’s Dewey Albert in 1975 and is now operated by Luna Park.

For more info on Vanishing New York’s #SaveNYC, a crowd-sourcing campaign that aims to protect small businesses by passing long-stalled legislation in the City Council and starting a Cultural Landmarks Program, visit the website or join the Facebook group.

Gargiulo's Restaurant

Gargiulo’s Restaurant on West 15th Street in Coney Island. March 2, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

UPDATE March 11, 2015:

Thanks to photographer Lisanne Anderson for sending us her lovely photos of Friscia Pharmacy’s storefront taken five years ago, when they were celebrating their 90th anniversary. Note the neon signs!

Friscia Pharmacy

Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Friscia Pharmacy

Prescriptions Sign at Friscia Pharmacy, on their 90th anniversary in 2010. Photo © Lisanne Anderson

Related posts on ATZ…

January 20, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park Adds Scrambler, ‘Twist & Shout’ Drop Tower

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

March 5, 2013: Coney Island’s Mermaid Avenue Four Months After Sandy

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

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CLOSEd

CLOSED: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, 1987-2011. Its signs were put in the dumpster. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One of Coney Island’s oldest Mom & Pops quietly went out of business after losing their lease due to Zamperla USA’s redevelopment of the City-owned Boardwalk. Coney Island Souvenir Shop, located next to Ruby’s Bar on the Boardwalk, was started 25 years ago by Tommy Suh. After he died last year, his wife Sue and their son Rob carried on the family business.

Last week in Coney Island, work crews were busy cleaning out whatever had been left behind by the evicted Boardwalk shops. It was sad to see the familiar red-and-white sign from the Souvenir Shop about to be rolled into a dumpster. A second sign was already inside, its yellow lettering peering over the top. For as long as we’ve been coming to Coney Island, the Suh family has been rolling these signs in and out of the shop at the beginning and end of the business day.

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk in happier days. April 1, 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Compared to Ruby’s or Paul’s Daughter, the closing of Coney Island Souvenir and the other small businesses on the Boardwalk attracted very little media attention. In Bloomberg’s New York City, seeing a shuttered store where a longtime business was yesterday is so common that it’s not newsworthy unless the place is a local legend or the last of its kind. Even the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which has paid tribute to hundreds of vanished places since 2007 couldn’t possibly cover them all. After looking up VNY’s first year-end tally— “Combined, we’ve seen close to 1,000 years of New York history vanish in 2007”– we didn’t have the fortitude to continue the count.

Last November, when the Boardwalk Mom and Pops were fighting their eviction, we first came across this 2009 article on the web: “New York Closes Shop” by small business advocate Stephen Null. It contains some stunning statistics on the number of small businesses that have closed during the Bloomberg administration:

A reliable way to evaluate the stability of New York City’s small business community is to examine the number of Commercial Warrants for Eviction. The majority of these warrants are issued to “holdover commercial tenants” whose leases have expired, and who can’t afford to pay the new, higher rent. The consensus of business organizations is that these warrants represent about one third of small businesses; the ones that stay and fight in court. The other two-thirds walk away without a fight.During what many consider the reign of terror for small businesses — 1986-1989, the last 4 years of Koch’s term — 17,433 warrants were issued to evict small businesses, out of approximately 53,000 total small business failures. During the last full four years under Bloomberg, 2005-2008, 27,809 warrants were issued to evict, with about 83,000 small businesses forced to close. Since the successful businessman Bloomberg took office, around 152,964 small businesses have been forced to go out of business.

Keep in mind Null’s article was published in August 2009 and the stats do not cover the last three years of the Bloomberg administration. Is anyone still keeping track? To these statistics, we add six of the original Coney Island 8: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, Steve’s Grill House, Beer Island, Shoot the Freak, Cha Cha’s and Gyro Corner Clam Bar.

Zamperla’s policy of squeezing out Boardwalk businesses through evictions and offering ridiculously expensive lease deals is counter to the Coney Island Development Corporation’s mission of encouraging the development and retention of existing businesses. If the Coney Island 8 hadn’t fought in court and won a one-year reprieve, it’s very likely we’d have a shuttered Boardwalk and a Miami restaurateur would be bankrupt. The CI8 did the City and Zamperla a favor.

Now let’s see if Ruby’s and Paul’s Daughter can afford to sign those leases that they were offered more than one month ago by CAI, operator of Zamperla’s Luna Park. Sources tell ATZ that negotiations were extended another two weeks. Nobody wants to see the last of the Boardwalk Mom & Pops join the sad statistics of small businesses forced to close during the Bloomberg administration.

souvenir shop

Closed: Coney Island Souvenir Shop, 1987-2011. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

October 20, 2011: Reversal of Fortune on the Coney Island Boardwalk

March 3, 2011: The Lowdown on Sodexo’s Sweet Deal in Coney Island

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

Coney Island’s Beer Island is no more. The popular bar that sold a wide variety of beer on a sandy beach adjacent to the Boardwalk was trashed yesterday as you can see in the above photo. ATZ called Anthony Berlingieri, the bar’s co-owner, to ask what happened. “I wouldn’t say it’s trashed, it’s scrapped,” he said of the bar. “I told people, take whatever you want.” On Saturday and Sunday treasure hunters were combing through the ruins, picking up signs, plastic trophies and other souvenirs. The bar was one of the Boardwalk businesses evicted from City-owned property that had until November 4th to vacate the premises.

“The last thing I wanted to see was them use that bar that I built with my own hands,” said Berlingieri, who believes that Zamperla USA, the company that leases the City’s property in Coney Island is “looking to copy it and not give me a chance to run it. They would not even sit down to talk with me.”

After hearing the news that fellow evictees Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter were offered leases when a Miami restaurateur suddenly pulled out of a deal to develop the Boardwalk, Berlingieri phoned to pitch his proposal. But he says Valerio Ferrari, president of Zamperla, replied that it was time for him to move on. “If he would have said it in front of me, you would have read about it in the paper,” says Berlingieri, noting that he and his partner offered to pay for a redo of Beer Island, conforming in every detail to Ferrari’s “vision.” “I told him, just send me the blueprints. We will go partners, 50-50, on the gross. Not a dollar out of your pocket.”

Beer Island was launched in partnership with the owner of Cha Cha’s and a local arcade in 2008 on the site of the miniature golf course evicted by Thor Equities. When ATZ wrote about the bar last month in “Butterflies and Beer Island,” we discovered some reviews on Yelp that entertainingly convey its appeal. More than a decade ago, Berlingieri created another original, Shoot the Freak, which was evicted last year to make way for the new Scream Zone entrance. At the time of last year’s evictions, Zamperla issued a statement saying “We look forward to creating an incredible new experience on the boardwalk, while continuing to honor Coney Island’s magnificent past.”

“We kept Coney Island a place people came to all these years,” says Berlingieri. “The City gave it to a bunch of people who never stepped foot in Coney Island.” He is bitter that Zamperla pays only $100,000 rent and a small percentage of receipts for all of the City property they lease in Coney Island. Each of the Boardwalk businesses has been paying $100,000 per year rent, plus a $10,000 surcharge initiated this year. “Where do we go? It’s like a death sentence,” he says. “It’s not like there’s twenty amusement parks to move to. You’ve heard of the American Dream. It doesn’t apply in New York.”

Beer Island

The End of Beer Island. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

The current tally is 7 out of the 11 businesses that were Hy Singer’s or Astroland’s and then Thor Equities tenants before the Boardwalk property was bought by the City of New York in 2009 are now goners–closed, moved, put out of business. Four businesses closed and moved out by the deadline of November 4th: Beer Island, Cha Cha’s, Gyro Corner Clam Bar and Coney Island Souvenir Shop. Steve’s Grill House has to move out within ten days. In addition, John’s Deli, which subleased from Steve’s, and Maritza’s Souvenir Shop (formerly in the now-demolished Henderson Building) on the Stillwell side of Cha Cha’s had to move out. Pio Pio Riko did not join the Coney Island 8 in contesting last year’s evictions and its location became the site of Coney Cones. Four Boardwalk businesses were invited back, but lease deals cannot be confirmed: Nathan’s, Lola Star Boutique, Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter. Some deals are still being negotiated and could go either way, according to the Coney Island Rumor Mill.

Asked if he planned to relocate his two businesses, Berlingieri said Beer Island is over because Zamperla plans to copy it. As for Shoot the Freak, he would reopen it if he could get a lease that wasn’t year to year. “I took two empty lots and turned them into the coolest things in Coney Island –Shoot the Freak and Beer Island. I can’t build it and not see it stay.”

Another casualty of the eviction of the Boardwalk businesses is the L.A. based Gents of Desire’s famed mural “Hey Joey!” A couple of days ago, Hey Joey’s face and plate of clams were scraped off and made into ghost signage by persons unknown. We expect that this sad but apt transformation will make it less painful when the mural is inevitably painted over to make way for the new. Many thanks to photographer Bruce Handy for these photos from his Coney Island Photo Diary.

Ghost

The Ghost of the Famed Hey Joey!. November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy’s Coney Island Photo Diary via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 9, 2011: Paul’s Daughter Signs 8-Year Lease for Coney Island Boardwalk

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

October 10, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island’s Famed “Hey Joey!” Doomed

December 22, 2010: Photo of the Day: Shoot the Freak Is Boarded Up

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Connoisseurs of hypocrisy should enjoy this one: On Tuesday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) tweeted “Support your small local business,” yet refuses to support or say a word to the press about the nine small local businesses booted off City-owned property in Coney Island. The NYCEDC leased the Boardwalk property to Central Amusement International, the New Jersey-based operator of Coney Island’s new Luna Park.

It appears that City officials are trying to distance themselves from responsibility for the eviction of Mom and Pops by referring all requests for comment to CAI. In an op-ed in this week’s Courier News, Valerio Ferrari, president of Central Amusement International promised a “multi-million dollar program that will bring back the world-class mix of entertainment, dining and nightlife that was once a hallmark of the famed Boardwalk.” Last week, Ferrari told us that Luna Park is investing $1.4 million in a new restaurant at the corner of Surf and 10th Street, formerly occupied by Gregory & Paul’s. A Boardwalk restaurant/bar hoping to get a lease renewal would have had to make a million dollar investment as well, Ferrari said.

Also on Tuesday, Paul’s Daughter, the Boardwalk restaurant formerly known as Gregory & Paul’s, posted an invite to a party on Saturday afternoon at 12:30. “It’s on the house!” Come out and enjoy the best french fries in all of Coney Island (yes, better than Nathan’s!) and photograph their iconic signage, perhaps for the very last time (we hope not). Watch for our photo album and reminiscences of the 40-year-old Boardwalk establishment coming tomorrow! Paul’s is one of the nine businesses being forced out by the redevelopment.

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Paul's Daughter, formerly Gregory & Paul's, on the Coney Island Boardwalk. June 27, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

ATZ learned that the businesses, which had been given only two weeks to vacate the premises, were granted a four-day reprieve, presumably to give them a little more time to pack up decades worth of memorabilia and get out. Or perhaps the extension has something to do with legal action taken by eight of the business owners reported in today’s New York Post. Yesterday the businesses received letters extending the original November 15th deadline to vacate till November 19th.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the NYCEDC or its president Seth Pinsky to reply to our tweets: Waiting for @sethpinsky @NYCEDC to “figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park” and Let’s see if @NYCEDC will at least relocate the mom & pop businesses booted off City-owned land in Coney.

This Friday, November 12, will be the one-year anniversary of the city’s press conference on the land buy where Shoot the Freak’s Anthony Berlingieri posed the question directly to Mayor Bloomberg: “Is there a place for us?” NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky gave a diplomatic reply: “Our intention is for the foreseeable future to keep all the tenants in place, certainly through next summer [2010]. And we’re going to be looking to work with each of you to figure out where it makes sense for the various tenants to remain as we build out the amusement park.”

Hey Seth, come to the party at Paul’s Daughter on Saturday, November 13, at 12:30 pm, and support local small business in Coney Island!

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Related posts on ATZ…

July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

November 13, 2011: The End of Paul’s Daughter As We Know It–Will They Return?

October 13, 2011: October 13, 2011: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Americana Looking for New Beach

November 1, 2010: Out With the Old in Coney Island: Only 2 of 11 Boardwalk Businesses Invited Back

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“Predatory developer Thor Equities is evicting small businesses while preparing to demolish the historic Henderson Building…” In this video, you’ll meet two business owners who after 3 decades of operating year-round businesses in the Henderson Building have lost their leases and have to move out.

On Saturday we took a few lousy pix of Popeye’s knowing it would be our last chance. After 27 years in Coney Island, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits was expected to serve its last supper to customers on Sunday. Today we’re hearing Popeye’s may have gotten a few days reprieve, if you want to head over for a last snack. The Henderson Building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell is one of four lots in Coney Island rezoned last summer for 30-story high rise hotels, which set the stage for the current evictions and demolitions.

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The historic building once known as the Henderson Music Hall is slated to be demolished next month.  In the video, the business owners comments are punctuated by the drill of machinery.  You’ll see workers carrying out asbestos abatement/demolition on the building’s roof without any protection for the people below.  (But that’s another story,  which ATZ has been reporting.)

Maritza, who has operated the souvenir stand on the Stillwell Ave side of the Henderson building for 30 years,  began packing up and moving out on August 11.  In the video, she says she got one week’s notice. “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,” Maritza says in the video. After Thor announced demolition plans in April, 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.

Will Popeye’s and Maritza find a spot in Joe Sitt’s future Mall of Coney Island? That depends on whether you think such a thing will ever be built. From where we stand, Joe Sitt is just creating another empty lot in Coney Island to add to his collection of empty lots. If you’re skeptical, we suggest you take a look at what the now decimated Stillwell Avenue looked like before Joe Sitt.

Evicted by Thor Equities, Popeye's Chicken in Coney Island Closes after 27 Years. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE April 10, 2012:

Popeyes Chicken reopened today at 1220 Surf Avenue, a new doors down from their original location, in a building owned by another landlord. The popular fast-food restaurant’s new home is in the Popper Building, which has a distinctive old copper sign that says “Herman Popper & Bro.” and a colorful history.
“Relocated Popeyes Set to Open Today in Coney Island,” ATZ, April 10, 2010

UPDATE August 24, 2010:

Popeye’s last chicken dinner will be served tonight! After 27 years at this location, the restaurant will close at midnight. Thirty people, including 20 year-round employees, are now out of work. The owner has until the end of the month to move out his equipment. He hopes to stay in Coney Island and is looking at two locations- one on the south side of Surf Avenue and another on the north side. We wish him luck and hope to see Popeye’s back soon!

Save Coney Island is giving free walking tours every Sunday through the end of September. The tours highlight the four soon-to-be demolished buildings owned by Thor Equities along Surf Avenue as well as some of Coney’s existing landmarks. This Sunday’s guest tour guide will be historian Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found.

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Crack of Dawn Demo Work Attracts Scrutiny

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

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

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ATZ is happy to see Coney Island’s small businesses alive and kicking in the first year of Coney Island’s predicted rebirth. The good news is that all of the familiar mom-and-pop shops, bars and eateries on Coney Island’s Boardwalk are back in business for the 2010 season. The big difference is real estate speculator Joe Sitt is no longer their landlord and unlike previous years, they didn’t suffer a rent hike.

Coney Island Souvenir Shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Rolling Sign: Souvenir Shop on the Boardwalk in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

When the City of New York bought 6.9 acres of Coney Island property from Thor Equities in November, existing tenants on the Boardwalk were offered a one-year lease at last year’s rate, including one tenant who’d famously gotten the boot from Thor: The Lola Star Boutique. We’re thrilled that Lola aka entrepreneur Dianna Carlin is back in her original location next to Ruby’s after a one-year absence. Carlin, the founder of Save Coney Island, had not been offered a lease in 2009 by Thor because of her outspokenness on Coney Island development issues.

Lola Star Boutique Returns! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Lola Star Boutique Returns! Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Rink, located in the Childs Building on the Boardwalk and leased from Taconic Investment Partners, will reopen next month. (Update 5/16: The roller rink will NOT return to Coney!) Other returning Boardwalk businesses scheduled to open in the coming weeks: Pio Pio Rico–“The House of the Best Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken”— located in the former Astroland arcade, Beer Island, and Nathan’s Famous Boardwalk location.

Best French Fries Sold Here: Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The Best French Fries Sold Here! Paul's Daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Paul’s Daughter, Gyro Corner, Ruby’s Bar & Grill, Cha Cha’s, Steve’s Grill House, Rosa’s Tacos & Juice Bar and the Coney Island Souvenir Shop next to Ruby’s are already open daily. Weather permitting, of course. The Lola Star Boutique and Shoot the Freak are currently open weekends. Also open daily in Coney Island: Nathan’s Famous original location at Surf and Stillwell, Williams Candy, Coney Island Beach Shop and the WCS New York Aquarium.

JT & Cha Cha Welcome You to Coney Island 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

JT & Cha Cha Welcome You to Coney Island 2010. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

On Wednesday, a painter was touching up the sign at Steve’s Grill House. ATZ observed many people out and about on the Boardwalk. We chatted with several British tourists who’d been stranded in New York by the volcanic ash cloud. It was a sunny, breezy afternoon until rain sent everyone scurrying for cover and the Coney Island Souvenir Shop wheeled in their sign.

Touching Up the Sign at Steve's Grill House on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Touching Up the Sign at Steve's Grill House on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Coney Island Souvenir Shop owner Tom Suh died in a car accident in March and is much missed by his Coney Island friends and family. On Easter Sunday, we offered our condolences to Mrs. Suh, who is recovering from the accident, and son Rob, who is carrying on the family business.

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Mrs. Suh in her family's souvenir shop on the Boardwalk. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Last Friday, it was decidedly chilly in Coney Island, yet a photo shoot with a bikini-clad model was in progress on the Beach. We ducked into Ruby’s Bar and Grill, where it’s cozy and Beato was manning the grill. Did you know that Coney Island Boardwalk’s oldest bar and grill is among the Travel Channel’s “Top 21 sexiest beach bars”? Ruby’s has a brand-new website at www.rubysconeyisland.com or follow their Facebook fan page for news of upcoming events.

At Ruby's on Friday Afternoon: Beato Minds the Store. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

At Ruby's on Friday Afternoon: Beato Minds the Store. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Ruby’s namesake–Ruby Jacobs–bought the bar in 1975. That’s his portrait with the Parachute Jump amid the vintage photos on the oft-photographed wall. After Ruby’s death in 2000, West 12th Street was named Ruby Jacobs Way in his honor. His daughters and son-in-law continue to run the family-owned business. Cheers to Coney Island’s 2010 season!

Wall of Photos at Ruby's Bar in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Wall of Photos at Ruby's Bar in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

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March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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

February 7, 2010: Coney Island Valentine: Get a Sea Lion Kiss at New York Aquarium!

February 3, 2010: New in 2010: Coney Island Fun Phone Addition to CI Fun Guide

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