Photo of dry cleaners on 97th Street that closed last month by Anya Stiglitz.
By Leonora Desar
Commercial rents around 96th Street have boomed in the past year or so, and many local businesses in the area have shut their doors. Store owners tell us that rents have been rocketing higher in the past year, and they hold their breath every time they have to sign a new lease. One idea we’ve heard: the new subway station on 96th Street and Broadway is helping boost property values in the area, and is encouraging landlords to raise rents.
At Gourmet Garage on Broadway between 96th and 97th Streets, which is closing on Christmas Eve, the landlord was planning to hike rent, supposedly by more than 50%, said Andy Arons of Gourmet Garage. The landlord is breaking up the space into smaller stores, and all the the spaces have been rented, Arons said. That’s a curious development, given that the trend in recent years on the Upper West Side is to find a well-heeled tenant willing to rent a big space, and to get rid of the smaller shops.
Gourmet Garage is looking for a new store in the area, Arons told us.
Other store owners have also reported being stunned by recent rent increases.
For Sam Laroche, the owner of pet store Petqua, rent increases and higher expenses are coming at a particularly bad time — because of the rough economy, business has been really slow, he told us when we chatted with him in October. When it comes time for businesses to renew their leases they find that they simply can’t afford to and close. “Typically the cost of leases go up and that’s understood – because you’re supposed to expand your business and become more profitable as time goes on and people know you. But now that profitability is not happening, especially with the way the economy is now.” According to Laroche, this is what happened to the Korean deli Golden Boy Mart, which closed its doors earlier this month after 35 years when they couldn’t afford to renew their lease.
Leo Levi of the barbershop Reamir & Co on 97th and Broadway agreed that rents have gotten so high that it’s become particularly difficult for small stores to stay open. “At the end of the day it works out better to work for someone then to have your own business… If you’re a mom and pop business with no PR then good luck. ”
Kenny Dhanini, whose store RCI Discount Appliances has been at the same 98th street and Broadway location for 10 years, is also struggling with very slow business and hopes that things turn around soon. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” he says. “ It’s scary.”
The news isn’t all bad: a new 16 Handles is going in on Broadway between 98th and 99th.
Thanks to Anya for the tips and photos.
I went to the cleaners seen in the photograph and was sad to see him go. On the other hand, he was an older guy and said he was ready to retire. What this article doesn’t mention (others have) is that while Gourmet Garage closed, a Westside Market is opening on the west side of Broadway between 97th and 98th. The cleaners, as well as the Subway that just closed on 98th, are both contiguous to the WM space. Based on the interior demolition I’ve seen going on, their rents might have gotten raised or they agreed to leave so that WM could have a bigger layout. Golden Boy, the deli a block up, was overpriced and I didn’t find them to be very friendly.