Eastbound and up: Prospect Heights businesses are on the move

Eastbound and up: Prospect Heights businesses are on the move
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Prospect Heights merchants have adopted New York City’s most predictable migratory pattern: the eastward move.

Pushed out by surging rents near the Barclays Center, or motivated to move for bigger spaces or proximity to their customer bases, restaurants such as Vegetarian Palate are following an age-old tradition by packing up and heading east.

“Rent over here is much higher,” said Ronald Wong, the owner of Vegetarian Palate, which will end its 11-year stay on Flatbush Avenue to move to Washington Avenue in early summer as the landlord converts the old building into condos. “It has to do with the Barclays Center. Since it opened, it has affected our dining and business.”

Wong says his brisk takeout business suffered as arena-goers started parking on the block during events and parking enforcement officers increased their vigilance — with no real uptick in orders from stadium attendees.

So he chose to make the move four blocks east to a storefront near Dean Street that’s bigger and almost half as expensive.

The shift comes after Chavella’s closed its brick-and-mortar location on Classon Avenue and moved one block east to Franklin Avenue in 2011, snagging a corner space with twice the square footage right in the heart of the booming community of 20-somethings surging on the Crown Heights retail corridor.

“This was just the right size and the right location in the neighborhood,” said Mark Malbone, the manager of the restaurant. “It’s been received very well because it was close by and we already had that instant recognition.”

Commercial rents on the up-and-coming strips on Washington and Franklin avenues are still relative bargains compared to other more established commercial corridors, such as Court Street in Cobble Hill and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope — as one neighborhood mover and shaker who has moved east herself is eager to point out.

Atim Oton, who owns the African-centric boutique Calabar Imports and is actively courting Brooklyn merchants to relocate or open new shops in Prospect and Crown Heights, packed up her Washington Avenue storefront for a more amenable location on Franklin Avenue last year.

Vanderbilt Avenue staple Aliseo Osteria Del Borgo recently morphed into a tapas place, but a worker confirmed that owner Albano Ballerini is making his own eastward incursion and will open a restaurant in the Classon Avenue space vacated by the recently closed Abigail Cafe and Wine Bar.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.