One of Coney Island’s most popular vendors is losing her shirt because she can’t sell her custom tees at the Stillwell Avenue subway stop.
Dianna Carlin said she was unable to open her Lola Staar T-shirt boutique as promised on Memorial Day — the traditional start of beach season — and doesn’t think she’ll open anytime soon because the blueprints for her shop have been bogged down at the Metropolitan Transportation since February.
“I really need to get that store opened — and Coney Island needs it, too,” said Carlin, who lost her lease for a larger Boardwalk shop last winter because she frequently criticized her previous landlord, Joe Sitt.
Carlin would be ideally positioned to attract foot traffic in the subway station, which is at the Surf Avenue entrance to the subway station in Coney Island’s amusement core, with the iconic Nathan’s hot dog stand and the beach a short walk away. But her success depends on getting the store open during the peak summer months.
“My business is seasonal, so if they tell me I can’t open until October, I really won’t see any business until next summer,” Carlin said.
Carlin signed a lease with the MTA in November, 2007, at a time before her sharp tongue angered Sitt and when she was looking to expand her presence in Coney Island beyond her flagship store next to Ruby’s bar on the Boardwalk.
Now, she’s looking just to regain a toehold on the hardscrabble peninsula.
“I call [the MTA] all the time and I get absolutely nothing out of them. I could pay them rent right now,” she said.
The MTA blamed a bureaucratic paper jam.
“We’re currently reviewing those plans,” said Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman. “The department overseeing them is backlogged.”
The MTA reopened the European-style Stillwell Avenue hub in 2005 after a $300-million renovation. It has retail space indoors and outside facing the street, with chain restaurants like Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts already on the premises. But the commercial space has never been at full occupancy.
For those still looking for a “Save Coney Island” T-shirt, you don’t have to go around topless. Carlin opened a satellite stand in the popular Brooklyn Flea trading post in Fort Greene. Her apparel is also available in the Dreamland roller rink — another Carlin-run operation — in the historic Childs restaurant building on West 21st Street.