A Gap Factory Store opened Friday at the corner of Gallatin Place, marking the latest suburban-style addition to a retail corridor long considered to be Main Street for black shoppers in Brooklyn.
The Gap falls into a commercial row lined with several national chains like Aeropostale and Aldo, which recently set up shop alongside the street’s once ubiqituous electronics outlets, jewelry merchants and streetwear purveyors — local retailers that could be forced off the thoroughfare entirely, according to Downtown real estate expert Bob Hebron.
“The day of the deli and the small shoe store and the gold chains is gone,” said Hebron, partner and vice president of the commercial real estate firm Ingram & Hebron.
Shoppers seemed excited about the Gap Factory Store on opening day, as customers grabbed marked-down jeans and dresses and lines stretched from the registers to the fitting rooms in the back.
A store manager says the company decided to open on the Fulton Mall because of the high demand at the Gap’s location at the Kings Plaza shopping center — a decision that certainly makes things easier for Gap-lover Deborah Andries.
“I shop at the Gap often, and instead of running into the city or to King’s Plaza, if I’m in the neighborhood I can just come here,” said Andries, who has been running errands on Fulton Mall for over 20 years.
But Downtown activists fear the store’s arrival is another step in the whitewashing of the historic thoroughfare, which doesn’t boast the fancy boutiques and restaurants found on some of the borough’s other retail strips, but actually commands the highest commercial rents in Brooklyn.
“The dramatic transformation of the area has been driven by luxury developers trying to cash in on a boom, one that does not rely on the long-term stakeholders who have made the area a success,” says Lucas Shapiro, a senior organizer at Families United for Racial and Economic Equality.
Shapiro blasted the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a business improvement district that has encouraged development in the neighborhood, for making an “effort to displace the current consumers with a wealthier clientele.”
The Partnership declined to comment for this story.
Though Shapiro admits the new Gap Factory Store may offer budget prices, he says even low-cost chains can attract more well-off shoppers and lead to increasingly expensive stores moving in later on.
But some of the Mall’s smaller sellers say they don’t mind the Gap — in fact they see it as a boon.
“It should only affect us in a good way,” said Adam Shiekh, a manager at Fino Menswear and Shoes across the street from the Gap. “The big names add more value to the mall. When the big names come in, more customers come to the Mall. That’s good for all the stores in the Mall.”