What’s wrong with Seventh Avenue? The other day, I walked our main commercial spine and counted 20 empty storefronts.
With rents edging towards $100 a square foot — one of the highest rates in Brooklyn — perhaps only Rite Aid, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble can make money.
At the same time, smaller stores scrimp, save and struggle for a few years, then give up the ghost. In my 10 years in the Slope, I have seen it happen again and again (remember Christopher’s? Mostly Modern? We Got It?)
When I moved in, we still had shoe repair shops, butchers, a local wine shop with a Plexiglas cage for the cashier, and no places to buy a $50 t-shirt (let alone a $50 meal!).
Times have changed. Certainly, we still want a vibrant, real neighborhood, but what does that even mean nowadays? I asked a dozen or so people and here’s what I heard:
Topping the list was a deli: a real, New York deli that sells good matzoh ball soup and excellent pastrami on rye. Keep dreaming — I personally know one major Smith Street restaurateur who has the same dream, yet believes it would flop because who eats flanken and cholent anymore?
More restaurants, especially affordable, ethnic spots like Vietnamese and Middle Eastern, also made my neighbors’ “must-have” list.
Some South Slopers pushed for banks. North Slope has its share, but south of Carroll Street there are none (although a new Bank of America is supposedly coming to Ninth Street).
Others told me they wanted a shoe repair place, but it’s another pipe dream in a world of disposable footwear.
Lack of a butcher was another lament; we used to have two along the avenue, now we have none. The one on Prospect Park West in Windsor Terrace is always filled with meat-loving migrants from the Slope. Why can’t such a store survive on Seventh Avenue?
This being Brooklyn, people also told me what they don’t want: mobile phone stores, nail salons and real-estate offices.
We want Seventh to be both practical and frivolous. Sometimes we want to spend $200 on a handbag, and other times we need dry cleaning, vegetables or office supplies.
The bottom line is that stores will always come and go. But there is one thing that doesn’t change: If you like a store, shop there, or it’ll be gone.
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