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Another big deal on Bedford: Bagels and health food give way to chain

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The Bedford Avenue property owner who sold off some of his land to make room for Whole Foods is parting with another major parcel across the street, paving the way for another big-time tenant and ending two small business’s decade-long run in the Northside.

Landlord Yehuda Backer sold the majority stake in a commercial property housing the Bagel Store and Millennium Health at the corner of N. Third Street to Manhattan real estate investor Joel Schreiber earlier this month.

Backer would not disclose how much he earned in the transaction — a sale finalized a few days after he took out a $3.75 million mortgage on the site — but he told The Brooklyn Paper it was “quite a lot.”

He said Schreiber plans to combine the two now-empty storefronts and lure a large retail entity or a bank to the strip.

“You’re not going to see a Starbucks there,” said Backer. “It’s too expensive for them.”

The real estate swap is the latest change on a block of Bedford Avenue where independent businesses have given way to corporate chains.

Last month, organic grocery behemoth Whole Foods announced its plans to open a store at the corner of N. Fourth Street after Backer sold a block-long property to developers for $23 million. The gym New York Sports Club is slated to join the new supermarket, while the bank HSBC and the pharmacy chain Duane Reade have already set up shop on the block.

Rising rents on the street have made the block inhospitable to small businesses, according to Millennium Health proprietor Mohammad Aamir.

Aamir claims Backer wanted to triple his rent to about $30,000 a month when his lease ended on April 1 — so he chose to move to another storefront on Bedford Avenue near S. Second Street instead.

“I’d rather move to Manhattan and pay $25,000 a month, and make double the money,” said Aamir. “It’s not possible to pay that kind of rent, and there’s a lot of competition out here.”

Bagel Store owner Scott Rosillo claims he rejected an offer to stay in the space and pay $15,000 per month — double his current rent.

“The premise of Williamsburg as an artist community with small businesses providing for that community is going away,” said Rosillo, who opted to move his shop to a site on Bedford Avenue and S. Fourth Street. “Eventually that population is moving to the Southside — and it’s already begun.”

Backer said he offered Rosillo the opportunity to expand into both storefronts, but claims the bagel-maker rejected the pitch and asked for a rent reduction instead. Both parties are still hashing out a financial dispute over the property in court.

Some locals are mourning the rapid transformation that converted Williamsburg from a neighborhood of artists lofts to a community of luxury waterfront high-rises and chain retail, but Backer is wowed by the transition.

“It’s unbelievable how Bedford has changed,” said Backer. “In 1985, you couldn’t walk anywhere without stepping on a needle. Today it’s a different world.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.
Updated 10:06 am, April 11, 2012
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