Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Veggies on Franklin


Nostrand Park beat me to it (and I walked RIGHT by this place this morning, dangit!), but there's a new awing up at 785 Franklin advertising "Veggies: Natural Juice Bar." If you asked me what could stop the Franklin Avenue retail renaissance at this point, I would have to tell you "nothing."

Since I moved here in August 2008, Veggie's is the 16th new storefront to open on Franklin or an immediate side street between Prospect Place and Eastern Parkway (and at least two salons are slated to open soon). The others include, in no particular order: Franklin Park, JamRock Kitchen, Pulp & Bean, Breukelen Coffee House, Lily & Fig, J's Wok (admittedly, they moved from just down the street, but their new place is MUCH nicer), Nairobi's Knapsack, The Pana Store, LaunchPad, Mazon's Discount, A Slice of Brooklyn, Dutch Boy Burger, the dentist next to LaunchPad (the name escapes me at the moment), the MySpaceNYC office across the street, and the Laundromat at Park and Franklin. Two groceries have undergone total renovations in that same span (Nam's and the Franklin Mini Market), as has the J&B Kitchen at Franklin and Sterling, and as far as I know, only three or four places have closed (The Spice is Right, King Accessory, and Homage--which tragically burned down--come to mind).

So much activity in so little time--it's likely the reason that the Franklin Avenue 2-3-4-5 stop was one of the only ones in the area to experience a bump in ridership last year. There's a lot more to say about what this means for the neighborhood's future (Nostrand Park raised the question last week), but I'll leave that to the able commenters (Nat, I'm looking at you!).

18 comments:

  1. When you say that only a few places have closed do you mean only 3 - 4 new shops have closed or overall only 3 -4 shops have closed in the past couple of years?

    Before I moved east, circa 2007, I used to live on St. John's right off Franklin but I can't for the life of me recall what used to exist on the Ave, other than Fishers. Are the new spots taking over long time vacancies or old businesses? Either way, the storefronts have changed tremendously since I lived there.

    It would be interesting to know the vacancy rate on Franklin. Whenever I walk around I always feel there are a lot more vacancies than I would expect for the amount of activity on the Avenue.

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  2. I'm with Laurel. And when Spice is Right closed, the street actually felt really awful, especially because my front door is in the middle of that strip of vacant storefronts. I'm excited that there's finally something new opening.

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  3. What happened to Spice is Right?

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  4. Apparently the price wasn't right. From what I've heard - admittedly third hand - the landlord was asking for significantly more rent than they were willing/able to pay.

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  5. As far as I've been able to tell (and this is totally anecdotal), only 3 or 4 places have closed at all, and most new places have opened in vacant storefronts, or at least storefronts that were closed for awhile when they arrived. There may be another story here of lots of little places closing up sometime in the preceding years on account of rising rents or a changing customer base, but I'm not too clear on it. The impression I get is that Franklin Avenue had a VERY high vacancy rate until just a few years ago, to the point that lots of storefronts were bricked over and converted to residences. You can still see a lot of this north of Prospect Place on Franklin.

    The CHCA has the following on their page about the Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization project, which they started in 1999 targeting Franklin between Eastern and Atlantic:

    "In 1999 when the Project started, there were a total of 90 local storefronts on Franklin. Sixty-nine (69) were occupied and 21 were closed. Today, Franklin is moving forward. In early 2003, there are 108 local storefronts and 17 are vacant."

    I think you guys (Laurel and Dory) are right about the vacancies--there are a surprising number for a strip that seems to be in relatively high demand, and those four empty ones in a row were particularly depressing after The Spice is Right closed. That said, I doubt they'll last much longer, because the last time I stopped to take a photograph of those buildings, a realtor had her card in my hand and was asking if I was interested in property in the area within 5 seconds.

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  6. There used to be a cute dress boutique where the Breukelen Coffee House is now. It didn't last long...maybe a year...2007 perhaps? I think that if it had opened NOW it may have made it. It is great (but crazy!) how much Franklin Avenue has changed in the 4 years since I moved here. There were no sit down places to eat in the area and certainly no bars. Now there are places to eat, drink, and shop that I frequent quite often.

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  7. Pulp and Bean rocks!!

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  8. @Liz ... I remember that place. I bought a couple of dresses from there. I agree, that place opened about a year too early.

    Anyone know when that clothing store on the southeast corner of St. Johns open? That was there in 2007. When did that Tattoo place open? I don't think that was there when I was there.

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  9. @Laurel - That tattoo place has been there about a year or two. I heard they're opening another tattoo place next to the new Dutch Boy burger place.

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  10. @Laurel... I was always confused whether that tattoo place was a new location for the now gone Black Star Tattoo which was on Franklin a little further north, I want to say somewhere between Sterling and Park, on the east side of the street.

    Generally I agree, the overwhelming shift in business has been towards to filling of vacant spaces with what I would consider an average number of closures. The stretch on the east side of the street between Lincoln Place and St Johns still has several vacant storefronts, Veggies having been one of them. It is a largely positive picture, because there has been so much less commercial displacement.

    I have actually been encouraged by the strength of the beauty salon business in the neighborhood. While we white gentrifiers are all buzzing about coffee, bars and burgers (that's a self referential "we" and "white" by the way), and while I've read comments along the lines of "I hope its not another salon or beauty supply store", the fact that there is growth in the local beauty business points to a different kind of stability within the neighborhood that is less like gentrification that you've seen in other neighborhoods. Furthermore, if you look in the windows of the myriad beauty salons along Franklin on either side of Eastern Parkway, there are always people there; even late into the night. The barber shop or hair salon has had a historic and storied place in many black communities, and growth in those businesses even in the midst of gentrification indicates that the black community may not be getting displaced as quickly as people of color in other gentrifying neighborhoods in town.

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  11. (continued from previous comment, because once started, I can't stop)

    Though there are some bad changes that we shouldn't overlook, and they get right to the heart of the direction the community is heading in.

    Since this is already getting long, my one example is the loss of the building at Eastern Parkway and Franklin. People tend to only remember the Mazon, which opened a new location in a storefront that had been vacant for years, or possibly the fried food place, which I believe moved from that corner to the southwest corner of Franklin and Lincoln Place. However, I've seen very little reference to Wilson Desir's Office, which used to occupy the last storefront before houses start on that block, a center point for the New York's Haitian community. Wilson Desir himself died in 1995, but the office that still bears his name continues work with the Haitian community. If you've never heard of Wilson Desir, or have just noticed the office that now exists on the west side of Franklin between EP and Lincoln Pl, here are a couple paragraphs from his NY Times obit[1]:

    "He was 57, and at his death he was the Haitian Consul General in New York, a post he had held through further tumult and exile since his appointment by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in April 1991.

    The cause of death was given as complications of diabetes, but as his long-time friend, the Vice Consul, Guy Ferdinand, suggested yesterday, Mr. Desir may simply have been drained by a quarter-century of open-handed service to Haitians.

    "He was a tree," Mr. Ferdinand said. "People would come to the tree and take a piece of fruit."

    Long before he became Haiti's man in New York, Mr. Desir was the Haitians' man in New York, operating what amounted to a combination bank, employment agency, information service, and welfare center for his fellow exiles at a storefront on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

    Ostensibly he ran a translation and accounting service, but the big red and yellow banner outside read simply, "Wilson Desir's Office." And as the number of Haitians in New York rose from a few thousand to as many as 400,000, every crisis in Haiti or problem in New York drew them to the man they knew would help whether they needed a job, a handout or news from a relative in Haiti."

    As someone who is not Haitian, and who moved to this part of the neighborhood after Wilson Desir's Office moved, I cannot offer first hand experience of the impact of the move, but there is a part of me that can't help but think that the move is a very telling part of the Crown Heights saga.. As the neighborhood changes, I'm worried that many of the landmarks and cultural gathering points of the Afro-Carribean culture here will suffer the same fate as Wilson Desir's office; not displaced entirely but diminished from prominance to the point where most new residents don't even notice that its still there.

    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/15/obituaries/wilson-desir-consul-general-and-haitians-idol-57-is-dead.html

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  12. I keep typing long replies and they keep not posting..

    Long story short,.... remember Saje? The owner was apparently not the best, but the food was good and it was GREAT to have a real sitdown restaurant with a bar, good food, and live music/readings too. It was where the Pana store is now. I wish we had a sitdown place again on Franklin.

    Also, excluding the (2 that come to mind) bodegas that seem to make their living in less than legal ways, I always prefer a thriving business that serves the community than a vacant store front. I don't go to the hair salons here, but more power to them for making a living and giving the people here what they need. (I did try the ONE nail salon on Franklin north of Eastern Parkway and had 2 chipped nails before I was back in my apartment. Maybe a regular mani just isn't their thing. Also...not the cleanest of places for my liking. I will never complain about another nail salon if it's a place I trust to be clean and can do natural nails decently.

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  14. Thanks for all the feedback! Nat, I see Nostrand Park has snapped you up, which is excellent--I'm glad to see your work in print (or is "in pixels" more accurate at this point?) on a regular basis. Laurel, Liz, great stuff as always.

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  15. isn't it J's Wong?

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  16. Yes to the beauty salons. Btw ... I don't understand why the professional new comer types are adverse to getting a haircut at one of them. They do a *great* job on mine. Support your local beautician!

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