Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roosevelt Island Gristedes Beginning Long Awaited Renovation, Moving Entrance To Main Street, Adding Cafe, New Deli, Produce Section & More - Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets Ice Cream Store Almost Complete Says Hudson Related's David Kramer

I noticed that renovations appear to be starting at the Roosevelt Island Gristedes supermarket this week


so asked Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis:
what is the latest status on the renovation of the Roosevelt Island Gristedes? When will it begin and what changes are being made?

I understand that the entrance will be moved from the side beneath the garage to Main Street near the Post Office entrance. Is that true?
Mr. Catsimatidis replied:
Paperwork all signed and submitted to the building dept for permits. Due to hurricane a little behind
adding:
Entrance moved correct
Cafe added
New deli and produce
New floors
Prepared foods
New decor
Reported last month that a representative from Main Street Master Leaseholder Hudson Related told me that:
... Gristedes will soon be undergoing their promised and long awaited complete store renovation. Included in the renovation will be moving the gloomy and depressing store entrance from beneath the Motorgate Ramp


to the light and brightness of Main Street next to the Post Office.


Interestingly, the suggestion to move the Gristedes entrance came from Roosevelt Island resident Deborah Beck during March 12 Town Hall Meeting with Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis...
I also asked Hudson Related's David Kramer for an update on Main Street retail stores. Mr. Kramer replied:
We have 3-4 pending negotiations. The ice cream store is almost complete, which will be followed by the natural foods market and then the wine store. Trellis is developing their renovation plans. 
Future Home To Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets

 Check out the web page for the soon to open Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets

mmmmmm, tasty.


Looking forward to Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets opening and the Gristedes renovation.

Also, here's recent interview of Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis from the Stoler Report.



Mr. Catsimatidis talks about Roosevelt Island at the 12 minute 30 second mark. He says the Roosevelt Island Tram "never really worked right".

Not sure what he meant by that.

135 comments:

rilander said...

What never worked right is that awful store Gristedes!

Westviewer said...

What about the broken window at the grocery in 575? Is that every going to be repaired? What about sprucing up the "boutique" in 595? There has been a sign up for several months that it is under renovation, but nothing has been done. The hardware and video rental store also looks terrible.

Westviewer said...

Much more important and better for business would be ending the price-gouging.

Westviewer said...

I hope the sweets shop will be distinctive rather than generic.

CheshireKitty said...

You and I hope. Why couldn't they lure a hip cupcake business to RI such as a branch of an already-established one from LIC or Williamsburg?

CheshireKitty said...

Hahahahha... in our dreams! And, if you watch the video, it seems he's contemplating buying Food Emporium from A&P, meaning there'll be even more consolidation, less competition among the few remaining supermarket chains - so he will then have even less reason to be competitive.

CheshireKitty said...

Excellent question. Is the deli not insured to have the window reglazed pronto? The boutique is more a quirky gift-shop I suppose - maybe Kramer could give them some money (from the money allocated to spruce up Main St) to finish the renovation. The hardware store is an important business to have on Main St and is admittedly cluttered but it's just a hardware store and after a number of years many hardware stores tend to become cluttered - there's nothing unusual about that. The boutique/gift shop is a different case though - it's supposed to be selling attractive gifts in an attractive environment. The hardware store - eh - look at Home Depot - nobody really cares about the industrial look or concrete floors or the lack of decor. If anything it enhances the DIY "cred" of the place.

Westviewer said...

But it's not cluttered. It's stock is inadequate. At Home Depot at least the windows are clean and somewhat attractive, and they stock things you actually want or need.

Westviewer said...

I'm happy to see that an independent entrepreneur is willing to give it a try; I just hope he will attempt to give us something good.

Jesse Webster said...

I disagree re: the hardware store. The difference between it and Home Depot is that Home Depot is organized and CLEAN, and it sells quality merchandise. I haven't found the RI hardware store to be any of those things. I bought painter's tape there once and it had no adhesive left on it. Light bulbs I purchased were already blown. Not good.


Based on my own experience, I really don't understand how the hardware store has survived here. From reading the reporting and comments on this blog, it appears they weren't paying rent for quite a while. Not sure how they'll do as one of Kramer's tenants.

CheshireKitty said...

First, the stuff at Home Depot is not always that clean - the store can't possibly keep everything dust-free. But that's OK - it's to be expected these days just about anywhere. It is organized - then again they're often big box stores where the whole point is to be able to locate merch easily (or the assistants can look up where the items are). I haven't had a problem with lightbulbs or other items I've bought at the hardware store on Main St. I don't think I've ever had a problem with an item I've bought there - from dish towels, to vacuum cleaner bags, to high-intensity or regular lightbulbs, to all sorts of cleaners, soaps, boxes of tissues, household hooks - I can't think of what other stuff I've bought there. Of course I don't buy as much at the hardware store as I used to because of the advent of Home Depot and Costco. Undoubtedly the hardware store still has a customer base on the island that's not in a position to travel off-island to other hardware stores and if no other hardware store want to locate on Main St they should be kept on since they're the only one around on RI. I have no idea how they will do in the future; they may eventually decide to pack it in and retire. They're an old-line mom-'n'-pop store who are part of the social "ecology" of Main St if you will - a unique neighborhood store. You find stores like this in many small neighborhoods around the city - some with unique out-of-date store-fronts and maybe cheaper goods than other more up-to-date places - yet they may still be a local favorite for their cheap prices and sense of familiarity (perhaps friendly service).

CheshireKitty said...

Well, yes and no. Clutter is a subjective response - some may say it's disorganized, others cluttered, others may even see the merch as thinly spread out and inadequate, as you perceive it. Unfortunately if they can't make enough money to pay the rent, then they lack the money to buy stuff to sell - which is a very sad position to be in for a business. I'm exaggerating of course since they are always stocked up on some stuff that always does sell such as household cleaning necessities (Ajax powder, paper towels and so forth) lightbulbs, extension cords, so these things are being bought by them repeatedly to sell in their store. I gotta say I never noticed if the Home Depot has clean windows but I suppose it must if you say so. It always seemed to me hangar-like - industrial - with windows not much of a consideration one way or another. Home Depot stocks everything - that's for sure. But then again, you can always look for stuff online and eliminate the trip to either Home Depot or any other hardware store.

Westviewer said...

I agree with you completely.

bakgwailo said...

I willing to give him a shot - might turn out really well. And if not, we always have Magnolias right over by the tram and so many other options close by.

bakgwailo said...

Thank god for Costco and Fresh Direct, the supermarkets in general in Manhattan are sub par at best, or crazy expensive.

Anonymous said...

as long as you hippters Are paying these high rents. gristedes will Always over charge. he Knows YOU People Can afford to be ripped off

Anonymous said...

I wanted to buy a jar of peanut butter 33 oz. in gristedes it was 11.00 dollars. in Stop AND shop it was 529. gristedes is disgusting

Jesse Webster said...

You're not exaggerating on some level, because if they are in arrears on rent, they likely don't have money for goods. I can't imagine they are or have recently been profitable. Beyond just being sad, that means they aren't a viable business and should not remain on the island just because they're the only HW store.

Frank Farance said...

DIY "cred", on Roosevelt Island? Maybe Williamsburg, or at a Hope Depot store's weekend classes, or maybe Micheal's. From a merchant's perspective, we're a bedroom community.

My recollection is (feel free to make corrections) ... the history of the general store is several bad mergers, as they were encouraged years ago. Shasti O'Leary and her father started the video store: originally in the security perch at Motorgate, then moved to Montauk Credit Union, then left because of space for Roosevelt Island Council of Organizations - RICO (our 1990's version of today's Roosevelt Island Community Coalition), and the video store merged at some point with the hardware store and there might have been a couple changes in ownership since then. The hardware store started in the mid 1980's with Denise Stelljes and her mother starting Mother-Daughter Hardware Store, which was a Tru Value franchise. The idea was: (1) they'd provide things people needed for their apartments, (2) they'd buy things that the managing agents needed (only WIRE buildings existed then), (3) they'd leverage their women-owned small business status. The store was set up very nicely. After a couple years they sold it because they couldn't make money: the store had difficulty competing with the larger vendors that were supplying the managing agents, just as many other hardware stores had difficulty competing with Home Depot, Walmart, and so on.

The owners of the general store are nice people and I wish them well. Unfortunately, I think they're in a bind: not enough cashflow to support higher inventory, so they spiral down.

As I've said, I don't believe the one-size-all approach towards rents works here, as H-R is finding out. Those stores on Second Ave between 60-61 Streets have not attracted commercial rents. I've heard from Jim Luce (who runs Orphans International), they will be filling those stores on Second Avenue with NGO/not-for-profits (paying much much less rent). So the difficulty on Roosevelt Island bears some resemblance to the difficulty in Manhattan.

Or said differently, bringing it back to Roosevelt Island, at one rent level Main Street Sweets can do OK, and at another rent level Main Street Sweets will struggle.

Anonymous said...

Frank do you have a job

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the main Street wire. its a rag Roosevelt Islander is the way to go. THE wire is in bed with rioc

Anonymous said...

YES I agree

CheshireKitty said...

True on the persistent empty storefronts in Manhattan.. it certainly will be interesting to see how Kramer fills the empty storefronts on Main St.. As far as my comment on the Main St hardware store vs Home Depot: What I meant was such stores don't necessarily benefit from being "sparkling clean" since many home/car projects aren't - painting, installing, fixing a car, working on plumbing. If anything, having a hardware store that isn't exactly clean may even enhance its ambiance as a haven for DIY-ers. In my own experience, my dad was a factory worker who worked with steel/metal fabrication as well as in TV set production (in the days when TV sets were still being manufactured in Manhattan - the days when trains still rolled down the High Line and through the building he worked in). At home he was an inveterate fixer-upper or DIY-er - hanging wallpaper, building furniture, fixing TVs, retiling kitchen floors and entire bathrooms, painting, working on his car, etc. Because of his incessant factory/home/car project activity, he was never able to get the grime out of his fingernails despite Lava soap etc. Since he worked in an environment of grease and grime, some dirt at a hardware store would have hardly mattered to him - or put another way, he may have even felt more "comfortable" in a hardware store where cleanliness wasn't paramount and guys with permanently black-edged fingernails weren't frowned on.

Frank Farance said...

CheshireKitty, nice story about your father. Yes, I agree that stores don't have to be perfect: for example, I see the Deli as a bodega, it doesn't differ from other bodegas, and it mostly meets my expectations about a bodega: can get milk, coffee, bread, occasional sandwich, same friendly people behind the counter, doesn't cater to high-end.


True be told, I'd rather have a bodega than a high end deli, which would have to compete against other "deli services". (Note: I don't see competition as helpful in the same way Gristede's knocked out Bigelow pharmacy and then the flower shop, i.e., it doesn't get me better services long-term, it only gets me better services for the year or two of competition it takes for one to knock out another.


Or said differently, I really prefer the bodega business model (long life time) over the high-end deli model (much riskier).



So, yes, they don't have to be perfect. Just like the cleaners in Island House, they do a fine job regardless of that fact they haven't painted over the movie set storefront.


As for the so-called "improvements" H-R has imposed, they are as clueless as ever with their blue on slate grey signs ... check LIC and Astoria, no merchant would actually *pay* their own money for that kind of signage because it is terrible. Having common stenciling for business hours on front doors has negligible branding affect. The problem is: we're all paying for these improvements because H-R gets to withhold millions in rents from RIOC to pay for these improvements, which means us residents have less services.


H-R architects are entertainingly clueless ... entertaining because (1) you know children could do better, and (2) there is much research these color schemes are bad (which means the architects are colorblind or have little education). Other than the shaping of metal (which second graders can't do), second graders could to better.

mpresident said...

According to the WIRE article, they owe over $50K in back rent and the owner herself admits that she is not a business person. Enough to evict and not look back.

CheshireKitty said...

Visit your local family-owned hardware store for Black Friday shopping! Hardware stores are da bomb, you can find keen things there, it's not Home Despot (the owners of which are fully in the GOP's pocket) or WalMart, and their people are THRILLED to see customers. And they usually have interesting kitchen equipment. If you're lucky, there's stuff on the shelves there that is there because someone's Aunt Mabel wanted one years ago, but they could only order in threes. You know, like, a things with prongs and a whirly things you turn around, and...

Hardware. Local. ;-)

Westviewer said...

My local hardware store is Lexington Avenue Hardware between 61st and 62nd. They have everything I need; the staff is knowledgeable and helpful and the keys they make actually work. I won't miss the RI store at all.

mpresident said...

As the meme says:

Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

(I have been in a hardware store exactly one time in NYC - the home depot around 57th street. I bought a fridge for my apartment in Florida. Not sure why I would need to go to one any time soon. They sell lightbulbs at costco and maintenance fixes everything else.)

CheshireKitty said...

You wont get trampled at your local hardware store mp! That's the point - to go against the "herd" mentality and instead support local business. As for not going to any hardware store since arriving in NYC - well, I can understand that - plenty of people have no interest in doing projects these days since maintenance can take care of everything. It was more common to build shelves and so forth once (of course stuff to put on shelves such as books was more widespread in those days too). Still there are some who may wish to shop at a local hardware store, which is, perhaps, a dying breed at this point. RIP Main St Hardware...

Frank Farance said...

Will check it out, I use Home Depot (northern blvd), Metropolitan Lumber (35 ave + Steinway), or Home Deport (bulova), don't like Home Depot (3rd + 58st). Small HW store on 61st+2ave is nice.

CheshireKitty said...

Well bully for you Westviewer! I have always found the the Korean-American owners of Main St hardware very helpful. And are you suggesting they aren't knowledgeable because they are not perfect English speakers? That's terribly unkind - and prejudiced even - against so many owners and employees of small businesses who are immigrants.

CheshireKitty said...

There are many others throughout Queens and some in Manhattan - but you have to either take public transportation or drive/cycle. Maybe they should have let the RI Post Office close - since RI is really not much of a neighborhood anymore. Just let everybody on RI - whether or not they can manage or afford it (who cares?) - trek into Manhattan or Queens to send a package or if they have to buy hardware supplies that may not be available at the supermarket or Duane Reade, let them travel by train/tram/car to another borough..

mpresident said...

I always use the main post office on 49th street....

Westviewer said...

No, YOU are suggesting that. Does everyone have to like the same things you do? I don't know or care what the ethnicity is of the RI hardware store owners or the Lexington Ave. owners, but you seem to, very much. My problem with the RI store is that the stock does not suit my needs. I like lightbulbs that fit my fixtures and actually work; I like keys that open the door, I like to have a little choice for basic kitchen stuff.

CheshireKitty said...

Well, now you've got your wish and the Main St hardware store is no more... YOU can shop Macy's for appliances, or better yet, Williams-Sonoma. YOU can shop any number of stores in Manhattan - but some on RI do not have the means or ability to do so. Just keep gloating about the loss to many RI neighbors who are less privileged or able than you.

Jesse Webster said...

Given that the Post Office is only open for about 15 minutes every six weeks, and several (but not all) of its staff are angry bridge trolls, I wouldn't mind if the USPS branch by Gristedes closed. I think the Island would be much better served by a Village Post Office, franchised from the Postal Service and operated inside one of the businesses on Main Street. A Village Post Office can provide postal boxes, be serviced by the USPS for package pick-up and drop-off, and would likely be able to provide extended hours if operated as part of an existing business (for instance at the newsstand). That coupled with a couple of automated postal kiosks located outside the current Post Office or inside Gristedes, and somewhere in near the subway in Southtown, would vastly improve the quality and availability of postal services on the Island. http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/expandedaccess/opening-a-vpo.htm#p=1

Westviewer said...

Stop putting words in my mouth. Your deliberate misunderstandings are tiresome. All I wish for is a decent store that sells things I want to buy. I don't care about the ethnicity of the owners, as you do, but I do care about quality and value, not just cheapness, and I want overpay for anything, despite the fact that you seem to want me to.

Westviewer said...

Another good, local hardware store is Queensboro Hardware Store on Second Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets.

Ratso123 said...

Does anyone know the reason why the hardware store had to pay $36,000 which was owed by the prior owner before they could get the lease? I read it in the WIRE yesterday. I've never heard of a person having to pay the debt of the prior owner before you could get the lease. This certainly could have contributed to all these vacancies. I am wondering if this applies to all businesses everywhere?

CheshireKitty said...

I have no idea although it does sound unfair to say the least. Maybe Frank knows something about this (since he seems to know about everything else).. Frank - any feedback on businesses having to pay prior lessee's back rent in order to assume a new lease? Is that standard business practice?

CheshireKitty said...

I know it - they're not bad, although quite tiny they have a lot of stuff nonetheless - plus there just across RI on the tram. They even have a good selection of vacuum cleaner bags.

CheshireKitty said...

OK - maybe I misunderstood your original comment although to me it sounded like an implied or underhanded ethnic slur: You praised the Lexington Ave hardware store because, among other things "the staff is knowledgeable and helpful" and then declare that you "won't miss the RI store at all" presumably because the owners of Main St hardware are lacking in knowledgeability and helpfulness, whereas Lexington Ave hardware staff is knowledgeable and helpful. Right? At least half the people in the City of NY don't speak English as a first language (me included) so we all have to learn to get along with those whose English is less than perfect. Can we agree on that? I presume, unless you are descended from immigrants from the UK or another English-speaking part of the world, your ancestors emigrated (unless you are of Native American descent), or were forced to emigrate as slaves, to the US - so we, or our forefathers, were all in the same boat at some point in struggling to speak English. You say in effect that the owners of the Main St hardware store aren't "knowledgeable and helpful" in your comparison of that store with Lexington Ave hardware. Maybe I misunderstood what you meant. Why not tell us what exactly you did mean: Are the owners of the Main St hardware store not knowledgeable and helpful because they speak broken English, or because you think they are just ignorant of the hardware business, and in addition are not forthcoming/helpful to their customers, regardless of whether they can fully/quickly speak or understand English. In other words, you think they would always be unhelpful and ignorant even if they spoke perfect English, because of their lack of knowledge of the goods they are selling and a character flaw that makes them unhelpful to customers. Explain please exactly what you meant. As I wrote in my original response above, I've never found them to be less than highly courteous forthcoming and helpful - despite the handicap of the "language barrier" - and never had a problem with any of the merchandise I purchased there over the years.

Jesse Webster said...

You have an overactive imagination. Nothing that Westviewer said in the original post could be construed to be an "implied or underhanded ethnic slur." You are the one who took the conversation in that direction.

YetAnotherRIer said...

She used to do that a lot in the past but stopped for a while. I guess the old Kitty is back after all.

Westviewer said...

I said nothing about speaking English. That is irrelevant, except to you, There is o character flaw, just an inability to operate a retail establishment. The owner herself said in the Wire that she is not a businessman. Can you understand that is a problem when you are running a business? It's not a character flaw, but it is a strong sign that she should have pursued another line of work. There are plenty of immigrants and barely-English speaking people operating businesses in NYC that are fine. This wasn't one of them. I have nothing more to say on the subject.

CheshireKitty said...

You're both misinterpreting her comments, and quoting them out of context, to suit your purpose and not the truth. She was saying that any other businessperson would have left long ago, because of the leaking building and other issues (especially a lack of foot traffic) that she lists. She was saying that her staying on despite the problems of operating a business on RI means she's not a businessperson - because anybody who was a businessman would not have put up with the the problems and would have left long ago once they saw that the leaking space, in an isolated community like RI, generates only a minuscule income; thus, for any other businessperson looking to make even a modest living from a business, RI would have been a non-starter. To repeat: The fact she stayed despite the problems proves she's no (purely self-interested) businessperson - since any other businessperson (motivated by money alone) would have up and left long ago. Evidently RIOC, knowing about the hardware store's accumulating back rent, felt it was important that she stay on Main St - despite it. It sounds like serious pleading, even a form of "bribery" in ignoring accumulating back rent for years, was going on by RIOC, to induce her to stay. For RIOC, the community good of having a store on Main St - a place residents could go to - outweighed the fact that RIOC could not collect expanding back rent from the store (since RIOC, as anybody else, can see that the store generates so little in profit). As a businessperson who is supposed to look out for her own interests - insofar as she is in business to make a profit, she recognizes that she shouldn't have stayed despite what amounted to a heavily-discounted rent extended to her by RIOC over the years - she was prevailed upon to stay by RIOC year after year and then once enough years had gone by, she basically gave up. Trapped by the passage of time, by then she no longer had the youth, strength and/or enthusiasm to start fresh at a new location elsewhere. By then, she also felt an identification with the RI community - and felt she was providing both a community service and a store (as RIOC saw her role). In the era before Netflix and free downloading of videos became common, she was the "Blockbuster video (remember them?)" of RI. In the era before Home Depot, luxury development and the "let the maintenance do it" mentality, her hardware business was vital, if not terribly profitable. I think she is looking back at this story of staying on at a reduced rent but eventually falling prey to time passing which made it difficult if not impossible to pick up and start anew elsewhere - in saying she's no businessperson, because most businessmen would not have stayed (as proof, look at the empty storefronts up and down Main St) on RI. She was trapped on the island by the seeming "great deal" of a reduced rent into giving up the opportunity to actually make more money operating a business elsewhere. That's what she means when she says she's no businessperson - a businessperson chases opportunities and doesn't accept what she accepted over the years: A diminution of her opportunities in exchange for a "good rent deal" which, in the end, may paradoxically lead to her impoverishment.

Westviewer said...

Maybe the sad fact is that RI just does not have the critical mass necessary to support a hardware store.

CheshireKitty said...

In his comparison, Westviewer listed the "knowledgeability and helpfulness" of the assistants at Lexington Ave hardware as the reason he prefers to shop there rather than at Main St hardware. The implication is, If the owners of Main St hardware were helpful and knowledgeable, he would shop at the Main St establishment; we conclude that it is because they are not that he shops at Lexington Ave hardware. Thus, even though he doesn't say it in so many words, the contrast or comparison is drawn between the Lexington Ave and Main St hardware staffs' knowledgeability and helpfulness as being the deciding reason Westviewer prefers the former over the latter, that is, Westviewer prefers the Lexington Ave hardware store because its staff is more knowledgeable and helpful than that of the Main St hardware store. Why is this comparison an implied or underhanded ethnic, or anti-immigrant, slur? Since the Korean-American couple cannot help but speak broken English (since they are immigrants to the US from Korea) Westviewer seems to equate the ability to be knowledgeable or helpful with the ability to speak English perfectly, an ability many if not most immigrants cannot claim. Yet, it is impossible to list the innumerable contributions and "helpfulness" to the US of immigrants as well as their ongoing contributions - whether or not they speak perfect English. The contributions are to all areas of our culture and include the legions of steadfast and patient business owners such as the Main St hardware store owners. Often, it is only through their hard work in overcoming daunting odds, with the additional obstacle of the lack of perfect language skills, that there are the numbers of small businesses we see in underserved, marginally profitable areas such as our Main St. I went out of my way to disagree with Westviewer's position, which I also condemn as insulting to the millions of New Yorkers who are not native-born.

CheshireKitty said...

Let's put it this way: If the only thing you need is already made for you at an immensely large factory overseas, many local businesses - hardware store, bookstore, record store, video store, post office - are unnecessary.

Jesse Webster said...

No, you are projecting your own prejudices into this conversation. It's rude and uncalled for. You are not inside anyone else's head (and I suspect you're not completely inside your own), and your race-baiting does nothing to change the meaning of the words Westviewer actually wrote. Cut the crap.

Frank Farance said...

Westviewer, right. Essentially, I drew the same conclusions from the prior experiences. Maybe these items could be a "department" in a larger store, such as Gristede's or Duane Reade ... in fact, both sell some basic hardware items.

As for the ethnicity of the Main Street and Queensboro (yes, that is the one I like, too) stores, their ethnicities are not essential, but incidental to the service they provide. If one desires equal opportunity (e.g., ethnicity X to have the same chance as everyone else), then there is equal opportunity to both succeed and fail.

As for the owner not being a businessperson, I think she meant that she tried and hung in longer than some other people would have. I don't see any negative in her statement: it's not that she isn't a businessperson, it's that she has different criteria for a success than some others. Having an individualized sense of Success is probably true for most small businesses.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"Why is this comparison an implied or underhanded ethnic, or anti-immigrant, slur? Since the Korean-American couple cannot help but speak broken English (since they are immigrants to the US from Korea) Westviewer seems to equate the ability to be knowledgeable or helpful with the ability to speak English perfectly, an ability many if not most immigrants cannot claim."

And this is where you are dead wrong. Plenty of businesses run by immigrants with or without broken English are better run and more attractive stores than the one on Main Street. You make the mistake that you assume we have the same way of thinking as you. You are the one seeing things in racial ways, we do not. You interprete your observations racially, very few of us here do.

CheshireKitty said...

"... the staff [at Lexington Avenue hardware] is knowledgeable and helpful... I won't miss the RI store at all." Jesse - read the above comment by Westviewer. A reader of the blog who is familiar with Main St hardware knows exactly what Westviewer is referring to - in a perhaps subtle/coded fashion - when he cites "helpfulness and knowledgeability". What he means is the staff of Main St hardware are not as "helpful or knowledgeable" as Lexington Ave hardware because they do not speak perfect English. What Westviewer really meant is "I cannot communicate as well with the Korean-American store owner as with an expert English speaker, so I interpret this language barrier as a lack of knowledge and helpfulness on the owner's part. I shop at a store staffed by expert English speakers because I interpret their English language ability as a sign of knowledge about hardware, and with the ease of communication, they also seem more helpful." Because of the above judgment based on English language skills, Westviewer goes out of his way to shop at Lexington Ave hardware - this isn't just a random decision involving several hardware stores within a few blocks. You can be sure this is a deliberate, thought-out judgment on Westerviewer's part. He is convinced enough of Main St hardware's perceived lack of "helpfulness and knowledgeability" that it is worth it to him to invest time and money to travel to Manhattan to seek out another hardware store even though Main St hardware is just across Main St from his building. So the choice is not a casual matter to Westviewer - the lack of "helpfulness and knowledgeability" is, if not the key factor (he also sites quality of merchandise, and value, in another comment) then at least a major factor, critical enough to draw Westviewer's condemnation in the comment cited above. Westviewer unfortunately is picking on someone who cannot help but speak broken English, since she is a Korean-American immigrant. It is unfair to pick on a non-English speaking immigrant's English language skills because the person has no choice but to speak the way they do. Jesse - you can decide for yourself if prejudice, racism, or merely stupidity shaped Westviewer's judgment on the "knowledgeability and helpfulness" of the owner of Main St hardware.

Jesse Webster said...

Or it could mean that the staff just aren't helpful or knowledgeable, irrespective of their language abilities. The store, as several commenters including myself have previously stated, lacks quality merchandise and is disorganized.


Both the disorganization and the lack of quality merchandise are indicative of the knowledgeability and helpfulness of the owners.


A customer visiting the store might not label their interaction as "helpful" because a.) the product needed isn't in stock or can't be found, or b.) the product needed is of low quality. In either case, the visit doesn't fill the customer's need -- and thus the entire interaction is not "helpful."


A similar judgement of the owners' knowledgeability is likely. If I walk into a hardware store to purchase supplies to build a bookshelf, and the owner can tell me how to build the bookshelf, but runs a hardware store that doesn't stock the parts I need to build it, I'm not going to walk away from that interaction perceiving the owner as very knowledgable about hardware stores.


The "language barrier" you perceive and project onto others has nothing to do with it. As an individual who only speaks English, I can assure you I find many "perfect" English speakers to be unhelpful and unknowledgeable, even though there is no language barrier between us.

CheshireKitty said...

Now you complain about the cheap merchandise - not quite up to snuff for the yuppies, eh? Don't hold your breath for high-end stores anytime soon on Main St pal - it's a cinch there'll be more like Subway sandwich shop selling cheap stuff and cheap food to the many poor folk on RI, or to be precise - in Northtown. Yet, the merch in the late lamented hardware store was quite serviceable even if it was cheap, an ideal shopping destination for the many non-yuppies who live on RI. The store wasn't that disorganized for a small hardware store - whatever you couldn't find immediately, the owner was happy to either point out to you or let you know they didn't carry it. No, the store was not an IKEA, Home Depot, Macys, or Bed Bath and Beyond - it probably tried to cover too many bases at once as well as throw in stuff you would find in a 99-cent store such as the bins of cloth Chinese shoes and slippers. Actually, it would have been great if it *was* a 99-cent store and just went wall-to-wall with cheap imports from China, like Jacks. I think in the present discussion/dissection/post-mortem of the pros and cons of the store, Westviewer's comments smacked of the kind of veiled prejudice of the small-minded, that you find in people that claim to be liberal and open-minded but can't stand certain types of stores or restaurants that offend their taste aspirations or pretensions to taste, and in this case, clumsy use of language would be another negative factor. You notice that one of the darlings of stores today - Whole Foods - almost exclusively hires well-spoken (yep - that's a well-known term meaning non-dialectical or native English speakers) well-groomed young people who look like they just stepped out of the Ivy League and are wholly devoted to food. If Whole Foods has non-native English-speaking employees, say a Mexican-American who only speaks broken English, let me know - since I've never seen or interacted with one. People like Westviewer would enjoy shopping at Whole Foods because the shopping experience would reinforce their sense or fantasy of being part of the elite, living in an elite part of an important East Coast city and so forth, by shopping at a somehow "elite" store - the store is crawling with well-spoken young people, it is labored over by employees that seem to care, and to be associated with it even as a shopper adds to Westviewer's own sense of being somehow of the elite on some level. This show of absorption by food on the part of the workers, who come off as "wholesome" foodies, is absolutely planned and orchestrated by the management of Whole Foods - yet it works because it plays into the "story-line" that if the food and the people are genuine/authentic, the high prices they charge are justified by the perceived high quality of the merch, the artfully down-home yet sophisticated store and staff. That the stuff at Main St hardware was cheap (Mon Dieu, only Pyrex, no Arcoroc, no Cuisinart?!) or of low quality is then basically added in by Westviewer to further justify his already negative view of the store as being non-elite, or only "middle-brow", or even - horror or horrors, low-brow and a store where only poor people might shop - and almost adds insult to injury. But, you are entitled to your view and Westviewer to theirs. The worlds of the rich and poor do not mix. Westviewer however isn't really either - he says snobbishly he prefers "quality" yet lives in a subsidized building - LOL! It's quite a way from the "quality" of Sutton Place to Mitchell-Lama, Westviewer! And Whole Foods? Hahahahah.... we don't even have half foods on RI - Gristedes is more like a fraction of foods! Jesse - you found the store disorganized and the owner unhelpful and lacking in knowledge of the merch. I didn't have a problem with the store or the owner - it's too bad yuppies like you and Kalkin wanted the store gone and now have won out.

CheshireKitty said...

And, there are plenty of stores owned and run by native-born fully English speaking unhelpful illiterate Americans that are disorganized dumps. Of course we all know that. Speaking perfect English doesn't automatically translate into success. There's no point pounding a dead horse - we can agree that you have said you found them unhelpful and lacking knowledge, at least compared to Lex hardware whose employees you praised as helpful and knowledgeable. I wouldn't say my criticism is racial since immigrants from any part of the globe including of course Europe might not be perfect English speakers. No - it's criticism of intolerance of immigrant workers in general no matter where they came from. You prefer those that are helpful and knowledgeable and decry the Korean-American hardware store owner as lacking both qualities. That is your choice - you may merely see the owner as simply unhelpful and unknowledgeable irregardless of language ability. The commenters on this thread are only a small handful of residents - yet hundreds of neighbors who signed her petition disagree with Westviewer and feel she added greatly to Main St. Who will be next to get the heave-ho off Main St - will it be the Chapel, the thrift, the deli? I just can visualize you Westviewer and your friends on the side-lines, cheering on Kalkin and Kramer in their march down Main, a-gentrifying as they go.

Jesse Webster said...

No, it's not too bad. It's common sense. If the community "needed" a store like the hardware store, it would have shopped there, and the store wouldn't be closing. The hardware store is not a viable enterprise, to the tune of more than $50,000 in arrears. It's worth noting that most of that is from BEFORE H/R took over, when the owners had a state subsidy in the form of artificially low rent.


It seems you are the only person living in Northtown who wishes to dumpster dive rather than shop at other nearby stores that are reasonably priced without selling "cheap" merchandise.


We aren't racists for avoiding the hardware store, and you're not a hero for defending it.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"I just can visualize you Westviewer and your friends on the side-lines, cheering on Kalkin and Kramer in their march down Main, a-gentrifying as they go."


Are you this unpleasant in real life, too? You just cannot let go and realize that you did a brain fart and steered the discussion into a direction that it doesn't belong. You and Frank go well together.

YetAnotherRIer said...

Why don't we talk about the thrift store one more time? That was a fun topic with you as well.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, maybe you can recognize that digressions are fundamental to blogging. You've thrown out your own. I agree CK made a mistake (that was obvious to all) where she should have recognized "[she] shan't recover". Here's the actual excerpt from Spinal Tap where Jeanine, David's girlfriend (in Yoko Ono style), offers audio mixing expertise but flubs on the terminology:

Jeanine: You know, it might have been better if the, uh, album had been mixed right.... It wasn't...it was mixed all wrong, wasn't it?
Nigel: It was mixed wrong? ... How do you know it was mixed wrong...
Jeanine: No, but I've heard the album.
Nigel: So you're judgment is that it was mixed wrong.
Jeanine: You couldn't hear the lyrics all over it.
Nigel: It's interesting that she's bringing it up.
David: Well she'd like to hear the vocals.
Nigel: I mean it's like it's me saying, you know, you're using the wrong conditioner for your hair.
Jeanine: You don't do heavy metal in doubly.
Nigel: In what??? In what???
Jeanine: In doubly.
Nigel: In Dublin!!! What's that?
David: She means Dolby all right? She means Dolby you know? You know perfectly well what she means.
Nigel: ...ha ha...
David (said to Jeanine): We shan't recover from this one.

KidKilowatt said...

I realize this is a really bold statement, but I don't think I've ever seen a comment this ridiculous on this web site:

"A reader of the blog who is familiar with Main St hardware knows exactly what Westviewer is referring to - in a perhaps subtle/coded fashion - when he cites "helpfulness and knowledgeability". What he means is the staff of Main St hardware are not as "helpful or knowledgeable" as Lexington Ave hardware because they do not speak perfect English."

KidKilowatt said...

"Both the disorganization and the lack of quality merchandise are indicative of the knowledgeability and helpfulness of the owners."

Jesse, what you really are referring to, in a subtle and coded way, is that the store is disorganized because the staff does not speak perfect English. Shame on you.

CheshireKitty said...

Jesse - don't judge before knowing the situation of most New Yorkers, which is definitely not that of the "quality" folks that live in the expensive apartments. If it weren't for the cheap labor supplied by the masses of often immigrant New Yorkers who do not speak perfect English, people of your class would have nothing - nobody to do the dirty work that keeps the City going. Since they're paid so little, of course they can only shop at places they can afford - places you call dumpsters. Which would make the poorly paid immigrants or small businesspeople -garbage, right? Of course the hardware store had a state subsidy - just as the Mitchell-Lama buildings were subsidized. How else could you get people to live or open a store on RI? Imagine what it must have been like the first 20 years or so on RI - the large expanses of wild overgrown spaces and fields where Southtown and Octagon now proudly stand, citadels of modernity and money. Back then, before Southtown and Octagon were developed, there were few people and few shoppers for the few stores on Main St. Of course the hardware store doesn't have a hopping business - but then again, which hardware store do you know of that does? As far as "cheap" merchandise is concerned - again, if it weren't for the cheap merchandise flooding the US from China, many, especially the poor, would have nothing to buy. But you evidently are against the poor who can't afford Crate and Barrel or ABC and instead must buy cheap merchandise. Think about what that means when you stop to examine your conscience, especially now as the Holidays draw near. Some people don't have the money you have to put together a big Thanksgiving feast, or to buy expensive Christmas presents. You sneer at them. I don't - I give thanks for cheap stores like Jacks, Conways, the cheap stores of Chinatown and Chinatown of Flushing, and all the stores you characterize as dumpsters because they at least give the masses of the less well-off something to buy, something they can afford. It's heartless yuppies who destroy communities by looking to drive out the poor and the immigrants and drive up land prices and rents. Incidentally, Main St hardware refuses to leave. Get ready for a stand-off and a possible arrest on Dec 1 as the store-owner refuses to leave the premises... Won't that make a nice headline for the Dec 1 Wire: Main St Korean-American businessperson arrested by PSD for trespassing - in her own store.

CheshireKitty said...

May be coming up soon enough.. may be next on Kramer's "hit list". The thrift shop is evidently packing up the office area and looks markedly "emptier". Perhaps Kramer has found a lessee for that space, as well..

CheshireKitty said...

It's not ridiculous to readers familiar with Main St hardware. Obviously, the owner speaks broken English and the difficulty in communicating probably does it make more difficult for her to help customers, or at least quickly communicate with them. People who do not speak perfect English.. do you ever come across them in your calls to customer service centers? No way. Even if the rep is in Hong Kong, China, or India, the rep will speak grammatical, if not absolutely perfectly idiomatic, non foreign-accented English. This is a fact - English is a big plus - yet, despite the language barrier, I never felt Main St hardware to be unhelpful or ignorant of the merchandise.

CheshireKitty said...

Of course it's an unpleasant image.. of the rich yuppies gloating over the end of the "old" RI... but it's true, nonetheless. You should stop by and chat with the beleaguered owner of the hardware store and hear the way she characterizes Kramer: Billionaire shark. The entire story is reminiscent of the Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life" except there's not a single guardian angel it seems to effect a last-minute, tear-jerking rescue - not a single one of all the rich on RI. At least I'm introducing some levity into a dark chapter of life on RI: Kalkin and Kramer must be fairly kicking up their heels in joy, praising Mammon at the prospect of finally burying the businesses that gave such an annoyingly down-market "proletarian" look to Main St: The too old-fashioned hardware store, selling what yuppies consider "cheap unattractive merch that lacks quality"; the thrift shop - it's true these stores are a darling of hipsters but ours, alas, it's just a hive of flea-ridden old clothes, moldy books, chipped tchotchkes, so it too must go; the Chapel - with its out-dated, anti-capitalist preaching to love thine neighbor, even if they are poor, and many more similar quotes praising the poor. The Chapel must go - since it could never possibly come up with the rent Kramer demands. At least the poor excluded and spat-upon can be consoled with the words of Jesus: "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24

CheshireKitty said...

Oh, please - the riff is classic CK, for the past I don't know how many years. It's not an "error" and to refer to class divisions is only pointing out the facts. Somehow, everybody gets nervous if it's pointed out that there are complex divisions of class and so forth. Didn't I go on and on about the same thing with the arcade discussion? I'm consistent with some things (hopefully) - I am pro-the little guy, and pro-small businessman, like our friend Sal the restauranteur. I don't like monopolies or the rich elites deciding for everyone. But, back to RI - which is not a unified nirvana. If it were one, you would have the guys who hang out outside the deli hanging out outside the deli in Southtown, but they don't. The "riffraff" congregate in Northtown - thus the island is far from unified. Nobody wants to hear this because it's exactly what organs like the Wire and institutions like RIOC would not want people to know: RI is not a wonderful, unified island community. It has exactly the same problems, divisions, and stresses as any other part of the City. The selling point of harmony is either as true or as false as it is elsewhere in NYC. The real-estate PR will say - Move to Harlem, it's so wonderful there now - with so many new rich home-owners and so forth. What happened to the residents that populated the area before the yuppies landed? Anybody wonder what happened to them? The same thing that has happened to RI: Gentrification means the poor are either priced out or die out. It leads to the homogenization of an area - the very definition of "plain vanilla" - a transplantation of suburbia into the City. Gone are the people who would make a neighborhood vital or vibrant in favor of the same type, the same class, over and over again. Some may say this is inevitable and in fact a good thing, since it leads to rising property values. Others, such as myself, disagree.

Jesse Webster said...

You're the dime novelist of commenters -- all quantity, no substance.

You argue that a store that nobody shops at, that loses money hand over fist, and whose owners are tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no end in sight, should be kept open because YOU occasionally shop there. How utterly selfish.

Where are these poor Roosevelt Islanders you've conjured up? The ones who never shop at the hardware store now, but somehow still see it as their only retail option and are desperate to keep it from closing?

Here in reality, the truth is low income Islanders are definitively NOT shopping at the hardware store. They're doing their shopping ANYWHERE ELSE, perhaps at Conway or Jack's as you suggest, but also at any of the thousands of other stores throughout NYC. I can guarantee most will hardly notice, and certainly won't shed a tear, when the hardware store goes out of business as it will and must.

Lace up your sneakers. Come next month, you'll have to trek a bit farther for your broken lightbulbs, tackless tape and dust.

CheshireKitty said...

You're saying I'm the only shopper? That's preposterous - of course she has customers. Even the video area still has customers. I mean, your hatred of the store is really unmistakable now - and I may add, uncalled for. Just because you don't shop there doesn't mean others don't. Just because you don't think it should continue doesn't mean others agree. And for the record - to rebut your heartless lies - all the products I've ever purchased there over a span of a score of years, which is an awfully long time, probably a lot longer than you've called RI home - have worked perfectly well, from light bulbs to small appliances to the (not that cheap) US-made steel stepladder, and on and on. Your propaganda that the products at the store are no good is just that - fake propaganda that fools no-one. She wouldn't be in business for as long as she has if the stuff she sold was no good. You just can't stand the store because it doesn't measure up to your yuppified notion of what a hardware store should be. That's fine - you'll soon have your wish and she'll be history. I hope you'll then be happy as you consider the demise of one of the last "peoples'" stores on Main St..

Frank Farance said...

CheshireKitty, as an analogy, having very sensitive hearing is different from ears ringing with no sound present. Your "ears" are ringing on the ethnic/racial stuff.


You complain about yuppies gentrifying, most of that I disagree with except for class related stuff ... this Island is about a income diversity (as enshrined in the GDP). In other words, as a paradigm, we need a low priced nail salon and can also support a higher priced nail salon, just as we need low priced food services (deli/take-out/grocery) and we can support premium services.


However, unlike the nail salons, I don't think this "class" argument works for the hardware store because, say, Gristede's or Duane Reade could provide these items at the same price. A simpler solution would be to sell some of the hardware store's inventory to one of the other stores on Main Street ... that might be the best outcome for the Island and the hardware store's owners. Simply, the overhead, profitability, and the customer base aren't favorable for the store ... possibly fixable, but not within the timeframe H-R wants.

KidKilowatt said...

Sounds to me like you're saying that you have trouble communicating with the owner. I've never actually had any trouble communicating with her. I ask if she has something in stock, and she tells me yes or no, and directs me to it. But there's really not a lot to talk about because the stock is very limited, the merchandise looks like a rummage sale, and the prices are not great.

islandnewbie2012 said...

I can't help but laugh when I read these threads. I sometimes wonder if I moved to another world here..not just an island. The comments about the hardware store are comic. What it comes down to is that RIOC is not a charity - it's a business. The owner admits she is not a businesperson - if she was she would have smarts to close before continuing to hemorrhage away money each month. Charging double and triple for products does not provide a service to the island. It merely ensures customers come in one time and never go back. Small business succeed when they connect with their customers and provide a level of service and expertise not found at big box stores. Clearly they try to be everything to everyone at the store and just cannot compete. Cut your loses and put up the going out of business sale sign...at least then maybe prices will be a bit more realistic.

CheshireKitty said...

What's the point of discussing it any further. Yes, the prices were not always so great - because of the "captive" island customer base, store-owners can exact premium prices. We all know this - it's exactly why the Gristedes is so overpriced - because they can get away with it since (1) there customers are stuck on an island (2) there's no competition. It was disorganized around the counter, perhaps to encourage impulse buying, but it got out of hand in terms of the mash-up of merchandise in the customer's face. As far as communicating, I found her forthcoming but not always that easy to understand. Since I'm not that much of a DIY-er, I never really had a need for detailed advice or information on stuff like building a bookshelf... but yes, I get the impression I might not have gotten much help, although I can't be sure since I never asked for any technical assistance. I think she took over the store as a store that happened to sell hardware - it would have been all the same had it really been a dollar store to begin with. She wanted to have a store and the hardware store was available so she took it over. Do I think she really knows about home repairs, or operating a sander and so forth? I wonder..

CheshireKitty said...

Yep - she should have closed down long ago if she was losing money. I asked her if she was planning to move to another location - perhaps in Queens - but she said no. So we'll see what happens.. possibly an eviction which will be terrible PR for Kramer & H-R.

CheshireKitty said...

Do you really think the GDP is still in effect? Hah. As far as the items on sale at the hardware store - I don't think either Gristede's or DR will go in for the hardware-store type items like having nails, screws, brackets, etc., a/c foam, many types of shelving paper, Contac paper rolls, and so on and so forth. Other stuff such as basic housewares/kitchenware supermarkets have, and DR has to some extent - as well as small appliances. DR is just as expensive if not more so. Certainly the store's problems not fixable within a couple of weeks. Actually, she was planning on packing it in anyway in 3 or 4 years, or, if that couldn't be worked out, then would have liked 6 months to leave. It really irks her that she was given a month's notice. I wonder how far she'll really take her stand not to leave. I suggested she find a lawyer (of course) and she said she'll do so. I have no idea what a lawyer could do though since if she really does owe that much back rent, the landlord is within their right to evict her. Of course, it's one thing to be within his right and another to do the right thing, especially around Holiday time. It will resonate badly with many if she's kicked out at the end of the month after putting in so many years at her lost-cause outpost. But, that's the way it goes.

Frank Farance said...

Yes, obviously the GDP is still in effect. If it weren't, RIOC would be selling more land (e.g., open spaces) to developers.

CheshireKitty, is your point: the owner would have liked 6 months more of operating at a loss rather than 1 month more of operating at a loss? Why would anyone want to accrue more loss? If she had a plan for turning the store around, her time for executing that plan would have been a year ago, not at the point of eviction. Certainly, I wish her well. But I'm guessing Mr. Kramer is of the Fish-Gotta-Swim-Birds-Gotta-Eat (Nigel, Finding Nemo) school of business: right now, there are only accrue losses that get bigger with no hope of a payout or profitability in sight.


Unlike the nail salon, which can be profitable and sustainable at one level of rent, and unsustainable at higher rents, the hardware store is unsustainable at zero rent. It's not a question of whether or not she is a business person (because plenty businesses with lots more experience that fail), it's just that the business factors (price, costs, cashflow, profitability, services, selection, etc.) aren't working for THIS particular business. She might be spectacularly successful in another business, but this one isn't working out.


I understand that this might be hard for her emotionally, so we can support her. I suggest that she find a way to close this chapter of her life under her own terms (sell to or merge with a neighboring store?), because it would allow her to cope with the emotions in a better way.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"possibly an eviction which will be terrible PR for Kramer & H-R"

If you cannot pay the rent bill you get evicted. Common sense and there is nothing involved that would cause Kramer terrible PR.

Jesse Webster said...

It's undignified to not pay your rent, too.

This is not a situation over which the store owner had no control. It's time to make a change, to cut both her and H/R's mounting losses and close the business.

Your argument about her having paid $36,000 in back rent for the previous tenant is irrelevant. Even if H/R gave her credit for that previous amount, she would still be in arrears and the business would still not have a clear path to profitability.

Jesse Webster said...

1,200 signatures is not the same as 1,200 customers who actually shop at the store.

Whether people think the store should remain open or not is really beside the point. If the store stays open, the owner will continue to take on additional debt each month and the amount of rent in arrears will continue to grow. It is not reasonable to keep the store open any longer.

It's all well and good to imagine an alternate universe where enough Islanders shop at the store to make it a viable business. But the reality is, not enough do or will without significant changes to the store. The owner is not in a position to make the major investments needed. The store must close.

Frank Farance said...

I agree that paying $36,000 in back rent didn't make sense, but this is commercial space (not possible, I've heard, on residential leases). Even if there were no back rent, the landlord can ask for a signing fee or anything is - pretty much what the market will support.

In the late 1990's after Bigelow moved out of 527 Main (now RIVAA), I asked RIOC about renting the space (was working on a large project) and made an offer to continue paying Bigelow's lease for the remaining five years. At that time, RIOC was having difficulty with another tenant (not the hardware store), so they wanted to feel "covered". Instead of the usual two months security deposit, they wanted six. Then they wanted more: they wanted either (1) commercial lease insurance, or (2) prepay the remaining five years on the lease. Not only did it not make sense, no one was offering "commercial lease insurance" that would pay out the lease. I asked Robert Antonek (RIOC VP) if he knew any insurance carriers, but he didn't. Simply, RIOC believed that there should be some kind of insurance product to mitigate every kind of risk they might encounter. Ultimately, I walked away from it because it made No Business Sense. As a result, the 527 Main site was unused for many years and RIOC lost the income on the place.

So, Yes, RIOC did have some wacky thinking back then. Still one needs to make business sense of the deal: my deal didn't make sense at the time, so I walked away from it; the hardware store deal made sense to them then, so they took it.

CheshireKitty said...

An eviction is always bad PR. An eviction with forcible removal by the police is even worse - a most embarrassing crime story: H-R has store-keeper arrested for trespassing - on her own store. Anyway, what's the use of discussing it further? H-R is not RIOC, or to be precise, Shane. The community wanted the empty store-fronts filled - not the existing stores kicked out. The marshals or whoever executes the eviction order will ship the store-owner off to jail for trespassing or maybe only minor trespassing charges will be filed - a fine and slap on the wrist with no jail time. Then the landlord - H-R - puts the contents of the store in a storage space and can sell it off to satisfy some of the back rent. If he does not bother to take this path, if rent is not paid at the storage company, the storage company gets to auction off the contents of the entire module to the highest bidder. Someone somehow makes some money off the merch that is left.

CheshireKitty said...

The rent/overhead was her problem. She might be better off being a vendor with little or no rent to pay. I'm sure the Korean-American community is also closely following the developments since they are close-knit.

CheshireKitty said...

Unbelievable. What a story!

CheshireKitty said...

There is really no way to know that, is there? If you look at it from a purely business standpoint, she's underwater on rent, back rent and so probably her debits exceed her assets. She's like the auto industry which luckily for the US was bailed out by Uncle Sam. You say the keys that were cut there did not work, which is of course a lie. Now, with the closing of the store, you wont be able to get a key cut on RI... Even the most "humble" neighborhood out in the boonies of Canarsie or the northern Bronx has a hardware store or a locksmith shop. But not Roosevelt Island. You tell me how it'll be such a plus to not have this store on Main St. You can't because it wont. The only plus is for H-R, which can turn around and rent the large space to well, now, let's see who he rents the space to. Will it be another food business? Or will a liquor store move in? Maybe after you've had a few drinks you can imagine a celery stalk could be a key...

Ratso123 said...

It appears that these entities didn't want to rent the properties. They have a special deal that the money they collected in rent was RI's. Mitchell Lama buildings are supposed to use the income from the stores to defray the cost of the upkeep of the building, since these are subsidized rentals..This seems like they wanted the stores empty with this extortion policy of paying this, that and whatever.else they dream up. There are 2 questions. 1) Are these pay us back rent and whatever else we ask for legal policies. and 2) Who benefits from having all the empty stores? Well, we know who benefits, and it's not the people who live here. It is Related and the people that they want to live here.

Frank Farance said...

Ratso123, I'm not completely understanding your explanation of rents, so let me sketch the way it works for Island House. IH has a ground lease with RIOC, which means IH pays X dollars a year to RIOC for use of the property. Those X dollars a year are part of the cost of operating the building, just like electricity, building staff, etc.. The building subleases the space back to RIOC for the retail space for about $3/sq-ft, i.e., that is what RIOC pays (*) to IH for the retail space, then leases out the retail space to merchants at higher prices (*= RIOC had not actually paid money to IH over the years, it has since been resolved). Whether the building is M-L or not, the retail rent (which is from RIOC and only $3/sq-ft) it is a separate revenue stream, but not specifically targeted for building repairs. One might say that the common configuration of ground floor merchants in apartment buildings is to benefit the tenants in that the higher rents charged to merchants makes for lower rents to tenants, or (from the owner's perspective) a commercial/retail space can help the residential portion become more competitive in pricing.



RIOC pays the $3/sq-ft regardless of whether there is a merchant or not, so RIOC (in theory) has motivation to fill the space. With H-R as the Retail Master Lease Holder, they are the middleman between RIOC and the merchant. I believe it works similarly for other WIRE buildings.

I can't imagine there was a negative financial interest for any of the parties to rent the spaces. Well, there are some build out costs in some of the units, but this would be no different than any other building in NYC: a bare unit requires more build out than a unit with a prior tenant who already installed walls, plumbing, and electric.

In fact, back then when I was trying to rent 527 Main (which already had plumbing, electric, etc.), RIOC was trying to discourage me from that unit and was pushing me towards other units that were bare (Duh! Not Interested).

I don't believe there is any financial benefit for empty stores. However, monetary benefit doesn't/didn't necessarily motivate, e.g., the RIOC of the Jerry Blue and Rob Ryan years was more interested in building the *big* projects (Southtown, Octagon) rather than filling store fronts. In the 1980's and early 1990's, there wasn't a worry about it because most people realized we didn't have enough people to support filling all the stores, and we wanted businesses to be successful, not struggling. When Manhattan Park was built (circa 1989), they were prohibited from having retail space because having even more (excess) retail space would hurt the existing businesses. (Note: MP doesn't have retail space per se, but the buildings were built in a way so that their first floors could be reconfigured as retail space if there were demand.) Oh, and it has to be attractive for a business to locate here, rent is just one part of that puzzle.



What has triggered this topic was the closing in quick succession of the pizza store, the fish store, the florist, the sports bar, and the liquor store ... not all for the same reason ... and then the lack of filling the stores with replacement businesses (Mr. Kalkin and I have different opinions about this).

Ratso123 said...

My point is that RIOC could have made money if they rented the stores. They choose to make it extremely difficult to rent by instituting all of these financial burdens to the new potential lease holder. Now, Related gets the benefit of the stores, since there are no controls on who they rent to. There is no veto by the RIOC board. I still have an issue as to the legality of adding on prior rent that is owed. Those who incur the debt should pay it. Because RIOC didn't want to litigate the matter they tried to pass it on. From what I understand Related is not requiring new renters to pay rent owed by the prior lease holder.It is also my understanding that the rent payed by the new store renters is not going to the building or to RIOC. Who gets the rent money?

Jesse Webster said...

In addition to years of a state subsidy in the form of artificially low rent, she has already had the first part of a bailout -- the equivalent of not paying rent for a year and a half. The auto companies were successful where this business owner is not, in the second part of the bailout: paying back the funds that were lent. I don't disagree that a hardware store has a place in our community. The failure of this business produces an opportunity for another entrepreneur to open one.

Frank Farance said...

Ratso123: you're right; you're almost right; you're right; you're very right; you're very right; don't know; agree; you're very right; you're right; you're wrong. :-)

You're almost right on RIOC making it extremely difficult to rent, but not because they didn't want tenants, they shied away from it because they couldn't manage it. Once Steve Shane arrived, he instituted a top-down revitalization of RIOC: these aren't just government jobs with employees as placeholders, he expected everyone to do professional quality work ... largely, that aesthetic is still there within the corporation (doesn't imply all employees are perfect). The RIOC prior to Steve Shane was very
different ... there was no sense (within RIOC) that they had to do anything competently, e.g., you could complain that something was done poorly, but they'd shrug ... there wasn't any *need* to do it better.

You are very right about RIOC completely relinquishing control of the retail space ... so much that RIOC has no say in any of this. In fact, I was having lunch with some volunteers on the park clean-up last weekend, which included a couple RIOC board members. They pointed out that the signage in the new Subway store had changed since H-R had tried out its new (IMO, dopey) signs. It wasn't the RIOC board that forced the change, it was the Rivercross Board (according to them) that insisted upon the change. The minting of 400 millionaires puts dollar signs in the eyes, it's a huge pull on almost every aspect of things.

As for the money to the buildings, RIOC still pays the buildings their rent. Whether its paid at the first or end of the month or the year, I don't know, but the rent goes back to the buildings (even for the merchants who are behind). H-R collects the money from the merchants and is required to pay a minimum of about $900K (annually), which is the same amount RIOC had before the Retail Master Lease. See proposed RIOC 2013-2014 budget at "http://www.rioc.com/pdf/13-14Proposed%20Budget.pdf", PDF page 18, second to last line "Hudson/Related Master Lease Guaranteed Income", and on the top of the next page the $3/sq-ft for Island House).

CheshireKitty said...

OK Jesse, at least we can agree on that. Imagine a scenario where public transportation again goes down, and since most residents do not own cars, they're stuck as far as obtaining supplies that can only be purchased at a hardware store. It could happen, it's not so far-fetched. Maybe Catsimatides could come through and consider adding a hardware dept to the reconfigured Megastore.

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Question: If none of the retail spaces are rented, do the buildings suffer? It sounds like it doesn't make a difference to the buildings either way - especially since MP, which could have had stores, doesn't. If RIOC doesn't collect rent, it doesn't have to turn over rent to the buildings. We still don't have a rational explanation as to why RIOC put up obstacles to renting the spaces. You seem to imply it was pure "laziness" or inertia on RIOC's part, which was later partially reversed by Shane. Yet even under Shane the spaces weren't rented. The Master Lease was a give-away to H-R with Kalkin acting as the ringleader to push the agreement through RIOC. H-R will make money from charging higher rents, even with having to turn over some of the money to RIOC which in turn gives a portion to the buildings. Kalkin sold out RI because H-R is only in business to maximize the money it makes - there's no consideration for community, or community cohesiveness. RI only agreed to the Master Lease concept so that the empty store-fronts would be filled, not to further enrich the billionaire corporation H-R or any other Master lease-holder without regard to the unique conditions on RI. But Kalkin was the know-it-all and managed to convince everyone that the Master Lease was the way to go and soon neither Kalkin nor anyone else will have a place on RI to have a key cut, or buy masking tape. The right thing for H-R to have done in the case of a space like the hardware store's is to have sat down with the owner and review the situation including going over her numbers from the various "departments" of her store. The unprofitable portions could be jettisoned - people can buy (overpriced) light bulbs at Gristedes or DR, if they're not buying them at Costco (although not all the light bulbs the hardware store carries are available at Gristedes or DR). The video business is basically dead. The 99c store part of her business is already covered by the stationary store. If you subtract these 3 areas - (many ordinary) housewares that can be purchased at Duane Reade or Gristedes, video, 99c store type stuff - you are left with the purely hardware store type merch that no other RI stores carry, as well as the locksmith function. H-R could have offered her a deal to take a much smaller space and simply focus on the hardware/locksmith business - maybe adding a bicycle supplies line, or simply become a hardware department within another store. As far as we know, these options were not discussed because the only thing H-R wanted was the back rent. So the hardware store leaves. Well, maybe RI will be fine without a hardware store (although I'm sure Shane wouldn't agree). I don't see the community consciousness piece in H-R's handling of the situation - merely the profit motive. RIOC always knew you couldn't solely make decisions about the spaces based on money, but H-R rejects this comprehensive type of thinking which takes all aspects of the community into consideration. We'll see one day who is most inconvenienced by not having a locksmith or a hardware store on RI - from one end of the island to the other, you can be sure it'll inconvenience every hospital, educational institution, building maintenance/management department, and even all the other stores up and down the island.

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