WHAT’S happening to businesses in Long Island City these days? That’s a vague catch-all question, as are the varied answers. Yet a number of interesting headlines, lowlines, sightings and snippets have caught my attention in the past month, which collectively seem to be a pretty good snapshot on business in America half a year into the pandemic.
The big are getting bigger, or maybe it’s the well-off seem to be doing pretty good. Probably the biggest headline recently, is the sale of Silvercup Studios to a private equity firm for $500 million. I don’t know about the valuation because it’s not a public company, but half a billion is a really big number in absolute terms, especially since it seems to be essentially split between two brothers, and also because it’s in LIC. So I’m surprised this sale didn’t warrant more coverage, though maybe the fact that the scoop was given to the WSJ, a national publication, is enough.
Of a more typical nature, though still quite big for LIC, was the sale of cosmetics-maker Mana Products to a private equity firm for $75 million. Unlike Silvercup, this is the type of not-so-small manufacturing business that sits behind a windowless concrete facade in a location far removed from the residential sections of Long Island City (near the LIE on the way to Sunnyside). Similarly positioned is iFresh, an Asian American Supermarket chain and online seller, whose headquarters is located in the peninsula on the other side of the railroad tracks in Hunters Point. Unlike most stocks that of this publicly traded company (IFMK) quadrupled after the initial covid outbreak, only to quickly deflate in the ensuing months. And we’re still talking pennies, or a $20 mil market cap in this case. But interesting.
Real estate deals continue, if you’re in the right space/niche, which is to say not residential. Carlyle Group’s purchase of a 3-story Apex Technical School on Queens Plaza for $40 million is of this ilk. Though seemingly a minnow for $200 billion in AuM Carlyle, they’ll probably spend a lot more tearing it down and building a 270k square foot life sciences building. The seller made out well too, as it paid $13.5 million for the property in 2012.
Now onto the smaller fish, and here’s where things are not-so-well. City Owlets and Mini-Playland, both of which catered to groups of kids, have permanently closed. News of the latter was sent to me with a picture of a legal letter on the front window citing past due rent and a comment that they were looking for a buyer for the whole thing – if interested.
And of course no sector has been hit harder by the pandemic than local restaurants in NYC. If John Brown Smokehouse decides to consolidate you know things are bad. Corner Bistro has a ‘For Lease’ sign on the front, and across the street I’ve heard that Bellwether has decided not to re-open. 1 While JB is surprising and CB was supposedly slow-going even prior to the pandemic, Bellwether’s possible demise is really sad. Business seemed to be pretty good over the winter, but the economic reckoning of trying to run a fine-dining establishment at a fraction of 100% just doesn’t work unless you have lots of cash to burn – this despite having a corner location with a lot of outdoor footage. I can’t help but wonder how many local restaurant owners are using up their retirement funds to stay afloat.
Finally, and I really don’t know what to make of this, but the check-cashing ‘store’ on Vernon Boulevard next to the subway entrance, is moving to 21st Street, leaving a highly visible location for someone new to start a business.
Real Estate Investors Buying Studio Home Of ‘The Sopranos’ And ‘Sex In The City’ – half a bil seems like an awfully big number for Carrie’s studio apartment, it’s a lot for a lot
iFresh Has A Bumper Quarter – one word: groceries
- numerous calls to the latter went unanswered despite indoor dining going into effect [↩]