Of course then there's...

Of course then there’s…

And if you say to me tomorrow,
Oh what fun it all would be
Then what’s to stop us, pretty baby,
But what is and what should never be

Given all the empty storefronts, anyone walking along Vernon Boulevard might wonder how Long Island City is the fastest growing city in the nation.  Of course excessive retail vacancies abound through many stretches of Manhattan as well, and “retailing” as a concept is under siege nationwide due to Amazon.

One of the problems lies with the entrepreneurs who start these businesses.  Their errors are mostly a mix of bad concepts and/or crowded concepts, and to a lesser extent poor execution.  Making their situations worse are the high rents they are choosing to pay despite knowing the pricing is based on future growth.  This effectively adds leverage to their conceptual problems, making survival until all the planned development occurs that much more unlikely.

This “expected growth” is also the reason that many storefronts remain empty after going dark, as landlords hold out for what may never be.  Add to that the aforementioned soft retail environment and this problem won’t correct itself very soon.

Likewise there are frequent critiques in the city real estate press about how LIC is lacking retail.  What are people expecting, a Best Buy or JC Penney?  Of course not, in 2018 retail is code for restaurants in NYC.  Once again supply is definitely meeting demand in that department, even if some of the supply is out-of-step or repetitive.  As an example of a basic local business that has been a great beneficiary of the growth in the last few years, take Bricktown Bagel, where ordering lines on weekend mornings have grown from step right up to half a dozen in line to pay, despite what looks to be a 50% increase in personnel behind the counter and a solid delivery business.

Unfortunately for local merchants, once you get past the basics like bagels1, you run into a demand problem.  Namely that LIC is a bedroom community and people prefer to do their drinking, eating, and entertaining elsewhere.  Those businesses that are really successful, think Sweet Chick, Fifth Hammer Brewery, Casa Enrique, and Mu Ramen, have a continual parade of Ubers picking up and dropping off outside their doors.

As for all the new development in Court Square and Queens Plaza, prospective restaurateurs should be conceptualizing destination spots, because nobody is going there for the architecture or atmosphere.

In conclusion, retail in Long Island City has been unfolding in a manner exactly as one would expect in a capitalist society, including its many flaws.

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  1. and sandwiches, as they do a steady weekday lunch business too []
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  1. I’m constantly stunned by the lack of decent food in this neighborhood. I mean, have you tried Piatto? It’s godawful. Worse than Chuck-E-Cheese.

    The Jackson’s is similarly terrible. That place is almost always empty at dinner. Their menu is boring and never changes, and the price point is too high for such low quality food. I get that rent is crazy, but restauranteurs really need to be a little innovative.

    The Bareburger here is much lower quality than those in Brooklyn or Manhattan.

    And then people keep opening Italian restaurants — Beebes, Levante. Or bad Japanese food — Dai Hachi. Or fake pan-Asian nightmares like Madame Jade.

    It’s not 1982. People will eat more than pizza and sushi.

    And if someone tells me Spice or Tuk Tuk are good Thai, I’m going to kick their asses straight to Elmhurst.

    For whatever reason, people seem to think if a restaurant is in LIC, it can be dogshit.


  2. guyonacomputer says:

    M. Wells, Bellwether, Cyclo, Casa Enrique, Tournesol, Bierocracy, Burger Garage, Kavala, Jora. But yeah, keep walking around with that stick up your…

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