Slew of Park Slope Restaurants Shuttered Due to Economic Slump

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Various Park Slope institutions crumbling under the weight of fiscal woes have closed in the last month, potentially altering the neighborhood landscape.

Christie’s Jamaican Patties employee Miguel Rosas rings up a customer. Photo by Maane Khatchatourian/The Brooklyn Ink

Various Park Slope institutions crumbling under the weight of fiscal woes have closed in the last month, potentially altering the neighborhood landscape.

Two neighborhood staples, Aunt Suzie’s Italian restaurant and Timboo’s dive bar, have announced they plan to shut their doors by the end of the year, joining the ranks of other businesses that were shuttered within the last couple months. A third restaurant, Christie’s Jamaican Patties, struggles to keep its doors open in this volatile economic climate. The three institutions have collectively been in business for a total of 112 years.

As small businesses close, residents fear that larger chains will take their spots and strip Park Slope of its unique flare.

Judith Lief, an associate broker and recording secretary of the Park Slope Civic Council, said rents have increased substantially, especially in Park Slope’s two major commercial districts, Fifth and Seventh Avenues.

“It’s a free economy so landlords can charge whatever rent they want,” Lief said. “It’s very hard for small businesses to make a living if you’re selling a small commodity and your rent is $10,000 a month. How much can you charge for that item to keep your business afloat?”

Aunt Suzie’s opened on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue in 1987 when the area was known more for high crime than for baby strollers. It will close on New Year ’s Day.

According to owner Irene LoRe, who is also director of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, Fifth Avenue is oversaturated with restaurants. The overly competitive market, coupled with high city inspection fines, has prompted LoRe to close her business and retire.

“The environment in this city is tough to run a business, the economic environment is tough,” she said. “When I started there was only one restaurant, now there’s 120 in 30 blocks.”

The neighborhood has become a major foodie destination in the last decade.

Unlike the case of LoRe, who owns the building that houses her restaurant and plans to lease the space to a retail shop or another eatery, most closures have been caused by high rent prices.

Christie’s Jamaican Patties fights to stay afloat after 45 years of business. Photo by Maane Khatchatourian/The Brooklyn Ink

The owner of Christie’s Jamaican Patties, which has two locations on Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope and Sterling Place in Prospect Heights, announced that he would close shop about two weeks ago, but has now decided to fight to keep his 45-year-old business alive.

Owner Paul Haye has fallen behind on two months of rent and the building’s owner Lina Feng has sued him for non-payment.

Haye plans to collect $25,000 to give Feng and urge her to reconsider the restaurant’s fate. He hopes business will pick up in the coming months.

“I’m trying to raise a lot of funds to give her a lump sum of money,” he said. “Hopefully, that sum of money will change her mind.”

Customer Mark Ventura said the restaurant serves authentic Caribbean food — a novelty in Park Slope. Its closure would compromise the value of the neighborhood, he said.

“It’s a shame,” Ventura said. “I’m here 45 years. This place has the first beef patties anywhere. I’m now buying food for a group of friends who said you can’t get good Caribbean food anywhere in the city. … Take away the mom and pop value of the neighborhood, then you … who will want to live here?”

Timboo’s dive bar on the corner of 11th Street and Fifth Avenue has been open since 1969 and is known for its relaxed atmosphere and affordable drinks. It will close in December.

Younger businesses, including Babouche — a Moroccan restaurant on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Lincoln Place — have also closed recently. Babouche shuttered at the beginning of last month because it was unable to pay rent. Ozzie’s Coffee, which opened in 1993, closed in September. The cafe’s second location on Fifth Avenue, on the other hand, has leased half of its space to a Beauty Bar to save money. Additionally, Oko, an environmentally-friendly frozen yogurt shop also on Fifth Avenue, closed a few weeks ago.

Lief said she is afraid that small businesses will be replaced by chains, like Petco, which recently opened on Seventh Avenue between Berkeley Place and Union Street.

“I think people’s concern is that the commercial strips of Park Slope not look like a strip mall,” she said. “If the only stores that can afford to come in are the big stores that can be found in every mall, of course it changes the uniqueness of Park Slope. It makes it generic.”

Resident Robin Cohen said her daughter was devastated when La Taqueria on Seventh Avenue between Lincoln Place and Berkeley Place closed earlier this year.

“There are enough restaurants that yuppies can eat without having to cook, but what I’m afraid is that the new places opening are the kinds of chains that detract from the neighborhood community feel.”

Correction: This article originally reported that Triangle Sports recently closed. The shop is actually still open for business. The Brooklyn Ink regrets this error.

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9 Responses to “Slew of Park Slope Restaurants Shuttered Due to Economic Slump”

  1. Larry on 5th
    December 8, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

    I love Aunt Suzie’s, but the service there has been going further and further down hill for the last couple of years. I loved Ozzie’s, but the place always looked a mess and was mostly filled with people on laptops. I can go on and on about a lot of these “small businesses.”

    The simple fact is that a lot of them act like they’re entitled to be there and don’t have to do anything to keep their customers because they’re a “small business in Park Slope.” Clearly they do or at least should have when they had the chance! Look at places like Fornino who moved in and offers great food, great service and a very nice atmosphere. While I love small Mom and Pop places, I still want to feel like my business was appreciated and not an entitlement!

    Just my thought!

  2. Mimsy
    December 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM #

    I have never understood why landlords would rather force an existing tenant out rather than negotiate a temporary reduced rent that would keep the tenant in business. So often, the result is a storefront that is empty for months or years, and no money coming in for the landlord.

    That said, I agree that the food at Aunt Susie was declining. They had direct competition for the homey Italian market by La Villa up the block, and their menu didn’t compete with more upscale places. My last two meals there were disappointing; the first because they used minced garlic from a jar instead of fresh (ick) and the second because the lasagne had clearly been made days earlier and reheated — dry and chewy.

    By the way, I think you are conflating two Ozzies. The one on 7th is closed. The one on 5th is being divided in half.

  3. prospectpark
    December 15, 2011 at 4:19 PM #

    There is a LOT of misinformation in this post. Firstly, yes Ozzie’s on 7th closed. It has been announced that it’s being replaced by the owner of Coleur Cafe farther down 7th Avenue. Not a chain.

    Yes, La Taqueria closed. It has been replaced with Noella Brew Bar (former owner of Ozzie’s on 7th) and the other half will become a Pottery making place. Both are not chains.

    Babouche closed and is being replaced with a large Kiku sushi. Not a chain.

    Petco Unleashed did not take over 3 vacant storefronts. Those buildings, which used to house Olive Vine and Zuzu’s petals many years ago had a severe fire and had been sitting there as a burned out shell for years until the buildings were demolished last year and rebuilt with the new tenant Petco. Yes a chain, but the way you word it, you make it sound like someone was pushed out. I would rather have a nice new chain than the 3 burned out shells which were there previously.

    Please don’t go overboard with the paranoia about chains. I see no evidence that chains are invading Park Slope at all. A couple here and there, but no reason to go overboard.

    What I DO see are a bunch of really terrible places going out of business and being replaced with what I hope are more successful and better quality independent stores. You should include the new businesses (which have already been announced on many blogs) instead of focusing on the closures.

  4. thisarticleisfalse
    December 16, 2011 at 12:27 PM #

    You’ve been outed for your lies, Ms. Khatchtatourian. What you are writing is not news, it is slanderous misinformation harmful to local businesses.

    http://www.heresparkslope.com/home/2011/12/16/is-triangle-sporting-goods-really-becoming-a-mcdonalds.html

  5. Chicken Underwear
    December 16, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

    Is Triangle Sports closed??

  6. Maane Khatchatourian
    December 19, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    I apologize profusely for the error. I was informed that the shop closed and the mistake slipped through the cracks due to time constrains. Thank you for bringing it to my attention; I updated the article. I’m sorry for any trouble this may have caused. I take full responsibility for the error.

  7. Maane Khatchatourian
    December 19, 2011 at 10:09 AM #

    I apologize for the confusion. The store is still open for business. I incorrectly reported that it recently closed in the original version of the article.

  8. twelfth street
    March 16, 2012 at 12:14 AM #

    This sucks.park slope is the poorest rich people around.they buy expensive homes and spend on trend.but they forget what made the slope special.community and supporting local small business.oh well.hope it blows over and people start spendingplease support your local small businesses

  9. steve
    August 1, 2014 at 7:54 PM #

    Its all over for small business in park slope. although the residential units rent at very high prices ,the retail cant keeeven with the new construction unlike manhattan the high rises are not tall enough to accomadate the flow of shoppers needed for these niche corners and tiy storefronts with huge rents. not to mention the internet and all the lost good will from former park slopers. it’ll come back but not for a while . im closing a store I purchased twenty years ago as a deli convenience store. the new owner is making it a pet store. high markup low overhead. people who ;live in park slope today don’t belong here, just cant afford the lifestyle of manhattan and are not part of a community at all. cabs pick them up and drop them off , away all summer don’t even get to the park. ,ill open more locations. where its busy and demand is high. check out our new internet menu at oasissandwich.com and our organic delivery service at parkorganic.com

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