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.
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.