Wanted: Space on Main Street, just smaller
To be sure, inquiries about retail shops in downtown Patchogue are coming in.
But, according to Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy and Business Improvement District executive director Dennis Smith, the calls are for smaller spaces.
“Someone contacted me last month looking for an 800-square-foot space,” Smith said. “’I don’t have to be on Main Street,’ she said. She was willing to front one of our parking lots, but we don’t have that.”
Both Kennedy and Smith said they each receive about two calls a month for smaller rentals. The ideal, Smith said, is 1,500 to 2,500 square feet. “Usually, it’s people who want to start a business like a specialty boutique,” Kennedy said.
The rental range, Smith said, is probably between $23 to $31 per square foot. “Buildings are leased by square footage and it’s economics,” Smith said. “For every square foot, you have to pay the freight for what you don’t need.”
To tackle the new normal, both Smith and Kennedy will be sitting with Mayor Paul Pontieri and maybe a state official or two in January to come up with incentives for owners of the larger spaces that would help with subdivision costs.
Smith said they would be looking to try a New York State Consolidated Funding Application as an economic tool. The thinking is to aim for reimbursable matching grants, similar to the success the village has had with prior New York Main Street grants. If such grants are possible, it would require the approval of the landlord.
Some of the larger properties waiting for tenants include the old CBS Discount Store at 150 East Main Street with 10,000 square feet, Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame at 58 South Ocean Avenue at 7,000 square feet, Levin Management Group on 50 South Ocean Avenue at 4,000 square feet, the Furman building at 8-18 West Main Street at 94,000 square feet, and the old Casa di Mario shoe store at 38 West Main Street with 1,800 square feet.
Commercial building owner and attorney Joel Furman said any grant would help.
“It’s a tough fight to be a commercial owner,” he said. Furman said a main problem he had attracting the tenant of a bigger space was parking, particularly in regards to a grocery store/supermarket.
There was an interested outfit in Southampton that was all set to come and others, he said. One wanted a guarantee of 30-35 spaces between 6 and 8 p.m. where the meters were placed, but the village wouldn’t support the request, Furman said.
“We’ve had a number of requests from businesses that had wanted spaces just for them and it’s hard to carve that out,” Pontieri said. “I understand Joel’s frustration, which is why we purchased land in back of his property, to be able to accommodate places like his. On the other hand, he has a prime location that he will be able to fill sooner than later.”
Furman pointed out he was aiming for a Best Market, but Brookhaven Town was trying to get them in East Patchogue, he said of the 2011 deal.
Jeff, Geoffrey and Daniel Serota, who headed Serota Properties, owners of Swan Nursery Commons in East Patchogue, had requested help in a $1 million upgrade for the former Waldbaum’s site and Brookhaven Town worked with the property owners on tax incentives, knocking Furman out of the picture.
Furman said he had a number of potential clients. He was also a recipient of the New York State Main Street grant for a new roof and new cameras.
Furman praised the mayor and village attorney Brian Egan for their attempts to get new parking.
Smith said there are 535 buildings on the BID tax rolls that encompass apartment complexes, New Village included, as well as retail spaces. As for the immediate local landlords on East and West Main streets, as well as North and South Ocean avenues, he said there were from 60 to 80 that own buildings.
The landlords of the former Rose Jewelers worked with Kilwins to provide a smaller store, at 1,700 square feet.
“We split the space in half,” said Gerard Mingino, who is partners with Rob Aiello of the 74 East Main Street space. “It was 3,400 square feet. We did it because we thought Kilwins would be a good tenant and didn’t see a big risk in doing it.” While there is no tenant yet for the back space, Mingino said money was spent on mechanical issues like separate electricity, heat and air conditioning lines.
“We split it front to back so the rear opens up to a foyer, the courtyard, a parking lot and the Patchogue-Medford Library entrance library is back there,” he said.
Pontieri pointed out Sayville’s success in retail. “Most of the spaces are 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, so they’re smaller and easier to rent,” he said. “Sayville’s history has always been small boutique retail. Ours has always been Swezey’s, W.T. Grant, Woolworth and J.C. Penney. We’re fighting with our history now. The only thing that seems to fill the large spaces are the restaurants.”
Kennedy said the big-box store on Main Street doesn’t present itself anymore, a trend that started 20 years ago. “They want to be on Sunrise Highway,” he said. “But there’s a twist away from malls to the downtowns.” With the exception of longtime shops like Blum’s with an 8,000-square-foot interior, “those businesses who stayed here, they’ve always been in vogue.”
Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to the Long Island Advance so you can read more stories like this, and find out everything that’s going on in your town!