2008-01-04 / Front Page

Blockbuster Leaving Rockaway Flat

By Nicholas Briano

Many Rockaway residents were saddened and surprised this week to find out that the lone Blockbuster video store on the Peninsula will shut its doors for good in a few weeks, adding Blockbuster to the list of lost and largely forgotten businesses that once operated in the busy Beach 116 Street shopping area.

Blockbuster on Beach 116 Street will close its store by January 20, 2008, forcing many on the Peninsula, much to their dismay, to rent at Howard Beach. Blockbuster on Beach 116 Street will close its store by January 20, 2008, forcing many on the Peninsula, much to their dismay, to rent at Howard Beach. Blockbuster, located at 268 Beach 116 Street, will stop renting movies and games on January 13. The last day to return movies, an official said would be a week later, on January 20.

The business, which has been at that location since 1992, will then leave Rockaway for good.

For many locals, the closing adds to the commercial displeasure they have experienced in years past as businesses continually come and go throughout Rockaway, especially on Beach 116 Street.

"I think it is horrible and extremely disappointing," a Blockbuster patron said outside the store. "It is a real shame because all the major retail stores are leaving us."

The surprised and clearly disappointed middle-aged woman, who asked that her name not be used, said that she doesn't understand why Blockbuster just doesn't relocate somewhere else on the west end and limit the inconvenience for their Rockaway customers.

According to a Blockbuster spokesperson, customers of the store will have their accounts relocated to the Howard Beach store, which is located at 157-02 Cross Bay Boulevard.

There is some question, however, whether locals will drive to Howard Beach for their movies.

"Blockbuster is closing," another woman coming from Blockbuster told a Wave reporter. "How do I get on Netflix? If they think I'm going to the mainland to get a movie, they're crazy."

"I refuse to cross the bridge and drive all the way from Rockaway Park to Howard Beach for a movie," another customer said before going inside. "I don't need to go to Blockbuster that bad!"

The Beach 116 Street shopping area has been an area of contention with west end residents for many years due to the old, dilapidated buildings that line the street and the lack of adequate parking.

Recently, the city has proposed a high-density plan for the area, including eight-story buildings with stores on the ground floor and condo apartments above.

Many of those people see the loss of a national chain such as Blockbuster as another step backwards for the community.

Unlike other spots in Rockaway, however, the present Blockbuster site many not remain vacant. An early rumor fueled by the Blockbuster staff posited that a 7-Eleven convenience store would be taking over the property.

"As long as it is not another bank," the female Blockbuster patron said. "We have enough of those around here; the manager said that a 7-Eleven is going up here."

A spokesperson for the 7-Eleven Corporate Offices, Margaret Chabris, denied the rumors, however.

"At one time we were interested in the location," Chabris said. "But it never came to fruition, as we no longer have plans for that address."

Chabris added that 7-Eleven was interested in the site a little over a year ago, but talks broke down when they learned that the landlord of the building sold the adjacent lot to Exxon. As many know, Exxon gas station, located next to Blockbuster includes a car wash, and convenience mart that includes a Subway sandwich shop.

According to Chabris, 7-Eleven was concerned about the level of competition that the Mobil Mart/Subway would generate against their business and believed it wouldn't be profitable enough for a corporate or franchise opportunity.

"When we found out that the landlord sold the property to the gasoline company, we became concerned about how successful a 7-Eleven would be at the address," Chabris said.

The absence of Blockbuster on the Peninsula could result in many residents renting over the internet from sites such as Netflix or Blockbuster Online. However, the female customer, who insisted on remaining anonymous, had a different thought.

"You may see more bootleggers by the train stations," she said jokingly. "The illegal bootlegs will double in numbers, they'll be everywhere."

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