After Abandonment, New Stores For Beach 116 Street
In a study done by his staff earlier this year, Congressman Anthony Weiner cited the shopping street as the area in his district with the highest percentage of closed stores.
Weiner stated that the west end shopping area, with 42.5 percent vacancy, has the highest percentage of vacant stores than any other area in Queens.
"The knee-deep recession is forcing small businesses throughout Queens to close," Weiner said in the report. "This is happening at an accelerated and alarming rate."
Weiner surveyed 10 neighborhood shopping areas for his study, including Myrtle Avenue, Kissena Boulevard, Bay Terrace, Sutphin Boulevard, Austin Street and Jamaica Avenue, in addition to Beach 116 Street.
He found that out of 1,730 stores in the surveyed areas, 211 are either vacant or in the process of closing down.
"When the economy catches a cold, small shopping areas like Beach 116 Street catch pneumonia. Too many community shops like the stores in Rockaway - the backbone of the city's economy, are hard-hit by the downturn."
The report shows that the Jamaica Avenue area has the largest number of closed stores, with 80 closed out of 335.
The Beach 116 Street strip, however, has the highest percentage, with 17 out of 40 stores now vacant, Weiner says.
Now, however, that number is changing, with the three new stores, one already in place and the others due early next month.
The store already in place is the Blue Bungalow, a specialty store that recently moved from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the shopping street.
"This store gives us more space and more of a presence," said owner Liz Smith on opening day. "We are glad to be here."
Smith hopes that more shoppers will walk by her store and decide to drop in, especially in the summer, when thousands flock to the beach nearby.
Right next door to the Blue Bungalow will be FTW, a store which, its owner says, will sell surf boards and surfing accessories as well as his own line of clothing.
A sign on the store's window says that it will be open in early April.
Owner Bob Vaughn says that he's looking forward to Rockaway's surfing season.
"We're glad to be here," Vaughn told a Wave editor who happened to pass by while he was working on the new store. "Surfing is big in Rockaway and this is a perfect place to be."
The third new store, which so far has no official name, will feature pet grooming and supplies.
John Lepore, the president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, sees the three openings as a good sign.
"Beach 116 Street has always been the premier shopping area in the west end, but recently people have gotten used to shopping elsewhere," he said. "The new stores are a sign that interest in the street is growing once again. It's good that some of the owners are local people with a vested interest in Rockaway and in keeping shoppers on the peninsula. That is great news for the Rockaway community."