Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

I've been feeling a little frustrated in recent weeks about what is going on with our local food and retail situation. And now comes news that Energy Green, the make-your-own-salad place in the Austin St. Mall has just closed. I haven't confirmed this myself yet because I've been out of town for the past several days. But if it's true, it's really extremely disappointing. Firstly, every salad I ever had from there was really, really good. And secondly, Energy Green represented to me an important trend toward healthier, more moden food offerings in Forest Hills. If it has indeed closed, we have taken a big step backwards and that is a huge shame.

At the same time, there was the mysterious closing of NY Falafel Bar a few weeks ago. I know some people on this blog have said they didn't like it, but having spent a year myself living in Israel I have to say that their chicken shawarma was one of the closest things I have tasted state-side to what I enjoyed in the Middle East.

And then there is the CVS drugstore reportedly coming into the space next to the Key Food on the northern side of Queens Blvd. I agree with others on this blog who have posted their disappointment about that. Is a CVS really the best we can do with that prime retail space? Sure, it could be worse. It will bring a lot of convenience to those who live on the northern side of Queens Blvd. But will it distinguish Forest Hills in any way from just about every other neighborhood in Queens? Nope. Will it make us a more desirable neighborhood to live in in New York City? Nope. Will it serve as a magnet to other attractive new stores and restaurants? Sadly, Nope.

Are national chains like Dunkin' Donuts and CVS really the best a vibrant New York City neighborhood like Forest Hills can do? Are we evolving into some neighborhood that could be easily plopped down into the middle of any midwestern American city where the highlight of a night out on the town is dinner at Applebee's? 

16 comments:

  1. Crossing Queens Blvd.September 29, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Having never eaten at Energy Green I can't comment on the quality of their food but their lower-level location, and being somewhat blocked by the building's design, was a huge problem.

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  2. I don't know why... I found them. Other businesses down there seem to stick around. I am beginning to think there is just a lack of demand in Forest Hills for healthier, more upscale fare. I have tried to put off admitting that to myself for a long time, but how many salad places have to close before you just have to admit that there just might not be a demand for them here? This is a very odd neighborhood with world-class upscale eateries like Danny Brown doing a great business on the seen-better-days Metropolitan Ave,, and a make-your-own salad place unable to survive along the more upscale Austin St.

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  3. Crossing Queens Blvd.September 29, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I believe salads tend to be lunch for many people as evidenced by the amount of toss-your-own-salad places in Manhattan. Restaurants that serve a limited menu will always have a tough time unless they see a lot of foot traffic. I think Brownies and Cream will suffer the same fate.

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  4. Have you checked out Ripe for healthy options? The staff is professional and quick and the food is fresh prepared and healthy healthy. Good stuff.

    I think the biggest problem is that there's really less diversity in quality than a lot of other neighborhoods. We've got a lot of middle-ground, mediocre restaurants, too many actually and I think it's dilutes the whole. Some places that TRY to be higher-end forgetting it's about substance and not style. There are just too few that are truly A level to shame the pack into bringing everything up a step.

    The neighborhood never got hot enough to pull in real unique quality services so the chains moved in instead. What was there, while being specific to the neighborhood, in many ways really isn't worth saving. The corner for the CVS for example has a third tier bank, a magazine shop, and a dollar store and green grocers like half a dozen places all within walking distance.

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  5. I think there is a demand for unique and healthy options in Forest Hills, but it needs to be the right type of place. La Boulangerie serves salads and sandwiches and is always packed around lunch - but I think what people are demanding is atmosphere. People want a place where they can go and relax and have coffee and chat. Energy Green, unfortunately, didn't offer that. Cafe Vienna does, but it's too fancy fancy. I wonder when business owners will catch on to this?

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  6. I don't agree that there's not a market for healthier fare in the neighborhood. Ripe seems to be holding their own and Agora Taverna (the first seafood restaurant to enter Forest Hills in years) continues to pack them in.

    As for a salad bar, we're now 0 for 3 so it may be safe to assume that this is just not the market for that particular type of establishment. Salad bars thrive in Manhattan during lunch time. We simply don't have that volume of traffic midday to support such a limited offering.

    I agree with Sarah that we can use healthy, reasonably priced establishments with better atmosphere, but I do also believe that our neighborhood could support a healthy fast-food alternative like an Energy Kitchen.

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  7. It is a shame to see any establishment close. Owners put a lot of money into opening a business and take a lot of risk.

    The reason why places like energy kitchen close is because the neighborhood who wants them do not support them on a consistent basis. The store may have been making rent but is making rent the reason the guy opened the business.

    Everyone hails the opening of a Dunkin Donuts. It is not healthy. But it will be packed and supported.

    I know ripe. Ripe is fine but Peter has a partner and other businesses that all support the other.

    CVS will come in because they can pay the rent. If they did not come in - maybe the landlords would lower the rent just enough for a mom and pop type business to survive.

    If you want to complain, Find out who the landlords are and do not let them sleep. Go to the offices. One landlord is Frank Barnett on Austin Street, he owns 2200 units under various names. Go protest him.

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  8. Energy Green closed down because Tako Sushi closed. Tako Sushi owned Energy Green and decided to pack up and go. Not sure if it's because of the rent or some other reason. Anyway, Sushi Yasu (formerly on Yellowstone Blvd) has taken it's spot.

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  9. Don't underestimate how badly the economy has affected Forest Hills. Salaries and income are DOWN in our hood. Both people who live here and visiter's alike are looking for INEXPENSIVE options when it comes to food, especially at lunch time. That is why people hail the opening of Dunkin Donuts, for a few dollars people can get a coffee and a donut, or even a bagel or sandwich for a little more. It is affordable!

    The rents for business are too high in FH! Landlords need to see the reality of how far the prices of co-ops and houses have come down in our neighborhood, and lower their rents as well.

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  10. Energy Green will be missed. Would grab a salad from there 2x a week on average.

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  11. Energy is closed tried to go there yesterday

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  12. I've had 3 FH store owners tell me that the rents are way too high here and that in some cases, they exceed the prices in Manhattan! Even successful and very busy stores are closing because of the exorbitant rents here. The bridal shop on Austin, near 72nd Ave is just the latest casualty. We can only hope that this big space won't remain empty for months, or get taken over by yet another clothes store or chain store that we don't need! Every loss of the type of unique places like Energy Green and the NY Falafel Bar is another victory for the greedy landlords. As for the new CVS, I would have much preferred a Trader Joe's, Fairway Market or an affordable Farmer's/Green Market, instead.

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  13. You echo my sentiments about the ridiculous rents in FH. The landlords need to follow what many co-op and condo owners are doing when they put their units up for sale: LOWER THE PRICES!

    The real estate market in FH is a true buyer's market, with bargains everywhere. The landlords of businesses in FH need to lower their rents accordingly as well.

    Whats happening is that new people are buying apartments in FH, BUT are leaving FH to shop elsewhere, where they can afford the prices.

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  14. CVS beat out Bagel Boss in the bid for that space. Would have much preferred a great bagel place to yet another drug store. Excited for the opening of the new (but old school) pizza place next to the movie theater, Gloria that used to rock Flushing in the 80's. Should be yum! Check this link for more info: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/235529

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  15. That section of Austin Street where Energy Green used to be, I never ate there so I can't say anything either.
    But recently was about to have lunch at Corfu and left right away because I can smell the odor from the pet store below. Come to think of it, I stopped eating at Tako Sushi ever since the pet store opened at the lower part.

    I love La Boulangerie and go there about once a week. It is the perfect place to grab a fresh baugette and it is packed during lunch time.

    NY Falafel Bar was great whenever I was too
    lazy to cook dinner. I know that the owner did try his best to stay open but I don't think he was making a profit to continue.

    I feel bad for Brownies & Cream. I did buy two brownies from them. They are delicious but the portions are tiny. For the same cost I can buy something sweet at Martha's and would feel that I'm getting my money's worth and still supporting the community.
    If it's true about CVS, I just hope it's stocked well.

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  16. There is nothing worse than the smell of puppies. Especially wet ones. (Kidding, I just like writing sentences about puppies.)

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