After a month of multiple store closures along Palmer Avenue, the Larchmont Chamber of Commerce has some good news to announce:
- opening of Larchmont Gourmet deli (ribbon-cutting and free bagels on February 9);
- hiring of a new Chamber acting program director (Debra Kling); and
- planning for a brainstorming session to develop a new set of initiatives (February 23, 6 pm at Tequila Sunrise)
Officials from Larchmont Village and the Larchmont Chamber of Commerce along with neighborhood merchants and residents are expected at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Larchmont Gourmet at 11 am on February 9, at 145 Chatsworth Avenue. Owner Martin Gojcaj will have complimentary bagels for coffee-buyers as part of the festivities.
“After so much attention to storefronts which have recently been shuttered in Larchmont, the Larchmont Chamber of Commerce is delighted to welcome this newcomer to our neighborhood,” said Debra Kling, a Larchmont resident, business-owner and newly-hired acting program director for the Chamber.
Larchmont Gourmet is already selling coffee, deli items and hot and cold prepared food. Its “soft opening” was on Monday, February 1, which came after months of renovations to the space that last housed a real estate office. A sidewalk blackboard announced that “Gwen is back,” referring to Gwen Baez, who worked a half-block away at Kearns Deli, soon to re-open under new management.
According to Robby Goldberg, contractor for the renovation, Larchmont Gourmet was “warming up the kitchen” and testing some new recipes this week. “Chicken Samantha,” named after the owner’s daughter, sold out on Tuesday. They’re aiming for “upscale take-away”and will also deliver locally. For those wanting to eat at the deli, there’s a lean bar.
This is Mr. Gojcaj’s first Larchmont venture, but he has ties to the community: his wife Vera works at his brother-in-law’s hair salon – Gjoko’s, a half-block away on Myrtle Avenue.
As Food Shops Open, Other Stores Close
The new eatery will compete for commuter business with the new coffee shop opened last month at the Larchmont Train Station and with other coffee shops and food establishments nearby on Chatsworth and Palmer.
The apparent growth of the food business in Larchmont contrasts sharply with the demise of other retail outlets, especially along Palmer Avenue. The hardest hit block has been from Larchmont to Chatsworth Avenue.
Last month saw the closing of Plaza Too (shoes, bags and accessories) and Lorilyn, Inc. (children’s clothes), both large stores that had been in operation for over a decade. Natural Identity is closed (salon operator Joe Del Veccio moved in with Anthony Virgilis at Palmer Hair Studio, 237 Larchmont Avenue).
Two large stores mid-block – the former Active Sports and Larchmont Store – remain vacant after more than a year. Further down Palmer toward New Rochelle, a number of tenants moved out and have not been replaced, including, Anelle Gandelman Fine Art, Scandecor Rug and Fitness Together (which ceased operating after an October 26 fire). In the other direction, the owner of Bridges is retiring and closing shop. On Chatsworth Avenue, the former Bucks Pharmacy remains vacant after more than two years.
Local merchants are fighting an uphill battle, burdened by the economic downturn, lack of support from banks, and competition from discount and on-line shopping.
Landlords, Local Regulations Play a Part
At least one landlord says local regulations are creating hardships for current tenants and making it difficult to attract new ones. (See: Landlord to VOL: Don\’t Legislate, Cooperate.)
Shop owners also blame high rents and landlords that are unwilling to cut them any slack.
According to Mary Ann Mancino, of Mancino Tailors, the owner of the building from Natural Identity to Verizon on Palmer “has not worked with any of their tenants.” She said, “They wouldn’t negotiate with a tenant who had been here for 30 years, but now that it’s vacant, it’s on Craigslist for $500 less than he was paying.”
“On the other hand, there have been landlords who have been very concerned and willing to help,” said Ms. Mancino.
She also pointed out that “Palmer Avenue rents tend to be higher than on the Post Road side.”
Relatively low rents near the Post Road may explain why there have been more new stores opening on that end of Larchmont.
East Coast Surf, Skate and Snow, opened before Christmas at 144 Larchmont Avenue (facing Gilder Street). Other recent newcomers include Sweet Teez candy store (157 Larchmont Avenue), My Essentials beauty products (11 Addison Street) , Palumbo’s Pastries (26 Chatsworth Avenue) and Bread and Cocoa eatery at 21106b Boston Post Road. In addition, a sports store will be opening soon at 2085 Boston Post Road.
BrainStorming: New Chamber of Commerce Initiatives
To help revive business across Larchmont Village, the Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a brainstorming session at Tequila Sunrise, 145 Larchmont Avenue on Tuesday, February 23 at 6 pm. It will be facilitated by Larchmont resident and marketing professional Jeff Shaffer, co-founder of Flywheel, which fosters creative solutions to business problems. (He’s married to Ms. Kling and is donating his time.)
“We want to come to agreement on the key issues facing the business community and identify possible solutions and next steps.” said Mr. Shaffer.
The meeting will be open to business owners, political leaders, residents and anyone else concerned with the viability of Larchmont’s business district. “It’s reached a point where something needs to be done – or else,” said Ms. Kling. “Everyone needs to take authorship of the solutions.”