White Plains Road shopping strip continues growing pains

Big changes on White Plains Road shopping strip

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White Plains Road continues to experience its growing pains.

Six storefronts on the east Bronx shopping strip are either boarded up or actively seeking new tenants as rents rise and a new crop of businesses – catering to shoppers with more money to spend – roll into town, leaving some older shops hung out to dry.

“I never want to see anyone go out of business, but this is nature,” said Joe Thompson, executive director of the White Plains Road Business Improvement District (BID), a coalition of the street’s shops.

Discount shops gone

The most recent victims of the stretch’s transition from discount mom-and-pop shops to more high-end stores are Okey Dokey Beauty Supply and clothing shop Weekend, both set to close by the end of the month.

A Chinese food restaurant has also been shuttered across the street, with its former red awning starting to come apart.

But as some old shops leave, newer businesses are thriving.

“We’ve seen more traffic over the last few years,” said John Ycaza, manager at BX Sports, a sporting goods store that has been on the strip for 15 years and whicht boasts shiny displays and renovated floors. “It’s a great vibe here.”

Spike in new biz

Many new shops have moved in just over the last five years, including a Planet Fitness, 7-11 grocery store and The Children’s Place, which sells kids clothing, all catering to the neighborhood’s changing clientele.

White Plains Road has been a marquee location beneath the elevated subway for years, but many high-end shops moved out around 15 years ago, when crime went up and the nabe underwent a mass exodus, said Thompson, a community leader for nearly five decades.

Today, many of the newer families are more settled and can afford more expensive goods.

“People nowadays are spending differently than before,” said Thompson. “Businesses need to grow to survive.”

Okey Dokey, a beauty shop that sold wigs, weaves and other similar goods on the strip for 18 years, did not survive. And its owner, Jimmy Kim, is still wondering what exactly happened.

“More competition, higher rent, it all means down, down, down for me,” said Kim.

New stores coming

More change is on the way. A new supermarket around the corner on Pelham Parkway South, as well as a new pharmacy, will open up in the next few months.

But at least one nabe activist is worried that the new crop of businesses paying higher rents will leave a gap in the kind of friendly shops that make a neighborhood inviting.

“We need real family stores, like bakeries and restaurants,” said Edith Blitzer, president of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, who lives on nearby Lydig Avenue. “But with rents these high, they won’t afford to move here.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
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CNG: Community Newspaper Group