Target has finally opened in Throggs Neck — and local shops nearby are hoping to stay out of its crosshairs.
The national retailer opened Sunday, July 27 at the Throggs Neck Shopping Center, a massive mall at Lafayette Avenue and the Hutchinson River Parkway.
National chains TJ Maxx, Petco, Applebees, Subway and Sleepy’s are among the other shops that will soon follow, in what developer Simone Development is hoping will be a “back-to-school” opening.
Just a few miles north, the Bay Plaza mall — anchored by a three-story Macy’s — is scheduled to open sometime in the next month in Co-op City.
With the malls on their way, local businesses on E. Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck are now scrambling to keep the loyalty of the neighborhood customers who have frequented them for decades.
Calling on locals
“Nobody wants a mall, but we got one,” said Steve Kaufman, president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association. “Now we need to find a way to stay in business.”
The shops are making the appeal to locals to play their part in keeping the neighborhood filled with mom-and-pop stores.
“We need them to realize that if they don’t shop here, there will be abandoned stores,” said John Cerini, a treasurer of the merchant association who runs a tax office on E. Tremont Avenue. “And no one wants that.”
It won’t be easy to convince locals not to at least take a peek at the new Throggs Neck mall, which includes over 600 parking spaces.
But nearby merchants are hoping that the combination of neighbors supporting local stores, and the new exposure from mall visitors passing through the area, will be enough to keep businesses running.
“We are trying to deflect some of the mall visitors to come into this area,” said Kaufman.
Sprucing up strip
To help with that, the merchant coalition is seeking funding for street improvements on the E. Tremont strip. They’re also trying to find a way to ease parking for local shoppers. There’s also talk of forming a business improvement district, in which landlords would pay an annual fee toward street cleaning and other strip spruce-ups.
The malls also bring with them looming traffic issues. A coalition of the community board and local community groups has been working with the Department of City Planning to brainstorm ways to ease the pressure of all the new visitors.
“We’re going to see what the traffic will bring, and then address those issues,” said Martin Prince, chair of Community Board 10.
Local Biz: No worries!
For now, many of the businesses themselves said they weren’t too concerned about the new mall.
“You gotta reinvent yourself all the time,” said Wayne Baker, owner of Frank Bee’s variety store on E. Tremont Avenue, which sells similar items to some of Target’s stock.
Baker said the majority of his business now comes providing supplies for parties, rather than through retail.
He said the mall would likely dip into his retail business — but he hoped to be the one supplying the party materials for events held by some of the new chains opening up.
“You lose a little on one side, you gain on the other side,” said Baker.
The owner of a local eatery and bar said she would be okay with some of her customers checking out the new mall, as long as they came back to her place.
“We have a lot of regulars, who are used to the good food and service here,” said Eileen Tierney of Throggs Neck Clipper. “Hopefully that stands for something.”