May 3, 2010
A Retail Renaissance in Bronxville
By Bill Fallon
The waxing gibbous moon that rose over Bronxville April 23 also rose over a waxing retail scene that has witnessed half-a-dozen vacant storefronts attract new leases since the crocuses appeared.
Earlier that day, the mayor and a number of village business people put their names to statements of progress after a winter that saw notable gaps in the village’s cheek-by-jowl (and historically occupied) storefronts. Their take, absent cheerleading: Something of a boom is afoot in the business center that straddles the village railroad tracks.
Both Jonathan Gordon, principal with Admiral Real Estate Services Corp. on the east side of the tracks and Gerry Houlihan on the west side have seen properties that had been dormant for a year find new life in the last month, four for Gordon and a pair for Houlihan
Houlihan, a broker with 25-year-old Houlihan & O’Malley, recently signed a bakery to occupy the former (and longtime) Geo Electric TV repair shop on Parkway East, next door to the Houlihan & O’Malley offices. In that same half-square-block, Milburn Parkway Building – owned by the Houlihan family – Parkway Liquor Store on Palmer Avenue will move next door into a formerly empty space and the Bronxville Fitness Club, along the same storefront, will expand into the liquor store’s former spot.
“We had that ‘vacant’ sign there for so long,” said Houlihan, referencing the full year the Geo Electric shop was available. “To take it down is such a great thing. It’s a real positive for all of Bronxville.”
“I think it’s an economic upturn,” Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin said. “We saw sales revenues up in the last quarter and I think the feeling is that people are willing now to take a chance.
“This is an extremely special village,” she said. “Yesterday, in 45 minutes I accomplished six errands – Mother’s Day gifts, a picture framed, take-out food – that’s what makes it special: the village mix of restaurants, the movie theater and stores that have a countywide reputation and you can walk to all of them.”
It was easier for her to park than in the past: The village has added 35 spots at the former service station across from St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Marvin said, upping the meter count to about 1,200. (Business Journal, July 9, 2007: “The million-dollar village with the 25-cent problem.”)
La Dentelliere has a 25-year retail presence in the county with stores in Scarsdale and in Armonk and, as of three years ago, La Dentelliere at Home on Popham Road, also in Scarsdale: European bed linens, plus “specialty framed beds, loungewear, nightwear, antique French accessories, pillows, throws, accent furniture, table lighting and much more.” Principal Chuck Anderson calls the overarching theme “a gift shop extraordinaire” and identifies his wife, Michelle Barat-Anderson, as “tastemaker.”
Merchandise besides small home gifts includes Baccarat and William Yeoward crystal and a variety of sconces and lamps. “We also stock an array of wine accoutrements.”
The village was a good fit, according to Anderson. “We already have a good customer base from Bronxville and the nearby communities,” he said. “We were looking for a high median-household income compounded by a large amount of daytime and nighttime traffic. We’ll probably pick one or two nights a week to get a piece of the night traffic.”
La Dentelliere was receiving primer coats of paint April 23, with son Chas Anderson pushing a roller: “Second generation,” he said by way of introduction. “I help my family run the business.” His father had yet to determine a grand opening, saying he wanted to get it right: “You only get one opportunity to make your best impression,” he said.
Across Pondfield Road, Nikki Sgarlata and Michele Penque were unloading shoes and accessories in advance of launching a Shoes ‘N’ More outlet, the chain’s seventh shop around the horn of the Sound from Manhattan to Westport, Conn. Liz Elliott is the owner.
Both Sgarlata and Penque previously managed a competing chain’s shoe store that folded. Penque is a village resident; while, in her words, “Nikki knows everybody. We bring a lot to the table.” Their opening was slated for May 1.
Gary A. Schnorr looked for a year to open Gourmet 2 Go Marketplace and Catering, scouring the terrain between Greenwich, Conn., and Rockland County. He settled on 65 Pondfield Road. In response to a pair of questions, he said: “Why we’re here is easy. This is a fabulous location in a great village.” The site had previously hosted a similar business called Scarborough Fair and that meant the space was grandfathered for food through the planning process. Schnorr will expand on the Scarborough Fair formula, including via a plan to greet commuters at several Harlem Line train stations – Fleetwood to Crestwood – with hot meals when they exit.
“Why we’re here now … I think there is still a market for good quality at a good price with good service,” Schnorr said. “I still have my concerns about the economy, but I feel I have a much better shot here than elsewhere.”
At Admiral, Gordon said several factors have figured in the retail uptick: “I think the better weather engenders a certain amount of optimism.” He also noted the village has instituted a committee, like one in Irvington, to better market the village.
“And then there’s wearing out the shoe leather canvassing. My job is to educate dynamic retailers about all there is to offer here.” He also said he has help, “Including from David Szabo of Goldschmidt and Associates of Scarsdale.”