Residents living near the “Kissena Curve” are hopeful that a large computer and electronics store set to open in a couple of months will turn the once-vibrant shopping strip around.
Several stores remain vacant in the shopping area, which is located on Kissena Boulevard between 71st and 72nd avenues in Kew Gardens Hills. Many of the current merchants, who did not want their names used in print, blame it on the absentee landlord, who keeps raising rents and won’t allow the stores to adapt and survive.
But there is hope in the air due to Micro Center, the computer-electronics chain which expects to open in early December with a staff of 70 full-time employees. It will be located in the former National Wholesale Liquidators furniture store, which has been empty for more than four years.
Down the block at 71-55 Kissena is an empty corner store that is being advertised for lease by Schuckman Realty of Woodbury, LI. Edward Gottlieb, an associate broker, thinks the store will go fast. “It is going to lease quickly and to good tenants,” Gottlieb said.
The site of a former drug store, the location has been closed for years and the reason it’s being promoted now is because it was part of the Micro Center property. The former furniture store was connected in the back to the corner property, separated in front by a pizzeria.
Officials from Micro Center are subleasing the space, which has now been walled off in the rear.
Mike Papai, vice president of marketing for Micro Center at its Ohio headquarters, told the Chronicle that the company is excited to be moving into the neighborhood: “It should be a good store. We think we have a great location with easy access to roads.”
He noted that the center will cater to the entire borough and its entrance will be through the rear parking lot. The official promises that the Kissena side will be well-maintained and lit.
The store will be open seven days a week until 9 p.m. Papai called the merchandise “competitively priced.” Micro Center’s closest store is in Westbury, LI.
Ken Cohen, president of the nearby Flushing Suburban Civic Association, hopes the store will be a success and draw lots of shoppers, but he remains concerned about the rest of the business strip. “We’ve lost a clothing store, Chinese takeout restaurant and a laundromat,” Cohen said. “We would like to see the area be vibrant and well-utilized with stores that area residents need.”
The civic leader, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1952, added that the strip has lost more stores recently than it had four years ago, adding that the community is also concerned that the renovation project is taking so long. “They’ve been working on it for two years,” Cohen said of the computer center.
He and Shirley Weinstein, president of the Mid-Queens Community Council, would like to see a clothing store move into the vacant space next to the pizzeria.
Weinstein, however, is less optimistic than Cohen about the influence of the computer store. “The whole neighborhood has changed tremendously,” she said. “I wish the store luck, but I don’t think nearby residents have the money for what they have.”
Cards and Gifts at 72-05 Kissena Blvd. is surrounded by empty stores. To meet the needs of the changing demographics in the neighborhood, the store has cut back on the number of newspapers it carries and reduced the prices of greeting cards. Its big sellers are lottery tickets.
Ashook, who works there part-time, said it’s hard to reach the landlord and he wouldn’t let them adapt to the times. “We wanted to put in a little deli in the back, but he said no,” Ashook said.
He added that the store’s lease is up in a couple of years and he doesn’t know what will happen to the shop then. The store has been owned by the same family for 34 years and they would like to keep it going.
Winnie Chan, whose parents owned the Great Wall Kitchen II, emailed the Chronicle when the eatery closed on July 31.
“The landlord is unreachable and we’ve had no lease for about eight years,” the teenager wrote. “The neighboring business owners on the same block are well-acquainted with my parents and can only choose between two things: Close their business or suffer from the high rent payments and bills.”
She added that her “heart breaks” with the closing of the takeout, but “it’s the only thing we can do.”
The stores are owned by Pelcorp, a real estate company in Florida that is represented here by David Minkin Real Estate, a Rego Park property management firm. Officials there would not comment on the Kissena Boulevard stores that have been for rent for so long.