Chain businesses keep growing in Queens 1

For the fourth year in a row, the presence of chain businesses increased in this borough. Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins — above, in Flushing — are respectively the most and fourth-most common ones in Queens, according to the Center for an Urban Future.

The presence of national chain retailers in the borough expanded by 0.9 percent in 2017, a Center for Urban Future report has found. It went from 1,665 to 1,680 stores.

In its 10th annual “State of the Chains” analysis, the CUF said that 34 new MetroPCS stores opened in Queens, making it the second-most pervasive chain here with 122 total locations. The city and borough’s top spot still belongs to Dunkin’ Donuts, which added eight new Queens stores in 2017; it now has 187 of them.

Queens lost 14 CVS locations and eight Duane Reade/Walgreens stores in 2017.

The report defined the national retailers as businesses with at least two locations within the five boroughs and at least one more outside them.

The past few years have seen an expansion of the stores in Queens. According to the CUF, their presence rose by 1.6 percent in 2016 and 2015 after going up by 5.3 percent in 2014. In 2013, the number of this borough’s chains fell by 0.4 percent.

Every borough except Staten Island, which saw a 1.9 percent decrease, saw a rise in the chains. Queens and Manhattan tied at 0.9 percent, though the number of national retailers added was higher in the latter because it has more of them overall. Brooklyn’s increase of 3.1 percent was the biggest, with the Bronx at 1.8 percent.

Throughout the entire city, the increase in chain stores was 1.8 percent. Just one in seven of the national retailers enlarged their presence in the five boroughs; one in five of the chains in the city closed.

“I think for a long time, most of the growth of chain stores happened in Manhattan and in the last five years or so the growth is really being driven in the other boroughs,” CUF Executive Director Jonathan Bowles told the Chronicle. “And Queens has been a real leader.”

Bowles, a Forest Hills resident, added that the national retailers’ growth in Queens puts more pressure on small businesses by bringing rents up.

“There are some areas: Steinway Street, Austin Street and different parts of Queens Boulevard and Northern Boulevard where you find ... a growing number of national retailers,” the CUF executive director said. “But so many other corridors in the borough are still havens for independent businesses and hopefully it remains that way.”

Within the borough, the number of chain stories varies greatly by neighborhood. The CUF found 131 national retailers to be in 11373, an Elmhurst ZIP code that includes the Queens Center mall, two more than were in the same area last year. The ZIP code 11697 on the Rockaway Peninsula has no chain stores, according to the report.

The biggest rise in chain stores in any ZIP code was 11354, which includes Downtown Flushing. The area saw 10 new such retail locations added in the last year, giving it a total of 78.

Inversely, the biggest losing ZIP code was 11413, which comprises parts of Springfield Gardens and Laurelton. It lost five chains, giving it a total of 21.

What the CUF analysis discovered about Flushing is part of a larger trend about businesses in general growing in the neighborhood. According to a City Council report about retail in the five boroughs, the same 11354 ZIP code saw an increase in 141 small restaurants and retailers from 2002 to 2012. Only three other ZIP codes throughout the entire city saw a larger increase in those businesses, which the Council study defined as ones with revenue under $1 million.

With Dunkin’ Donuts and MetroPCS taking the top two spots for chains in the CUF report, the other eight biggest chains in Queens are, in order: Subway with 118 locations, Baskin-Robbins with 77, T-Mobile with 76, Rite Aid with 58, McDonald’s with 55, 7-Eleven with 48, Starbucks with 40 and CVS with 38.

In an interview, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development Policy Coordinator Lena Afridi praised the CUF report. She also said that the increase in chains is bad for New Yorkers if they are “pushing out the small businesses that meet the current needs of the community.”


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