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Sunnyside Shines Announces Plan to Lure Retail Stores to the District

Rachel Thieme, executive director of Sunnyside Shines, at Annual Meeting

Feb. 28, 2014 By Christian Murray

Sunnyside Shines, a business improvement group that’s role is to promote Sunnyside’s commercial district, put forward a plan at its annual meeting Wednesday that aims to bring a wider range of retail stores to the area.

The organization plans to launch a “retail attraction program” with the express goal of recruiting retail stores that will bring more shoppers to the area as well as better serve residents.

The program is based on the findings of JGSC Group, a market research firm that noted that there is an imbalance in the number of service stores–such as hair and nail salons– to that of traditional retail stores. The consultancy firm reported that the district needs more retail businesses to attract a greater number of shoppers to the area.

The BID said that it plans to target clothing stores, shoe stores, general merchandise, housewares, independent coffee stores, full service restaurants and a bicycle shop—based on the study’s findings.

The BID also noted that Sunnyside residents have been calling for these types of stores too—based on a shopping survey it conducted last summer.

“Next month we are starting a campaign where we will be going out after these types of business,” said Rachel Thieme, the BID’s executive director, at the annual meeting. “The BID aims to work with brokers and owners to fill vacancies with businesses that we believe will succeed and will enhance the district.”

“The district has so much going for it already,” Thieme said after the event, “but it could really be enhanced with a better variety of retail offerings.”

Despite the plan to attract new businesses, the market research firm noted that the vacancy rate in the BID district is low. The rate was 6.5% when it conducted its study in December—which it said was lower than the 9% to 10% that has become common in many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs.

Thieme said that the study found that most people walk to the district to do their shopping and that, in part, is why the BID will be focusing heavily on improving the trees and making the sidewalks look more appealing.

Tree Guards

Thieme said the BID plans to install tree guards throughout the district over the next few years. However, she said, the BID is looking for sponsors to help cover the cost.  A tree guard costs $1,200 to put in, which includes the cost of expanding the tree beds if necessary.

Furthermore, the BID has just launched a program that will help cover the cost for those business owners who replace their solid metal gates with open grille gates. The BID will subsidize 50% of the cost, up to $1,000. The grille gates, which are 70% transparent, are deemed less susceptible to graffiti and visually more appealing.

The BID said that it plans to bring back the Taste of Sunnyside this spring and will also have its second Sunnyside Restaurant Week in the fall. It did not have any further details at this point.

Thieme said the first Sunnyside Restaurant Week was a big highlight and that the 16 restaurants that participated all said they benefited from it. “We received great feedback,” she said.

The 2013 board of directors were reelected for 2014, with John Vogt remaining as chairman. The board members all ran unopposed.

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I think the socioeconomic realities of Sunnyside are really what the problem is. Mom and Pop retail stores need buyers not browsers. The number of people walking the streets in Sunnyside with disposable income is not enough to sustain businesses needing to pay high rents and make a living. In addition Sunnyside, especially Queens Blvd., is not exactly attractive for the retailer or shopper as it is quite honestly shabby and dirty many a day. Having a three lane highway is also a turn-off. On the side-streets/parallel streets the amount of dog-poop is just mind-boggling. You only need to look at what has happened in the past 10 years in the Hunters Point/Vernon Blvd area to see what new money and higher disposable incomes can do to a neighborhood.

Dorothy Morehead

My information comes from people I know who worked for the census and from 20 years on the community board. I agree with you that there are many apartments all over Sunnyside occupied by multiple people who are not legal occupants.. I was stopped by a tenant in 41-15 45th St. who asked me how many people would be in the STUDIO apartment I was handling. I said one and she said there had been three couples living there. A Con Ed meter reader told me about a cubicle system set up in the basement of a building with cots separated by curtains filled with Chinese men. That was on Skillman Avenue between 46th and 47th St. (The building has since been purchased by a large company and is better managed.) While I sympathize with the people working at minimimal wage (or worse) jobs and their need to economize on rent, these are dangerous and often illegal situations and should be called to the attention of the landlord and/or management company.


Dorothy, so you can say “for certainty” the south side has more immigrants than the north side has more non english speaking Indian/romanian/polish immigrants? I see PLENTY in my building alone piling up families and cousins into a 1 bedroom apartment.

Keep your 10 dollar words, South side census is no different than the north side, you just “SEE” more spanish people .


I think whoever is using the census has mixed up southside income and northside. Also, we used to have shoe stores on Greenpoint – now there are none! Forget the bookstore: many people use e-readers. Also, a good hardware store shut down on Skillman and 51st after being there for almost 25 years. Very sad.


“I agree with store ideas in the article except for one. No more restaurants.”

Seriously? Most of the restaurants in this area do great business. It’s one of the shining spots in Sunnyside!

Dorothy Morehead

@ germ mosion
The census is notoriously inaccurate. At the risk of provoking the north/south debate, I can say with certainty that there are more immigrant families on the south side of Queens Blvd than on the north side. If they are undocumented, they do not appear in the census. This has historically been a problem in securing adequate funding for schools and other services. The community board knows the children are there–we can see them!–but because they are not enumerated in the census, the federal dollars are not provided for their education.
Another inaccuracy in the census is due to the size and configuration of the census tracts. If they were broken down to smaller tracts, you would see that there are huge variations which are not reflected in the larger tracts, e.g., the Cosmopolitan Houses vs. the Celtics and the areas where pre-War co-ops and private homes predominate. However, even a refinement of the census tracts would not reflect huge variations within even small tracts as it basically adds incomes and divides by the number of surveys completed. For example, I represented a young couple in the sale of their house. Both were professionals with good incomes. There was a bad odor in the basement and I found that the sewer of the house next door was backing up into a shared rear basement entryway. I informed the elderly homeowner and discussed the remedy. Because her income was under $10K, I was able to get the repair made at no cost to her. The census would add the incomes of both households together and come up with inaccurate income data. It is not uncommon for retirees on fixed incomes to live next door to millionaires so census data alone is not a reliable indicator of income.

Rich Klein

You know what’s a great example of a Sunnyside business? The Butcher Block. Great food, great services, reasonable prices, not too big, not too small and always busy.


I’m getting a sense that many of you think that a Payless Shoes will somehow be an improvement to the neighborhood?

We need another failing shoe store about as much as we need another empty storefront, let alone a chain store with no social investment in Sunnyside.

Rich Klein

@Gem – That’s why it’s called a wish list! And don’t appreciate the personal insult. Barnes & Noble, yes, hurting, but that doesn’t mean as a customer I don’t enjoy buying books but more importantly it’s a great concept for bringing communities (like ours) together. Have you ever been to a book signing or author reading at a B&N? I have and love them. And i have news for you..some people spend quite a small fortune in nail salons, no matter their income because it’s a priority for them. Ditto as for spending on many Apple products.

And, I love 99 cent and dollar stores..just not this one. I never bashed business at all..but was merely making suggestions and giving my own preferences. As for bars, I don’t drink much but love the idea of making bars a focus of our entertainment dollars with live music.Next time read more carefully before you attack

germ mosion

@ rich klein

they are many nail salons because there is simply a demand for it and the beauty industry has one of the highest profit margins for a specific industry. to even wish for sunnyside to get a apple store, trader joes, barnes and noble or staples clearly showcases your lack of understanding on how businesses work and what neighborhoods they target.

1. barnes and noble is going out of business because of all the people who just hang out and use it as a library and never really buy anything.

2. the medium household income in sunnyside is bellow 60k a year ( 45k per family on the north side of queens blvd and 62k on the south side) these are actual facts, please feel free to fact check it with the us census.

people in these neighborhood barely have money to pay their rent, in a poor neighborhood the men go to a bar and drink the women go and get their nails done because that are the affordable luxuries that are available to them, most of the people here can not afford to travel regularly, or even purchases items at a premium such as apple products, books that are double the price they are on amazon, or supplies when they can go into a 99cent store or deals and get the same thing for much less.

before you bash the businesses think about the people who live in a neighborhood they are simply providing what the market demands, and in this market cheap goods and services are what is needed.

until we get to the point of 3-5k rent for 2 bedroom like Williamsburg or even Astoria we will not see the kind of shops that everyone so “desperately” need

Rich Klein

We needed a consulting firm to tell us the obvious about the “imbalance” like too many nail salons?

The bars are a core part of the neighborhood’s history and culture — and the 2nd Irish Music Festival yesterday was a great example of the bar owners working together to jointly promote and bring great live music here.

I think there’s still room for quality restaurants, like a real Jewish deli, an Italian pastry shop (where I could also get a cappuccino NOT made by Starbucks), a sit down Chinese restaurant, and a great steakhouse. I’d also love to see a community theater, a photography store and one big art gallery, where local artists can also rent space to do their work.

Hate the 99 cent store between 41st and 42nd Street, whose owners are rude and treat everyone like a potential shoplifter..yet they sell their stuff on the sidewalk which is an eyesore every time I walk by.

Retail wish list? Apple, Trader Joes, Barnes & Noble or Staples.


tax incentives for landlords give me a break — alot of them do not rent apartments or stores for that matter so they can take it as a loss on their taxes —

[email protected]

I’m new to Sunnyside from Florida. I like Sunnyside but am still keeping my house in Florida because of the winters
Learning about NYC. Every place has its problems I guess.

House of O'Shea

How to bring in the businesses.
1. Favorable tax zones for both landlords and potential businesses.
2. Pop up retail. Minimal rent. Tax incentives for hosting landlords. Businesses find out if they can make it here.
3. Reduce car traffic on the boulevard.
4. Improve simple quality of life issues. No more rorschach art from squirts. Curbing. Less tacky street fairs.
5. Eliminate the Sunnyside chamber of commerce.


“Mom-n-pop” businesses in NY = crappy little stores with high prices and terrible service, run by idiots.

It’s not a surprise. Given the taxes and regulatory environment here, you’d have to be an idiot to open a small business.

Celtic Bark


Yes, that’s right. Yours is the ONLY valid, non-stupid opinion on this thread.

Come off your high horse before you fall down


You guys should read the report done by Sunnyside Shines. It says that the district has a robust mixture of retail categories with no apparent over reliance on a single category.


This is great news…I love sunnyside! But it does get boring…we do need more! Especially a nice coffee shop to hang out in that’s not Starbucks!


I guess then if there is more to these Nail Salons then meets the eye my idea for Boycott Nail Salon Day is off because it wouldn’t make a difference. We wouldn’t be able to get to the problem. Thank goodness then I would have had to cut my own nails. Ughh! Still no intelligent comments on this situation.

Celtic Bark

Another bit of free advice for local businesses:

Thousands of people zip through Sunnyside on the 7 train everyday.

What do these potential visitors see from their elevated viewpoint as they roll through our neighborhood?


It certainly doesn’t look inviting. Clean that up, make it look like a neighborhood worth checking out and perhaps a few will get off the train and do some shopping and exploring. Best part is, they’re subway riders and parking isn’t an issue.

Celtic Bark


I find it hard to believe there really is a demand for all the nail salons that are open. This is simply a gut feeling but I think there’s more to these salons than meets the eye, IMHO.


Not one intelligent thing said on any of these posts. This is a market economy. If landlords are charging too much and stores won’t pay then rents will go down. If they can pay the rents will go up. Obviously if nail salons and 99 cent stores are surviving in this neighborhood there is a demand. You need a mix of big retailers and mom and pops for a healthy stable neighborhood. But nobody can tell a landlord whom to bring in. They just want to make as much profit as they can. That’s the New York way. Taxing owners for keeping their stores vacant! Yikes! Let’s have a boycott the nail salon day!


lure noun ˈlu̇r

: an appealing or attractive quality

: a device used for attracting and catching animals, birds, or especially fish

Full Definition of LURE

: an object usually of leather or feathers attached to a long cord and used by a falconer to recall or exercise a hawk
a : an inducement to pleasure or gain : enticement
b : appeal, attraction
: a decoy for attracting animals to capture: as
a : artificial bait used for catching fish
b : an often luminous structure on the head of pediculate fishes that is used to attract prey


I say make the rent-able locations affordable for people who want to start a business. The butcher that recently closed on Queen’s Boulevard? They were paying 7,000 in rent, that is ridiculous.

I agree with store ideas in the article except for one. No more restaurants. It something that opens up here isn’t a nail salon, hair salon, cell phone store or some place that is selling cheap junk its a restaurant. And that’s what most of the businesses are, places to eat.

Its getting to the point that they can’t make enough to stay open because there is way too much competition as well or people stick to the ones closest to them and never do business in the other restaurants.


To Doge:
If the south side is like you think it is, how come young couples pay close to half a million dollars for a coop? Because is a nice, comfortable neighborhood and getting better. Sunnyside is one community, people should not label and divide it, should try to support in every way local business, get involved more in programs that are available (check the Public Library). Have good ideas, bring it to the community leaders.


What Sunnyside NEEDS

1) A Garage / Parking Lot
2) Day Cares
3) Child tutoring
4) Pools
5)Payless Shoes

What it DOESN’T need

1) Another Bar
2) Another Salon
3) Another Another bank
4) Another BUM


Sunnyside is basically a cabbie pit stop.. The only decent part of Sunnyside is Skillman, and the gardens.

Celtic Bark

“Lure” retail stores into the neighborhood?

Isn’t the verb “to lure” usually employed when describing how something or someone is tricked into entering a trap?

Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Correction: that’s “shopping” not “hopping.”

But that could be a local Easter event at some point.

Kramden's Delicious Marshall

PS … and the Saint Patrick’s Parade brings in a lot of people and attention from outside, regardless what you think of the politics surround the event.

The pub crawls in and around Skillman are something that I can see attracting outside visitors. The pub and restaurant owners are on the ball as far as organizing events.

The free shows under the arch and the Thalia free events in Noonan Park are excellent as well.

People are coming into the neighborhood but as far as hopping goes, there isn’t much here you can’t get everywhere else.

Truly unique shops run by local people like April Glass, have great character and elegance but they simply can’t afford the rents they’re asking now.


Yay more 99 cent stores!

Let’s earmark this post and check back in 3 years. Nothing will have changed. They’ve tried this before and it always fails.



According to the barbershop next door (and courtesy of my husband for asking) the lot next door burned down years ago and there’s some sort of chemical mess there that makes buying the lot and building on it very expensive.

Of course, this is third person information so take it with a grain of salt.


Kramden’s Delicious Marshall

I absolutely agree. And they dress up so nice for service!!! Makes the neighborhood look so fancy!

Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Want to know who brings in the most outsiders to Sunnyside, at least the south side? It’s the Jehova’s Witness Hall. On weekends when they hold services, I see loads of them patronizing the business surrounding the hall.


@Krissi, Mike Novak

great points! let’s begin with that pitiful empty lot next to Starbucks
whoever owns that ought to seriously be ASHAMED of themselves and taxed to the gills for allowing that prime retail space to lay barren for over 10 years.
they obviously have little regard for our community so I say time to pay up or get the hell out and make room for real progress
can’t believe our BID, community board and local elected officials have allowed this to go on for far too long. surely they can mobilize and work to get this done. time to root out the bad seeds that are dragging us all down.

p.s. a payless shoe store would be ideal in that space

Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Make 46th st between the Arch and Greenpoint Ave, and Greenpoint between 46th st and 44th st, a pedestrian area.



Absolutely. I generally believe in the free market, but not at the loss of a community.

And tax write offs like some landlords use in the commercial business are most certainly NOT free market and suck for the community.

And I absolutely feel that small business owners are still the future of Sunnyside, not our past. I know most of the owners on Greenpoint Ave – you gotta support local business!!

I wonder though if local government really has any control over something like low interest loans in particular neighborhoods. They would have to be “co-signed” by the city I’d assume, so the bank would have lower risk. I can’t fathom how that would work. Perhaps JVB would know?


@Mike Novak You’re right, people shouldn’t even bother. Especially not the business improvement district.

Give me a break.

Mike Novak


I have to say, “THANK YOU” for your comments.

“There should be tax hikes for landlords who purposely keep spots empty due to artificially high rent (some long time owners prefer to keep the spots empty because they will make more using it as a write off instead of taking a lower rent) as well as some sort of program for low interest business loans for entrepeneurs. ”

In the past, I thought you were just a shill for the big landlords.
Nice to see you have the long-term viability of Sunnyside in mind.

Mike Novak

Lets face REALITY.
There is little to no parking in Sunnyside, so “attracting out-of-the-community” dollars is hopeless.
Sunnyside has always been about the LOCAL nature of the environment.
Local landlords who were NOT GREEDY BASTARDS were willing and able to make a profit off local, sustainable businesses.
Now that most of Sunnyside is controlled by BIG LANDLORDS, they have no problem “warehousing” rental properties (thats keeping them vacant to get a nice loss on their books to keep their taxes down) while looking to “maximize revenue” through obscene rents to the fools who sign leases at high costs.


This is such great news! Sunnyside is such a cute, quiet place to live but it serious lacks in this area! We need more coffee shops, cool bars (not a million Irish pub), nice restaurants, bakeries, a GOOD BAGEL SHOP!! And of course some more retail places would be great! Not big name retailers of course but I’m sure that’s not what they mean. Great mom/pop local places, A BOOK STORE!! I really hope we get some great business coming in. It would make Sunnyside perfect.


To everyone who knows what Sunnyside needs: please speak to people running successful stores elsewhere about setting up shop in Sunnyside. Potential shop owners need to hear that our neighborhood would be a good location for them from more than just the BID’s marketing materials; they need to hear it from possible customers.


I’d love to see a better class of small/independent/mom & pop/boutique shop arrive in Sunnyside. Less 99c, North Pole type stores. We need a decent coffee shop, a new brunch spot, a nice bakery with fresh bread and cakes etc, a couple decent clothing stores would be good too. I think Sunnyside could be a bit like Bedford avenue in Brooklyn, in a good way.


This sounds like a really good plan and its nice to see the BID you know… actually doing something 🙂

“Instead of Bringing in Big Retailers, why not help reduce the cost of doing business in Sunnyside (i.e. Rent) that can help small businesses provide the same services/products and prices that large retailers provide.”

The Bid didn’t really mention bringing large retailers in, at least according to this article. However I otherwise agree with you. There should be tax hikes for landlords who purposely keep spots empty due to artificially high rent (some long time owners prefer to keep the spots empty because they will make more using it as a write off instead of taking a lower rent) as well as some sort of program for low interest business loans for entrepeneurs. However these are more city (or county) issues rather than something teh BID really has power of.


Edit myself. We got great coffee vendors who are selling coffee, but I mean like a place to drink a good cup


More Mom and Pop stores, however less nail salons. A great coffee shop (not the chain from Times Sq coming in anyway) with GREAT coffee (gotta give Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan the real good coffee), a bicycle store, etc.


@long time resident It doesn’t say they’re pursuing big retailers. Mom and pop is definitely a big part of Sunnyside’s charm and we could definitely do to shift the balance of service to retail outlets.

Long Time Resident

This is bittersweet news because what makes Sunnyside so unique is the fact that it there is so many little mom and pop shops that bringing in Big Retailers might change the look and feel of our community.

I personally don’t feel like we need Big Retailers because working small businesses, I have learned to supporting our local businesses is important to our local community!

Instead of Bringing in Big Retailers, why not help reduce the cost of doing business in Sunnyside (i.e. Rent) that can help small businesses provide the same services/products and prices that large retailers provide.


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