Eye On Real Estate: But Sayonara to the Street from Long-Time Brooklyn Heights Jeweler
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A real-life Willie Wonka is moving to Montague Street.
The storefront Radio Shack has vacated will be the new home of a Brooklyn Heights chocolate factory that hosts kids' parties and bachelorette bashes, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned.
“I can't wait,” Joe Whaley, president and CEO of Chocolate Works, told the Eagle about opening the factory at 110 Montague St. “It will be perfect.”
The shop, which will be in the hands of a franchisee, will sell addictive treats like cocoa-dusted chocolate truffles, chocolate-dipped Oreos and pretzels, novelties like chocolate high heels and more. For those who – alas – can't eat chocolate, there will be jelly beans in all the colors of the rainbow and other sweets. There will be space for shindigs where kids or adults learn to make mouth-watering candies with Belgian chocolate and all-natural ingredients.
“I thought with the population we have, with lots of children, it could be a fun thing for the street,” said Douglas Elliman leasing agent Marty Ellman, who marketed the ground-floor space. “It's something different.”
The chocolate maker joins an influx of intriguing tenants on the land-marked Heights retail corridor. Others include Brooklyn's first Kiehl's in Corcoran's ground-floor space at 124 Montague St. and furniture maker Homestories, an arrival from Switzerland, upstairs at 148 Montague St. – both of which the Eagle was the first to report.
Whaley, thinking like an optimist, hopes the chocolate factory will be open by Valentine's Day.
Chocolate Works locked in the 1,400-square-foot storefront with a five-year lease and five-year renewal option. The asking rent was $12,000 per month, Ellman said – slightly more than $100 per square foot per year.
The franchise concept was created a couple years ago by Whaley, whose family-owned business 5th Avenue Chocolatiere has been operating for more than 40 years.
He's a military veteran who served in Iraq with the Fighting 69th, the famed National Guard battalion. While he was gone to war his dad John, who had started the company, came out of retirement to run it.
The franchisee at 110 Montague is real estate developer Shlomi Avdoo, who already has a Chocolate Works on the Upper West Side, on Amsterdam Avenue.
Whaley initially tried to get a storefront in Heights residential building 101 Clinton St. – but is bullish about the Montague Street site Chocolate Works ultimately landed instead.
“It's probably the best location in our system,” said Whaley – because of loads of families and schools in the surrounding neighborhood and a steady stream of shoppers on the street.
Chocolate Works has 23 metro locations. The one on Montague Street will be Brooklyn's first. Whaley's hunting in Park Slope, Williamsburg, Midwood and Bay Ridge for additional Brooklyn sites. Avdoo has right of first refusal on them.
Initially, the owners of 110 Montague were not interested in having any type of food tenant take the storefront, “which is typical behavior of landlords on the street,” Ellman said.
Many queries came from nail salons. A Thai restaurant operator tried to get the space. What persuaded the property owners to take on a food tenant was Whaley's “straight-arrow” character and the fact that the franchisee has a track record with opening chocolate shops, Ellman said.
George Philips, whose family owns 110 Montague, declined to comment.
The Philips' brownstone also has a vacant parlor-floor retail space where a shop called Proper: The Accessory Vault has closed. The landlord is negotiating with a prospective tenant for the 500-square-foot space, which has an asking rent of $3,000 per month, or $72 per square foot per year.
Famed Jacques Torres has a chocolate shop down in DUMBO. But the factory portion of the store – where shoppers could watch treats being made – is moving to an industrial space being built in Sunset Park's Brooklyn Army Terminal.
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING
As a newcomer gears up to build a sweet (literally) shop on Montague Street, a veteran retailer is in the throes of a bitter departure.
Montague Jewelers is holding a going-out-of-business sale after 25 years at 212 Montague St.
“There's no business – not like there was before,” Alan Cabasso, whose family owns the shop, told the Eagle.
“The high price of gold is a major factor,” the Midwood resident said. “It caused everything to go up and be unaffordable.”
Rings, bracelets, watches, necklaces – everything is marked down 20% to 75%. Cabasso has city permission to conduct the closing sale until Nov. 28 – but he hopes to be allowed to extend it into December for holiday shoppers.
At a counter nearby, a customer told a store employee, “You will be missed.”
Outside the front door, a recorded voice on a stereo speaker alerted passersby to the store shutdown: “Come on in and get a deal of a lifetime,” it said.
Cabasso renewed his lease about a year ago, thinking his shop's financial situation would improve. Now he will have to sit down with landlord SL Green Realty Corp. and figure out how to end his lease. His storefront is on the Montague Street side of 16 Court St., Brooklyn's tallest office tower.
His neighbor in the building, Duane Reade, does not want his space, he said. The drugstore chain already expanded by taking over a Chase Bank ATM vestibule on the Court Street side of the building.
“Thank God, for many years, business was good,” he said.