Is the landmarked Lundy’s building better off as a grocery store? That’s the way Crain’s New York makes it sound.

An article published over the weekend takes a look at Cherry Hill Gourmet Market nearly a year after its grand opening. What they found is a thriving business that they say locals need more than another restaurant. And maybe they’re right, which could have powerful implications on the Sheepshead Bay Special Zoning District, the law that determines what kind of businesses can operate on the Emmons Avenue waterfront.

Here are the relevant excerpts from Crain’s:

After the death of the last of the original owners in 1976, the two-story, Mediterranean-style building with its red-tile roof stood empty for nearly 20 years until a second Lundy’s opened. It folded six years later, and since then, the neighborhood’s most famous address has been an increasingly shabby graveyard for a succession of businesses—a surprising number of them failing even before opening day.

The bottom line is that today’s Sheepshead Bay doesn’t need a 2,000-seat restaurant as much as a good high-end grocery store like Cherry Hill. What’s more, the market has helped revive a local landmark.

Even from a distance, the market contrasts with the other ground-floor tenants in the building. Tattered awnings hang over a Japanese restaurant and a small café, for example, and both have cracked windowpanes. In contrast, Cherry Hill boasts bright-red awnings and well-polished glass. Inside, it even pays homage to its predecessor with framed pictures of the original Lundy’s that hang among clay cherry blossoms made by a local ceramic artist.

Pulling off that transformation took many months of work for owner David Isaev, who points out that he had to overcome a reluctant landlord, a host of local skeptics, and the city’s vast bureaucracy, which hit him with no less than 46 stop-work orders.

“I was in war in Israel and saw nothing like this,” says the former Israeli army soldier.

As readers of Sheepshead Bites remember, the opening of Cherry Hill Gourmet Market was mired in controversy, as local leaders rallied to slam the construction as contrary to zoning. They said Cherry Hill’s owners misled the city by submitting plans that showed the majority of floor space being used for a restaurant (a requirement in accordance with the Sheepshead Bay Special Zoning District), with an accessory market. In reality, leaders said, the ratio was reversed and the market dominated. A Stop Work Order remains on the property that prevents Cherry Hill’s owners from developing the upper level, slated to be the restaurant.

The other side of the debate, though, sounded a lot like this Crain’s article. Better to see the building used and a business thrive than for a landmark to go derelict, they reasoned. And apparently business has been good. The existence of a thriving tenant in the building’s largest unit has freed up funds for them to renovate the former hotel section behind the building. It was recently reported that they’re seeking a seafood restaurant and a steakhouse to occupy the space.

But, it’s true, there is some magic lost when considering the Lundy’s building, frequently considered the anchor of Sheepshead Bay’s waterfront. That we can’t pack that building with restaurants and cafes and waterfront-related shops seems to prove Sheepshead Bay will never have the feel of an upper-crust Long Island waterfront town.

But is that so bad? Those places are hollow shells, tributes to artificiality and kitsch (ever been to Freeport’s Nautical Mile?). They’re usually filled with second-homes that sit empty nine months of the year. Sheepshead Bay, though, has got that “lived in” feel, buzzing all year long as residents shuttle to-and-fro. It’s organic, and it’s that authenticity that makes an attempt to force character upon our neighborhood with pre-determined businesses that makes it fail.

That’s not to say Cherry Hill Gourmet Market is “needed” in Sheepshead Bay. But it did spring up organically, and if it fails it will do that organically, too.  Unless, of course, the continued hindrance of a “special zoning” contributes to their demise, a possibility as they’re denied usage of significant floor space.

Which raises the question: Is the tool the city created to foster waterfront businesses in Sheepshead Bay more likely to contribute to the demise of successful businesses along Emmons Avenue?

That’d be a terrible irony, and it’s time to start debating a reform to the waterfront’s zoning regulations.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=839675042 Holly Renee Reinhardt

    Well, personally, I'm of the opinion that Sheepshead Bay DOES have a lot (and I mean a LOT) of restaurants, only a small percentage of which are anything above “just okay”. Sure, it would be fantastic to have fine dining on the waterfront in that building, but I don't see what the problem is in allowing a local business (with 120 employees – that's quite a lot) to thrive in that location. Cherry Hill is Sheepshead Bay's answer to a European Whole Foods. I love shopping there, and I personally think it works well in the space.

  • brooklynq

    Personally, I think Sheepshead Bay needs another restaurant; a fairly priced, well run American style seafood place with good food and a little kitsch to suggest the nautical feel of a seaport. Imagine Randazzo's or Jordan's with good food and some style.

    The special zoning of the Lundy's building did not contributes to their demise. The 2nd Lundy's failed because the food sucked and they were part of a corporation that failed in all its restaurants including the Boat House in Central Park.

    Zoning is a very important thing in maintaining and creating neighborhoods. I hope you're not arguing for the end of zoning in NYC as your article suggests.

    As for Lundy's site, it's really a relic from a different age. Just as the Limelight Market in Manhatan replaces a club that replaced a church but keeps the architecture, the Lundy's site needs to be treated with the respect it deserves as a part of NYC history.

    I'd rather see an “upscale” market than a vacant building.
    I'd rather see a restaurant with an “upscale market component” than a market
    I'd rather see a restaurant than a restaurant with a market component.

  • BrooklynBus

    Isn't it ironic that the City won't let them open a restaurant on the second floor, after giving them so much aggravation because the food market is larger than the restaurant? The City needs to be encouraging local businesses not seeking to drive them all out of business with things like nonsense street sweeping fines when a piece of litter blows in front of a commercial establishment, probably caused by the City not emptying litter baskets in the first place.

  • Local Broker

    Personally I would like to see a good Sushi joint around here.
    All kidding aside i wanted to ask you whats your top 3 picks for BBQ in Bk and the city.

    • Anonymous

      Top three BBQ joints in NYC:1. RUB – it has the largest selection and is the most consistently good of all the places. It also has a great burger night on Mondays.2. Hill Country – Best brisket in NYC. Other meats are good, but not great. Sides suck. 3. It’s tough. I have to say Virgils. Even with it’s tourist prices and locations. It can be very good or very bad. Daisy May’s probably ties for third, but the last few times I had been there it was on such a downward trend from the best in the city. It may be as good as Virgil’s but its chili blows every other place out of the water.As for Brooklyn1. The Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Ave (Pete’s). This is a joint that serves BBQ, not a BBQ joint, but the BBQ is probably the best in Brooklyn. 2. The Smoke Joint.3. Coming in a distant third is Fette Sau. Some people love it, but me not so much. Could be the times I’ve visited. And just to talk a little about the current Fatty ‘Cue – it’s good – it’s expensive and it’s not BBQ

  • Whwsailboat

    In short, screw zoning, go with the highest profit.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    I thought I wrote something similar already to your last paragraph but apparently I forgot to submit it.

    There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in seeing the special zoning on Emmons removed totally. Some who would like to see the landmark law repealed so that all that prime real estate with “worthless” old buildings can be demolished to make room for more condos.

  • jo

    since i started hanging out in sheepshead bay four years ago, i've been to lundy's 1x… and that was to use the bathroom.

    i can't tell you how many times i've been to cherry hill, but that market has gotten more money out of me than lundy's restaurant ever did.

    this market is beautiful, clean, and the deli looks fresh. it's a decent market and there should be more places like this. maybe the owners are on to something by possibly putting a seafood restaurant and steakhouse in the complex. the market could attract customers and then they would stay and have a meal. it could work and i hope the new owners succeed because they are starting a new trend.

    it's rough thinking about the past because it brings up sentimental feelings, but lundy's is better off being a thriving business than empty space.

  • Rosie

    The old Lundy's was never a great restaurant. It was a fun place to go, and a tradition in Sheepshead Bay. Cherry Hill does not have the greatest prepared food either. I am still waiting for a real supermarket in Sheepshead Bay. People moving into the new houses need a car in order to buy toilet paper, the closest market being the Waldbaums on Ocean Avenue. That may be one reason why they are not being occupied so quickly.

  • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

    Two things:

    1) No one suggested that the special zoning contributed to the former restaurant's demise. I'm asking whether it's hindering the current business there, and if it's doing so for the right reasons.

    2) Zoning is indeed very important. I'm not arguing or suggesting that we end zoning. In fact, I'm not arguing or suggesting anything. I'm proposing a question to the community: is it time to consider a REFORM of the SPECIAL zoning district in Sheepshead Bay? The “special” part goes beyond dictating physical features of construction, and dictates the kind of businesses allowed to operate on Emmons Avenue. It may be time to ask if those limitations have helped bring us closer to attaining the goals it was created for, or if they need to be reconsidered.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Oh, but the argument has long been that these condo units are so much in demand. “If you build it they will come” and all that.

    We used to have a lot of supermarkets. But unfortunately a good percentage of the chains are now long gone. And those that are left count on the car trade. Which is why they all need parking facilities these days.

  • Georgia

    The parking in Sheepshead Bay will always be a problem. There will be never enough parking spaces with all of the condo's and apartments going up. If there is a driveway they will build not thinking about parking. The bay is so crowded everyday it's really terrible. We need a good parking lot for all of these cars so people could fish, walk, eat, sit and enjoy the bay. But it's not going to happen. It's a shame.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    We almost got a parking lot across the street from the Voorhies Avenue entrance to the Brighton line station. But it would have been of limited usefulness.

    Too bad they had to build that monstrosity on Dooley Street. They could have built a city run garage there.

  • Whwsailboat

    Of course zoning hinders business. It expresses a community's desire for a certain type of neighborhood, not to placate developers or to guarantee success.
    Time to rethink the SHB Special district? What special district? It was destroyed years ago and the developers won.

  • Local Broker

    Sorry but you are wrong. The special district hasn't really been touched. All the residential developments are not in the special district.

  • Local Broker

    Its really getting old reading comments about what should have been or could have been. Bottom line is that this place is doing great and people like it if they didnt they would close. As far as parking goes this area desperately needs it but people stop complaining go do something about it. Get some money together get some investors buy a few houses or lots get a variance and build a fucking parking lot. This guy built this or that but it should have been like this. STOP BITCHING. Go do something about it.

  • Whwsailboat

    It was destroyed when Lohmanns was permitted. But apparantly that is what everyone likes irrespective of the districts intent.

  • Local Broker

    Its obvious that its a successful development. Im curious what you would have wanted built there instead?

  • Whwsailboat

    Commercial profit is not the only rational for zoning.

  • Local Broker

    You didnt answer the question. What is private development for then if not to make a buck?
    Zoning is messed up all over this city. It doesnt make sense in most places and the people who are responsible for zoning studies are just like any other agency in this city either stupid or crooked and will never get it right.

  • Georgia

    Your 100% correct it is a monstrosity that building on Dooley Street.

  • Local Broker

    Thanks. I think i will check out the Ale House on Atlantic. I heard about a place called Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem that is supposed to be good dont know if its worth going all the way up town for some BBQ.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I don’t like Dinosaur, but some people love it. My friend Gary runs a site called Pigtrip http://www.pigtrip.net that lists and reviews almost all of the BBQ joints in NY and New England. He’s usually spot on with his reviews, but we sometimes disagree. Check it out.

  • Local Broker

    Again thanks. I will.

  • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

    Get a room, you two.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks we will

  • Local Broker

    Already got one thanks anyway.

  • brooklynq

    The parking problems could be solved if the city enforced its rules about condos and developments providing adequate number of parking spaces. No more variances for parking!

  • Local Broker

    100%. The city agencies that are responsible for zoning and construction are at fault. Like i mentioned above its either they are crooked or just dont care to do their jobs.

  • Trixified

    I know nothing of the zoning regulations in the area, but I worked as a waitress in Sheepshead Bay’s Cherry Hill for four months right after opening. Although I am glad to hear they are doing well, I have to add that my experience there (as well as many of the other employees’) had not been a positive one. I alone was cheated out of several hundred dollars of pay and heard many stories of the same from my coworkers. No contracts or tax forms were ever filled out and salaries were changed without prior notification. Of the fifteen or so waitresses that had been hired upon the opening of the “balcony” cafe, only two of us stayed for longer than a month; furthermore, the rapid employee turnover led us to believe that the venue conned their workers by keeping them on a trainee salary for as long as possible, then letting them go.

    Maybe this is why Cherry Hill is doing well. Hopefully this means that now they can treat their employees better.

  • Barkingspider7

    I think that Crain’s is right. In Lundy’s hayday, I heard that it was an excellent restaurant. When it tried to make a comeback, it just couldn’t. First of all, it had beome “yuppified”. The original Lundy’s never served pizza, spinach dip or pasta. It was a seafood place. Plus, by the time they reopened, the bay had changed and nobody was interested in the type of food that they were serving. Lastly, the food was just “meh”. It was edible, but definitely just average. I never ate there, but know serveral people who had eaten there. Too bad. But … I do love Cherry Hills fruits and vegetables – and their deli section.

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