Archive for the 'Business' Category

Photo by Robert Fernandez

The former ball pit at Nostrand Avenue’s McDonald’s (Photo by Robert Fernandez)

Breaking news! The McDonald’s at 3540 Nostrand Avenue no longer has balls.

The fast food restaurant cleared out the ball pit recently, according to super-tipster Robert Fernandez, who sent in the photo above.

It should come as no real surprise. McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants across the nation have been getting rid of ball pits for years, largely for sanitary reasons. A former McDonald’s employee responded to a Yahoo Answers request, explaining:

The ball pits in many fast food restaurants have been removed mainly because they are extremely unsanitary … things such as food, band aids and even soiled diapers to be disposed within the ball pit. It isn’t practical for the cleaning staff at fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s to clean the ball pit various times throughout the day so those items sit in the ball pit causing bacteria to spread throughout all of the balls.

The ball pit castrations came around the same time as a headline-grabbing study in 2011 that looked at just how filthy America’s 15,000 playroom facilities were.

Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan’s analysis revealed:

Not only did we find pathogens that could make children ill, we found bacteria that were potentially deadly.

… Among my bacterial findings: Staph aureus, Pseudomonas, E. coli, Bacillus cereus and Coliforms. These can cause everything from nausea and vomiting, to skin infections, meningitis and death.

There was also quite a bit of poop on those balls.

Sure makes you look differently at that floor in the photo above, doesn’t it?

elgreco

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space.

El Greco Diner is bustling with nostalgic patrons since news of its impending closure after 40 years of business became public.

“It’s been crazy since you ran the story,” owner George Venetoklis told Sheepshead Bites. “Lines to get in. Too bad we are closing. Packed as we speak.”

Venetoklis said the deal for the 1821 Emmons Avenue location officially closed Friday morning. He declined to name the buyer or the sale price, but Sheepshead Bites learned that Rybak Development purchased the property for $13 million with plans to build a mixed-use property and public plaza. An auction to sell off the restaurant’s equipment is scheduled for late December.

Venetoklis said a sale has been in the works for some time, as he, his brother Peter and mother Anastasia put blood, sweat and tears into keeping it going in a changing community and economy.

“We had a really good run. A lot of businesses, at some point the model just changes. Our model was large portions at good prices. Our food prices were beginning to skyrocket and we couldn’t keep up,” he said. Other economic factors were also at play. “Real estate taxes, labor costs, everything took its toll. As a family, we realized we put in our time. Forty years, it was time to move on.”

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

A final breakfast of two eggs over easy with sausage and English muffin for this reporter.

El Greco’s owners did mount a search prior to the deal to sell the business and keep it in operation, but they said businesses like theirs have a shrinking place in communities.

“We were looking for a more modern version of the El Greco family to come in and take over,” he said. “I think that [Sheepshead Bay] has been doing well, but it’s just that the larger corporate-run businesses are the ones that have greater longevity and more backing and more ability to do things in a different way. That’s just what the nature of the beast is.”

It wasn’t an easy decision to close the diner. Founded by George’s father Minos in 1974, El Greco’s remained a true family business, where the two brothers were raised and eventually worked to keep the elder Venetoklis’ memory alive 20 years after his passing.

I was three-and-a-half when it opened, and my mother is fighting off tears.” he said. “I have four children … and they were heartbroken. I can understand it because I was basically their age when I was growing up in this restaurant. My 8-year-old turned to me and said, ‘Dad, what are you going to do?’ I said ‘I’ll spend more time with you.’”

Venetoklis said it’s the relationships he makes with customers, employees and business suppliers that he’ll miss the most.

“The highlights have been the customers and the friendships we made. This place has never closed, the business has a life of its own. It doesn’t sleep. And I’ve worked every shift in this place; I’ve seen the neighborhood change. I’ve seen the menu change – we had items that we’ve had to remove because the customers weren’t around to eat them,” he said.

The restaurant, recently named one of the borough’s best diners, was teeming with longtime regulars on Saturday afternoon. Chatter about the pending closure could be overheard at almost every table.

Among the regulars were Marc and Zoya Baroda, a Mill Basin husband and wife who met at the restaurant nearly 20 years ago and who now visit regularly with their three children, ages 6 to 15.

“I worked here as a hostess, and he was the pickle man,” said Zoya. It was 1995, and she got the job because she was a frequent patron. “I grew up here. I came here before I met him, before I worked here, and this was the place to go after a club or a night out and this is where to meet up.”

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they'll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Marc and Zoya Baroda with their three kids. They say they’ll be back again before the restaurant closes for good.

Her future husband made the regular deliveries for Mr. Pickle – which he’ll continue to do until the closing this week.

“He’d flirt, of course. He delivered, and would come to the cashier and I’d have to pay him and he’d flirt,” she said.

It took a vacation out of town to work up the nerve to ask her out, said Marc.

“I was talking, talking and one time when I went on vacation to Mexico, one of the guys who works for me, I told him to tell Zoya when I come back I’m going to be looking for her,” boasted Marc.

He did, and they married two years later. They took their wedding photos inside the restaurant.

“There’s an old joke I used to do with Peter and George after we got married. Every time she got pregnant, I’d tell them the price of the pickles went up,” he laughed.

When they found out it was closing, “I was shocked. I was completely distraught. And my phone has been going off non-stop. My friends who moved out of Brooklyn saying that they have to come to New York to have that last breakfast or lunch or whatever,” said Zoya. “I’m very sad to see the place go, but all good things must come to end.”

“I’m not just losing a diner, I’m also losing a client. But I’m not losing a friend,” he said of Peter and George.

Venetoklis said such sentiments have been endlessly echoed by regulars, and that’s what they’ll remember the most when they lock the diner’s doors for a final time.

“It’s bittersweet. It hurts, but at the same time it feels good,” he said.

This is a paid announcement from the Midwood Development Corp.:

shop-midwood

shop-midwood2Shop local this holiday season! The Midwood Development Corp. (MDC) and the Midwood Merchants Association (MMA) present Shop Midwood WeekDecember 14-28, 2014.

Participating merchants on Avenue J, Avenue M, and Coney Island Avenue are offering special deals and discounts for everyone on your list. For example:

…and much more! Click here for a list of participating businesses.

In addition, MDC and MMA will introduce the Shop Midwood customer loyalty card, which will entitle the bearer to special deals and discounts valid through June 30, 2015!

Please visit the MDC or MMA websites for more information, or call 718-376-0999.

Shop Midwood Week and the Shop Midwood customer loyalty card are sponsored by Astoria Bank.

#shoplocal  #staylocal  #smallbiz

The above is a paid announcement by the Midwood Development Corp. Sheepshead Bites has not verified the claims made in this advertisement. If you own a business and would like to announce a special offer to tens of thousands of locals, e-mail us at advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Polina Groman and her husband Elliot. Source: SpinGreen via Forbes.

Polina Groman and her husband Elliot. Source: SpinGreen via Forbes.

Free coats – and free food – are coming to the Kings Bay YMCA this Sunday, December 14, courtesy of a community coat drive organized by SpinGreen, a 1733 Sheepshead Bay Road-based textile-recycling company, and Investors Bank.

The event is set to run from 11am to 3pm outside the Y at 3495 Nostrand Avenue, off Avenue V, and is the culmination of a six-month-long coat drive effort at all 13 Investors Bank branch locations in Brooklyn, said Investors Bank’s Assistant Vice President Branch Manager Gene Svetnikov.

“We get involved with the community a lot and [this year] we partnered with SpinGreen because especially with winter, [our donation trunks] have a good surplus and we’ve been getting a lot of coats, so we wanted to help families in need,” said Svetnikov.

“If anyone needs a coat, they are welcome to come or just stop by to see what we are doing,” added Elliot Groman, director at SpinGreen, which was founded in February 2013, by his wife, Polina. 

“We’re accepting sweaters and jackets and have contacted churches and synagogues in the area, so we’re hoping we’ll have around 150 coats and 50-60 sweaters of all sizes,” Groman said.

Groman and Svetnikov don’t anticipate having any coats left over after the event, but if there are, then the clothing will either go towards SpinGreen’s next coat drive in the Bronx or be recycled as textiles to be used as stuffing for toys, seat cushions and other items.

As noted in a Forbes profile this past August, SpinGreen works with reputable charities to donate all wearable items to local families in need, with the remainder being sold to to recyclers and the profit going back to charity and the property owners who host the bins.

“Our main thing is to keep clothes out of landfills [because] the U.S. wastes over 13 million tons of clothing a year,” said Groman. “And Americans only recycle about eight percent of that.”

 

Photo By Erica Sherman

Photo By Erica Sherman

UPDATE: See the exclusive renderings for the building the new owners have planned for this space, and hear what the current owners and some patrons will miss the most when El Greco closes.

Sheepshead Bay’s iconic El Greco Diner is set to shutter next week after the property has gone into contract for a sale, making way for a new residential tower with ground-level commercial space, sources tell Sheepshead Bites.

El Greco Diner, a waterfront staple at 1821 Emmons Avenue, will soon serve its last burger and breakfast, an employee confirmed by phone today.

“Yes, we’re closing. By the end of next week. We’re not sure yet [what day],” the employee said.

The worker added that she and colleagues were told just yesterday. She hung up the phone when asked for additional details.

The sale of the property and its closure are not yet public. Owner George Venetoklis did not return calls for comment, but sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed social media chatter, and said that the land has sold to a local developer with plans to construct a new building.

The building was put up for sale in March 2013 with an asking price of $17.5 million. An associate for Massey Knakel Realty Services, the listing agent, told Sheepshead Bites that the company no longer represented the property, but that El Greco’s owners had gone in-contract with a private buyer.

A source with knowledge of the pending sale said the deal hasn’t closed yet, but is in contract for between $13 and $15 million. The source requested anonymity to preserve business relationships with the owner.

“They should be closing shortly,” the source said.

No plans have been filed with the Department of Buildings, and since the deal has not closed there has been no paperwork filed notifying the city in a change of ownership.

El Greco has served Sheepshead Bay patrons since the 1970s, and has been named one of Brooklyn’s best diners. Employees were hit hard by the news of its impending closure, according to diners who visited this morning.

“My wife was there this morning and the employees were all devastated,” said Michael Goldstein, the director of marketing at Kingsborough Community College. “They also told her in secret.”

UPDATE (December 12, 2014 at 2pm): The deal officially closed this morning, confirmed owner George Venetoklis. He did not disclose the sale price or the buyer, but did add that El Greco’s last day of operation is slated for Friday, December 19.

This is what robot-facilitated sex assault looks like.

This is what robot-facilitated sex assault looks like.

T.G.I. Fridays wants to make dinner a little hotter this holiday season, so they’re deploying drones equipped with dangling mistletoe to hover over diners’ heads and encourage a little heavy petting.

The Sheepshead Bay Fridays at 3181 Harkness Avenue will become the second location in the United States to feature the drones, with the weaponized make-out makers taking to the air inside the restaurant from 5pm to 9pm.

A fleet of the drones was released on U.K.-based T.G.I. Fridays last month, and made their first appearance earlier this week in Westbury, New York. If the gimmick proves popular with diners, it will continue in other Fridays across the United States.

The drones are equipped with cameras that point down towards their target. As they hover over a dining duo, the pair are broadcast onto large screen televisions throughout the restaurant, as well as on Fridays’ social media accounts – and those who hook-up get a gift card.

But Eater notes that even those who can’t make it into the restaurant can participate by posting a photo of you and your beau sucking face under the mistletoe on social media using #happyfridayholiday to have a chance to win a gift card.

The intrepid reporters over at the Daily News attended the Westbury event, where apparently most Fridays patrons are douchebags:

“I’m drinking Jack [DANIELS], so I was like, ‘Let’s go,’” said Joe, a Westbury customer who declined to give us his last name…

“He has a girlfriend – but she doesn’t live in New York so it doesn’t count,” said Hazel, 25, who not only declined to give her name, but asked the News to keep the randy recon off Facebook…

…”Some people might be on a date with their side chick and wouldn’t want their face up on the screen,” said Waterbury native Billy Casseus, 20. “I’m keeping it PG.”

Translation: If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son. I’ve got 99 problems and they’re all chain restaurant social media promotions.

All we know is with Fridays’ new look post-Sandy, all you can eat appetizers, and now this, our local Applebees better up its game. We recommend prophylactic-filled pinatas on Cinco de Mayo, or maybe for the Hannukah crowd, some LSD latkes.

Photo by Soo Koon Lee

Photo by Soo Koon Lee

Do you miss the days of heading down Emmons Avenue to Brown Street for some Chinese food at Hong Kong City? Well, the former owners are back with a new place in Bensonhurst.

Hong Kong City, the one of the only places to get Chinese fare on the waterfront, shut down some five or six years ago. The 3081 Emmons Avenue storefront has since served up Turkish food, Mexican-American food and, most recently, Italian food in the shape of Vittoria Seafood & Grill.

Owner Peter Wong is now in a new space at 2332 86th Street with a soon-to-be-opened Cantonese eatery named Shun Deck Restaurant.

Our sister site Bensonhurst Bean reports:

Long-time restauranteur Peter Wong told us he teamed up with chef Karmon Chan to build a restaurant that served the food of his hometown in the Chinese province of Guangdong. Wong had previously owned and managed the popular Hong Kong City in Sheepshead Bay (3081 Emmons) as well as a Chinese restaurant in Bay Ridge. His latest venture, Shun Deck, will be open for business on Monday, December 8.

Chan says the restaurant will serve “home-style” Cantonese recipes from Guangdong, China. The menu will include items like fresh seafood and fish, casseroles and soups, as well as rice congee for lunch.

Shun Deck Restaurant

Photo by Rachel “GimmeCredit” Silberstein

Best of luck to our former neighbors!

Former Richard Yee's site at 2617 Avenue U

Former Richard Yee’s site at 2617 Avenue U

The owners of Cherry Hill Gourmet Market are working to open up a new Glatt Kosher market in the former site of the legendary Richard Yee’s Restaurant at 2617 Avenue U.

Neighbors began noticing construction in late summer, with the black paneling ripped out and windows papered up. The inside is being gutted as of last week, and a manager of Cherry Hill market, Sam Nitka, told Sheepshead Bites it’s all in preparation for a gourmet kosher market to open next year.

“[Cherry Hill] will financially support it, and we believe there’s a demand for it in the neighborhood,” said Nitka.

The store will sell kosher certified meats, packaged groceries, organic vegetables and more, and will be Sabbath observant. It’s expected to open in June or July 2015, Nitka said, with a name to be decided.

The new market will also take over the former site of Shulman’s Picture Framing on the corner, and will likely utilize the small parking lot behind the property.

Richard Yee’s closed in 2008, though the property remains in the family’s name. The restaurant was among the first place to hawk Chinese fare outside of Manhattan’s Chinatown, having opened in 1967 (following an earlier creation by Richard’s father, Joe, in Flatbush). When it closed, it was the oldest surviving Chinese restaurant in the borough.

After its closing, the venerable food columnist Robert Sietsema reflected on its legacy:

Yee’s represented a new type of restaurant when it opened in 1952: Emphatically located nowhere near any Chinatown, it offered a nightclub ambiance with the Polynesian flourishes that were expected of upscale Chinese restaurants at the time, including flaming cocktails, tiki-hut décor, a separate cocktail lounge, and an evolved Cantonese cuisine perfectly suited to the young families that were flooding the neighborhood in the postwar era. Classic dishes included sliced roast pork with garlic and sherry, steak kew, lobster in scallion sauce, and some of the city’s first “sizzling platters.”

A more in-depth account of Yee’s history can be found in the book “Gastropolis.” It was apparently a favorite of local Jews (and Sandy Koufax), so it becoming a kosher market is not altogether removed from history (and better than the fast food chain Sietsema predicted). Yee invented or inspired many dishes that are now ubiquitous in American Chinese shops, and one of the most famous was his crab balls.

A member of the Yee tribe appears to have set up a blog to remember the restaurant’s legacy.

The location has sat empty since Yee’s closed, so we’re glad to see it being put to use by a local business. We’ll keep you posted as the opening nears.

sprint-1

Thank goodness. Sheepshead Bay Road has what it’s been missing for a whole six months: a Sprint store.

Sure, you could say, “What’s wrong with any of the six other cell phone stores (not to mention the two barber shops that also sell cell phones) on Sheepshead Bay Road?” The answer is, “I don’t know.” But we didn’t have a dedicated Sprint. At least not for the last six months.

Now we do. A Sprint location opened its doors in late November at 1610 Sheepshead Bay Road. It comes after the June closing of a locally-owned Sprint down the block at 1743 Sheepshead Bay Road.

It is good to see the renovated storefront leased. It’s one of the properties owned by Waldorf Realty, which also owns broad swaths of Sheepshead Bay Road that they’re currently renovating (unfortunately leaving several portions looking rundown and vacant). So now that the work is done and it’s filled, it’s one spot on the strip looking a little sunnier.

Welcome (back) to the neighborhood, Sprint.

 

This is a paid announcement from Brokelyn, a webmag devoted to living the best possible life in Brooklyn regardless of one’s means:

beer-book1

What’s a better gift than a pocket full of free beers at the best bars in Brooklyn?

The South Brooklyn & The Rockaways Beer Book offers 28 beers of your choice for $28 at 28 of the best bars in Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park and the Rockaways.

This smartly-designed, limited edition, pocket-sized bar passport is a great gift for friends, lovers, dog walkers, babysitters, teachers, coaches, bosses and local news bloggers, among others. Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean readers get a 20% discount on orders of four or more books. Enter the code Sheep5 at checkout. 

beer-book2

The book includes Sheepshead Bay’s own Brass Rail Bar (formerly Log Cabin) and Anyway Cafe, along with Bay Ridge mainstays Lock YardBean Post Pub and Windy City Ale House.

Explore the beer Valhalla that is Gravesend’s Draft Barn, or get down with some meatloaf and some football at Marine Park’s Third & Seven. Don’t make the same mistake as Leo: order more than cranberry juice at Sunset Park’s Irish Haven, where THAT bar scene in The Departed was filmed. Or explore 3rd generation family-owned marina-side watering hole Tamaqua Bar & Grill in Gerritsen Beach.

Order the South Brooklyn & The Rockaways Beer Book here, and check out the full list of neighborhoods and participating bars. Remember to enter Sheep5 at checkout to get 20% off orders of four books or more, making it an even better deal. Happy Cyber-Monday, people.

The above is a paid announcement by Brokelyn, a webmag devoted to living the best possible life in Brooklyn regardless of one’s means. Sheepshead Bites has not verified the claims made in this advertisement. If you own a business and would like to announce a special offer to tens of thousands of locals, e-mail us at advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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