44 Percent Rent Increase Forces Williamsburgs’ Whisk to Close
Kitchenware retailer Whisk (231 Bedford Ave.) is closing their Williamsburg location on April 30th after their landlord raised the rent by 44% to over $26,000 per month, Whisk posted on social media on Sunday.
Rent at their 231 Bedford Ave. space was originally $8,625 per month when the business opened on Bedford Ave. and N. 4 St. in 2008, the note explains.
Read the note Whisk posted on social media:
On April 30 we will close our Whisk here on Bedford Avenue. As the owner and creator of Whisk, it pains me to say goodbye. And so I wrote you this love letter to express my adoration for you and to tell you of my decision. It is a story of greed, commercial banking and the distortion of “fair” market rents.
When we opened Whisk on November 26, 2008, our rent was $8,625/month; it ended at $18,452/month. The thing is, we could sustain that high rent. We are a great, busy store and online retailers have not cut into our sales enough to hurt us. But to renew our lease for just 5 years, our landlords asked for no less than $26,500/month, or a 44% increase. To accept that rent would mean increasing prices and depressing wages. And that’s not the contribution I want to make.
So how did it come to be that it’s $26,500 or leave? I believe the story goes like this:
Developers identify Williamsburg as the cool place to be. Developers seek loans to amass more land ownership. Banks underwriting these mortgages demand to know payments can be met via higher rent rolls. “We like chain stores for tenants,” they say. Williamsburg businesses shift from independent, unique services to large American and multinational businesses seeking to grow their brand. Can’t actually pay the high rent demand? “No matter,” say these businesses. “It’s an advertising investment!” Private equity supported brands want in; food chains want in; heck, all the banks want in! Big landlords are happy and finally so too are the small landlords who can now say “me too!” on high rent demands.
And therein we see why Whisk has to leave you.
I love you for having passed through our doors so many times over all these years. You chose to shop locally; you chose to support Whisk. I am grateful for all my staff now and those of the past. We built Whisk together and I am a better person for all that I’ve learned. I am going to miss Whisk on Bedford so deeply.
And here’s where I make my plea to you to help build a better future. One, honor your neighborhood and decide how to spend wisely. There’s no need to prop up businesses that don’t serve a good purpose; but there’s every reason in the world to support the ones that do. Two, ask yourself: what do you want from your community? Small business decimation does not happen without structural consent, without community consent. Cities like Paris and San Francisco are working to create change. We can too. Help keep this discussion alive by emailing me at [email protected] Let’s talk about a vacancy tax; let’s talk about zoning; let’s talk about a no formula chain policy; let’s talk about online vs brick and mortar sales taxes. There are no easy fixes but we won’t get to a better place without investing in the tough discussion.
Please keep the love for Whisk strong by shopping NOW at our Bedford Avenue store where nearly all items are 30-50% off AND by shopping at our other two locations:
933 Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets, Flatiron district (212.477.8680)
197 Atlantic Avenue, close to Court St, downtown Brooklyn (718.852.2665)
A winter 2018 study from the Real Estate Board of New York found that retail rental prices on N. 4 Street between Driggs Avenue and Kent Avenue experienced some of the steepest rent increases in 2018:
North 6th Street and North 4th Street between Driggs Avenue and Kent Avenue, which saw respective increases of 8 percent and 34 percent to hit $251 and $197 per square foot. The increase on North 4th Street was the largest throughout Brooklyn.
While the L train shutdown that was anticipated to negatively impact local businesses has been partially mitigated, many renovated storefronts remain vacant on N. 6 Street between Bedford Avenue and Kent Avenue.
The NYC city council held a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (originally introduced 30 years ago) last October, which would help to protect small businesses in the lease renewal process by mandating 10-year lease renewals and providing legal assistance to renters. The SBJSA has at least 30 sponsors making it viable to pass if brought to vote in the city council.