Small Business Jobs Survival Act

44 Percent Rent Increase Forces Williamsburgs’ Whisk to Close

Whisk (via Google Maps)

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)

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Can Small Businesses Survive in North Brooklyn? Not Without Our Help

Lost our Lease

In the past year covering Greenpoint happenings, I have written about more local businesses closing than I care to remember. A simple peek on Manhattan Avenue shows a smattering of empty store fronts–some shuttered for more than a year—waiting to be taken over by some business with deep enough pockets able to afford a new tier of astronomical rents. Out you go mom and pop. Adios working artists. Sayonara small fry.

Each MONTH an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 NYC small businesses lose their leases due to profiteering rent increases.  And as we’ve bared witness, the only ones who can truly afford to occupy these newly priced spaces usually come strapped with shareholders, millions of dollars in equity, and a black bottom line.

In fact, the crisis is so dire, under the Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure 83,211 commercial tenants received eviction notices, an estimated 240,000 small businesses closed, and NYC saw more than 2 million jobs lost.

Real estate speculation is nothing new, but when it finally swoops in like that long lost relative no one ever wanted to deal with, the affect can be devastating as it takes over our lives.

So you might ask: Is there any real way to stop this? The answer is yes, but you have to keep reading to find out how.

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