By Patrick Hedlund
Streits staying put
Streits will continue making matzo at its longtime Lower East Side factory after the company decided to back off on the sale of its historic headquarters at Rivington and Suffolk Sts.
The Streit family, which originally moved into the first of four former tenement buildings at the site in 1925, put the properties on the market for $25 million in late 2007. After turning down a $20 million offer five months ago, the companys shareholders unanimously agreed that economic conditions had reduced the portfolios value too much to consider selling. Potential buyers had indicated an interest in residential development at the site.
Were here and staying in the Lower East Side for now, said Alan Adler, whose father and grandfather founded the business, which began as a mom-and-pop bakery on Pitt St. in 1914. Were going to stick out here as long as we possibly can.
Streits currently packages its matzo and related dry products at a warehouse in New Jersey, where Adler said he would ultimately like to consolidate all operations into a single facility. But that plan might have to remain on hold several years, he added, when the market hopefully has had enough time to fully rebound.
The dream would be a 100,000-square-foot, single-story building in an industrial complex, Adler said. Their current one six-story, two five-story and one four-story L.E.S. buildings only provide about 48,000 square feet.
Adler believes the buildings worth has dropped to about $14 million to $15 million, and that it will take years to bring the real estate market back to its former heights.
I will guesstimate that we will do this for five years, and well revisit [selling], he said, noting that maintenance of the companys ovens will continue as needed. If we have to, well just keep rebuilding.
Business at Streits has been brisk with the Jewish holiday of Passover approaching, and over all, the company has remained relatively insulated from the economic meltdown.
The demand is there for both Passover and daily matzo, Adler said. Thank God, were one of the few businesses in the economy thats doing very well.
Finally time for Topshop
One of Downtowns most highly anticipated and delayed retail openings will come at last on April 2 with the New York launch of Topshop, the British import whose announced debut sent shoppers tongues wagging last year.
The resurgent U.K. retailers first American foray, on Broadway at Broome St. in Soho, will offer the clothiers second-largest location next to its flagship London outpost. The planned New York unveiling had weathered a series of setbacks since news of the stores arrival broke in late 2007. Two previous launch dates were postponed due to complications during the 40,000-square-foot spaces build-out. According to reports, the much-hyped store will be spread out over four floors that include a shoe lounge, V.I.P. suite, D.J. booth and innovative design elements throughout.
Topshop made headlines two years back when supermodel Kate Moss introduced a line for the store, similar to the way chains like H&M and Target have brought in reputable designers to appeal to the citys more fashionable clientele.
I think the anticipation has built up, said Faith Hope Consolo, chairperson of Prudential Douglas Ellimans Retail Leasing and Marketing Sales Group, citing the stores European panache. I think the consumers are willing to open up their pocketbooks to something different.
Lower Broadway has turned into ground zero for foreign fashion imports, including the openings of Uniqlo and Muji just blocks away, and Consolo said Topshops entry will introduce even more quality to the area. Calling it the most exciting shop opening in Soho since Bloomingdales, she added that Broadway between Houston and Canal Sts. will remain in a state of perpetual retail growth.
You really have a contingency of a lot of great stores in one neighborhood, and Topshop is just going to be the icing on the cake, she said. They definitely will be a traffic driver.
Tapas take a dive
An as-yet-to-be-named tapas restaurant will open in the space of the popular East Village bar Tribe, which recently closed after a decade at the corner of First Ave. and St. Marks Place.
Danny Rivera, owner of the nearby Crooked Tree crêperie, plans to launch his Spanish-American tapas and wine bar by mid-June after extensive renovations to the space.
Im a guy from the neighborhood; Ive worked and lived here for over 10 years, said Rivera, whose cafe around the corner has been open for a decade. My plan is to make the place for the community.
Dr. Tara Allmen, who owns the five-story building housing the new restaurant, explained that Tribe had become derelict, even though it continued to draw loyal customers to the lounge-like, 1,000-square-foot space for a decade.
The bars owner, the senior partner in a group that operates four other venues in Manhattan, enjoyed a sweetheart deal during the last 10 years, Allmen said. But when the tenants lease recently came up, she more than doubled the price to bring it up to market rate, and decided to take things in another direction.
Im replacing a dive bar with an elegant wine bar and tapas place, Allmen added, claiming that the former operators did not maintain proper upkeep of the space. Do I think its a plus to have a higher-class place in the East Village? I would say its a bonus to have wonderful, quality places in the East Village.
History dictates that dive bars have sometimes outlasted fashionable restaurants in the neighborhood. But Rivera has already proven his longevity at the cafe and expects an even longer run with this new venture.
Its a neighborhood guy thats going to open up in the neighborhood, he said. Its in the hands of people in the neighborhood. Its not going to a sushi spot or a bank.