New Shops Thrive on Second Avenue

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Despite the subway construction, new businesses are still popping up along the avenue

The noise of construction on the Second Avenue subway may annoy Upper East Siders and business owners, and the blockades may be a deterrent to passers-by, but that still has not stopped new stores and restaurants from popping up on the popular avenue. Amid some of the empty storefronts, we also observed 9 storefronts under construction, or just about ready to open, from 68th to 86th streets along Second Avenue. In addition, there have been several bars and eateries, like Burger Fi, a well-known Southern chain at 82nd Street, and Beet American Bistro and Bar at 84th Street, that are new to the neighborhood.

"I've been to Second Avenue on the weekend and in the evenings, and there are people everywhere. Despite the construction, it's doing well," said Kathryn Flynn, a representative from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. "When I've been in some of the restaurants, you don't even notice the construction."

Flynn said that she thinks part of the lure for the new businesses is that right now, because of the construction, rents are probably low. When the subway is completed, she said, the area will become an extremely desirable area for businesses, and landlords will want to charge more.

That was certainly a factor for Eli Ankri, the owner of Eli's Hair Design on 84th Street, who just opened up a new salon, La Blonde, around the corner on Second Avenue. Right now the new storefront is empty except for a few barber chairs, and last week, as a promotion, Eli's hairdressers were giving away free haircuts.

"I think it's a good opportunity to open it on Second avenue, because when the subway is done there will be a lot of traffic, said Ankri. "And I like Second Avenue, it's a lot of traffic and young people walking by, even with all the construction. You always have to look at the long run."

La Blonde will be a lot trendier, he said, and caters toward young people. For instance, he said that he will be open until midnight on some nights, and offer wine and cheese for patrons. He said he wants La Blonde to not just be a place for people to get their hair done, but a place to hang out.

A few blocks over, Earbez Elias, the owner of Bonjour wine and Crepes, opened a few months ago, but said that for him, the rent is still high. And even though he laments the lack of foot traffic in front of his store, word has already gotten out about his wife's delicious Hungarian crepe recipes. Some customers he said, come in three times a day for every meal.

"I've wanted to open this crepe shop for a while; it's been one of my longtime goals. There's nothing like this on the Upper East Side so I wanted to fill the gap," said Elias. But he does acknowledge the difficulties of operating a business in the area. "The construction has been taking so long. It's hard to find parking spaces, the streets are narrow. A lot of small places are suffering."

His most popular crepe is a chicken gruyere with pesto and tomato. And for dessert, said Elias, everyone loves the strawberry and Nutella crepes. An unusual new crepe that he has just put on the menu is a dark chocolate and bacon crepe.

Local patrons will soon be able to indulge in delicious meatballs with the opening of a new Meatball Shop between 76th and 77th. Also, Soom Soom, the vegetarian chain will be opening between 83rd and 84th.

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