Within the last few years, the upper Glendale area of Myrtle Avenue lost some of its oldest businesses, including Frankmart Pharmacy at 78-17 Myrtle Avenue and Belmont Steaks at 79-11 Myrtle Avenue.
Those losses and the growing number of commercial vacancies, especially between 74th and 81 streets, has residents longing for practical businesses in the area.
Glendale resident and Forest Park Civic Association founder Paul Gagliardotto is creating a petition to convince small business owners and potential investors to consider upper Glendale. He will begin circulating the online and paper petition on Friday, February 8.
“We have residents here who are feeling a little neglected because we have to go further away or go to other parts of the community to get what we need on a weekly and daily basis,” said Gagliardotto, “and we’d like to see businesses move to upper Glendale.”
In addition to stores closing, Gagliardotto also noted the move of Forest Park Dental, which relocated from 80-15 Myrtle Avenue to 69-45 Myrtle Avenue, where business on Myrtle Avenue begins to pick up again. The consensus among business owners is that the lack of foot traffic is hurting the local economy and discouraging small business owners from setting up new shops.
“I get very few customers coming in who passed by either by car or just walking by,” said Henry Dischert, owner of Parkside Press, Inc., a printing business located at 74-13 Myrtle Avenue. “Most of my customers are from my customer base,”
Foot traffic is limited because the north side of Myrtle Avenue is the cemetery starting around 73rd Street to 79th Lane, where cars turn onto Forest Park Drive to get onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway. After that, one side is Forest Park, which is virtually uninterrupted until about 88st Street.
All businesses are only on the north side within this area that Gagliardotto is trying to bring attention to.
Michelle Cook-Lopez, manager of Cooks Arts & Crafts Shoppe at 80-09 Myrtle Avenue, believes that parking is a factor that goes hand-in-hand with foot traffic. Some of her suggestions include the strategic selection of bus stops and the addition of a few traffic lights.
The Q29’s last stop is on 80th Street and Myrtle Avenue and it starts its route going back in the other direction on 81st Street, she noted.
“My proposed change is to combine the Q55 stop on the south side of Myrtle Avenue and 81st Street with the Q29 for its first stop,” Cook said as a way that would help Glendale. “There is already ample enough space for at least two buses along the park. The remainder of the park block is already 'no standing anytime.' This would open up a stretch of 81st to more parking.”
Having parking on both sides of the street during the day by turning 80th Street, between 78th Road and Myrtle Avenue into a one-way going south would be another helpful change, according to Cook.
She also suggested allowing daytime and overnight parking on one side of Myrtle Avenue between 80th Street and 79th Lane, which is currently “no parking” on both sides of the street, as well as putting a traffic light at Myrtle Avenue and 81st Street to facilitate easier turns into 81st Street for buses and cars and putting a traffic light at 78th and 81st streets to make that corner safer.
Dena Chimienti, co-owner of Sprinkle of Fun located at 79-05 Myrtle Avenue, says her business is one of few that is geared toward children.
“You really don't have too many places where kids can enjoy and have their birthday parties,” she said. “Nobody has a room anymore at home so you need the space.”
In the meantime, residents are tossing around their own ideas as to the type of businesses that would help upper Glendale thrive. Charles Plenkers is interested in having some closer food establishments.
“If they’d put in a restaurant, like the Belmont Steaks we had, more people would be able to go out and enjoy some food,” he said, adding that a McDonald's or Burger King, a sandwich shop and a small ice cream parlor would all be welcome additions.
Maria Latorres thinks there needs to be more to cater to the elderly population.
“A nice senior citizen’s center would be good, “ she said. “Maybe two or three of them where they can go and relax and not be home all the time.”
Her other suggestions included a closer pharmacy, small grocery stores, a dance studio for children, and more mom-and-pop shops.
“I wish there were a little more,” said Rebecca Trosclair. “There are too many delis and nail salons. I would like to see a bowling alley, restaurants, lounges and more places for people to do more stuff. I have to go on a bus to go to the mall to do something.”
Philip, on the other hand, considered the stores to be sufficient. “I think the businesses are fine as they are,” he said. “It’s a quiet neighborhood, so we don’t really need anything big around here.”
George Lamb, a Glendale resident for five decades, said he does not mind traveling elsewhere to shop.
“I think a lot of the businesses should be turned into residences, because the nature of shopping has changed,” he said. “Fifty years ago they had full-service grocery stores, and we actually used to shop over there. Then we started shopping in supermarkets and Costco, so we stopped going to that local business.
“So we have really less of a need for a neighborhood of stores,” he added, but admitted that a Dunkin Donuts would be nice.
But Hubert Korb, who has lived in Glendale for 56 years, felt differently.
“We had nice businesses, very good businesses, but it’s all changed,” he said. “I’d like to see anything added. Any blocks you go and see the stores closed, put a business in there. Get it going like years ago.”