Friday, July 11, 2008


When the Irish and Italians arrived in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn more than a century ago, they opened little shops that catered to every need, like Ferdinando's on Union Street. There were corner grocery stores, butcher and barber shops, bars and bakeries. As their wealth grew, they moved on. In the 80's and 90's, a new generation of young professionals discovered larger and affordable apartments. Many had fled the high rents of Manhattan.

Gentrification began. Now, old time landlords were either cashing in on the wealth of the young people by raising rents or selling their old Brownstones for millions. A new wave of shops, restaurants and bars grew along Smith and Court streets. The drinking and eating places thrived, but the tiny specialty and boutique stores struggled.

Now, even higher rents are pushing them out of the neighborhood. Just a few weeks ago, "going out of business" and "moving to a new location" signs started popping up on just a one block stretch of Smith street. Days later, those four stores had cleared out. As quickly as they ditched Smith street and the high rents, renovations began on several of the places.

Right now, the only people who can survive this economy and the high rents are bars, restaurants and big chain stores, like Starbucks, American Apparel and Gap. Gone in just a few days: Flirt, Area (although they moved), Refinery and Watts on Smith, all boutique clothing shops. Earlier, a sweater store (not much of a need for those in the summer) and a few other small shops went belly up. We don't have a Gap yet, but it won't be long.

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