The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blue Day for Blue Roost

Less than a year in at its new digs, Blue Roost is calling it a day.
I just got off the phone with owner Linda Billings, and it would appear that July 15th will be the end of the anything-but-run-of-the-mill run for the little PLG cafe that almost could. After the closing of the beloved K-Dog and Dunebuggy last summer, many folks were heartened to see Blue Roost take roost in K-Dog's old home. But once again, northeastern Flatbushers will likely wonder aloud whether their "up-and-coming" neighborhood is somehow cursed amenities-wise. Before we blame the occult however, it may be worth noting the actual facts around Blue Roost's closure. Linda was quick to squash any potential rumors about it the closing being primarily about landlord Rong Ge. Listening to Billings speak, I couldn't help hearing the same sort of weariness to her story that cropped up in articles about Gabby and K-Dog when it closed. The bottom line is it's exhausting to run your own caffeine house, and the payoff is not so great. I've heard from many, many people now through the years - the coffee shop business LOOKS glamorous, but in fact it is very difficult to make a living on latte's and croissants and other baked goods. The markup on coffee can be high, but you have to sell a darn lot of it. She confirmed my suspicions that the only way to make a real living is to own a few of the places, even under different names. And without the booze-biz that restaurants fall back on, you're really busting your butt for not much dough. She said she was making better money when she was waiting tables, if any of you really want to put some ballpark figures into the mix. It seems Blue Roost was already a question mark for Billings when the K-Dog spot came up, and she threw her heart and soul into the new reality, but while the gross receipts grew, so grew the expenses. I think I speak for many in the neighborhood in expressing thanks for the ol' college try, for the early morning hot liquid kicks in the pants, and for believing in the neighborhood. Linda's not sure what's up next, but it's safe to doubt it'll be another Blue Rooster. Third time a charm? Anyone? UPDATE: Rumors are flying about what's taking Blue Roost's place, and indeed there is a new business arriving. Hold tight...we'll let you know the details when the owners are ready to divulge said details. Sounds quite promising actually...

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sad indeed! It's suck a brilliant location for a coffee place, I would not be offended to see a chain take the spot. We do need the amenities, after all.

Anonymous said...

*such

Alana said...

An up and coming neighborhood should not have to pay rents for a neighborhood that has arrived. I've heard stories about the landlord being unreasonable, and I heard it directly from a former renter. So sad to be greedy.

Anonymous said...

Alana, if a merchant doesn't like the rent they should either buy the building or move to another neighborhood. I hear Mott Haven has very affordable commercial rents, as does Springfield Gardens and Flatlands. This isn't about Rong Ge and almost any tenant thinks their rent is too high. 90% of small business fail. Bad luck, a bad business plan, exhaustion or lack of gumption all could have led to the collapse of Blue Roost--who knows? Not you and not I.

But I am sick to death of the attacks on the woman who owns that building. Attacks that include people posting her home address and telling others to go knock on her door. And racially tinged slurs against her. If the community is so outraged about her rents, they should raise the funds to buy the building and put a co-op cafe in.

Rick Mangi said...

From what I heard from Gabby, who I know from our kids going to school together is that kdog was doing very well, but the landlord didn't like the vibe and preferred having blue roost. She basically got kicked out.

Kdog had better coffee better food and friendlier staff

Anonymous said...

probably doesn't help that:

*their coffee sucks
*they don't really offer decaf options
*their muffins/croissants are CONSTANTLY moldy/bad
*many of their staff either don't know what they are doing/act like they don't give a shit
*etc

this has little to do with anything other than the fact this was a sub-par "coffee" house. just because you (literally) "put a bird on it" doesn't compensate for the fact that this place was WEAK!
end of story.

Anonymous said...

Just walking in there, one would be able to see that they had no idea how to run a business. We don't need someone to give it the "ole college try", we need someone who has researched other NYC establishments (Sit & Wonder for example) and understands what they're getting into and the quality level they need to maintain in order to stay open.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Rong, the expression "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" comes to mind.

She pushed out K-Dog and she has repeatedly tried to push out Lincoln Park and Papa and Sons. She is going to end up with a bunch of empty storefronts filled with short-term tenants.

She is her own worst enemy.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Why kick the lady while she's down? Complaining about the places we have is fine, and you can vote with your dollars, but now we have no coffee hangout in northern PLG. I go to ICH (Internet Coffee House) fairly often and it's just fine with me. It ain't gonna win any design awards but they have decent bagels and are very friendly.

As to the landlord I gave her space on the blog previously to air her many opinions, including feeling treated poorly by Gabby's family, which I'm sure Gabby would dispute. I have no idea who is "right" in all this, but I do know that Linda was quick to point out that the landlord was not the cause of her throwing in the towel. She wasn't able to make any money, and while K-Dog may have been "doing well" it was also no cash cow. I think there's an undeserved belief that lines at rush hour spell big $$, when in fact the coffee and even restaurant businesses generally are notoriously difficult business ventures. Even semi-popular places close all the time all over town. R.I.P. Blue Roost.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is we need people in our neighborhood who know how to run businesses. The idea of 65 Fen/Delroy's/PLG Outpost is great, but they are never open and don't post their hours, so I never even bother trying to go there. Why can't we get someone in here that sells well-sourced pastries and really good coffee? I'd pay more money for quality products and a nice atmosphere rather than the poorly decorated interior and poorly sourced food of Blue Roost. Good riddance.

Alex said...

Such negative energy toward Lincoln Rd!

If we really want to have more desirable options in the neighborhood, which is what really seems to be at stake in the dialogue about amenities, then it will be incredibly important to figure out ways to put pressure on other landlords, not the owner of the Lincoln Rd property.

As an example, the former Mike's International space has been sitting empty for close to 4 years now (I think). The landlord is more or less unwilling to negotiate or work with credible business owners who have approached him, or so I am told. I am also told that the rent he is seeking to charge is way to high, surpassing what a comparable space would go for in Park Slope or maybe even Williamsburg.

The negativity aimed at Rong Ge is misdirected. It should be directed toward other landlords in the area who are basically preventing new amenities from entering the neighborhood. If anything, Rong Ge is part of the solution, not the problem. She should be left to her own devices while the community addresses the truly problematic landlords.

Anonymous said...

Well, if the word on the Lefferts yahoo list is correct, a catering company is moving into that space. If that means they aren't going to run it as a cafe, then that stretch of Lincoln is SOL. It's amazing to think that over a dozen new businesses have opened up on Franklin in the same time that PLG has just staggered along, incapable of sustaining a single damn coffee house. I actually think that Parkside Ave might be quicker to flip now, especially as this huge new condo complex at the Caledonian comes on line. There are a lot more storefronts with potential there. The park block of Lincoln has nowhere to expand.

Anonymous said...

"quick to point out that the landlord was not the cause of her throwing in the towel. She wasn't able to make any money"

Precisely. She wasn't able to make money because the rent for that space is too high. Which is something that everyone seems to have known except for the Roost and Rong. No coffee shop or such will ever succeed in that space at the rent Rong wants.

Anonymous said...

what was the rent?

Anonymous said...

So she had such inability to do basic math she didn't know it was the rent hurting her? You are really really determined to blame the landlord. Anybody with two eyes could see it was the amateur operation others describe here. No don't kick somebody when they're down but when the alternative iss to declare our neighborhood unable to support a coffeeshop thats not fair either because it's just not true. Both those coffeeshops were busy and bustling. This is one hundred percent about management. If it were solely about the rent then none of the coffeeshops in smaller bklyn names would survive. But there are plenty. Like how many times did people beg either business to operate as a proper bakery? That right there as a coffeeshop combo would be a success. They didn't need so many chairs for the kids to hang in all day. Do something else with the space that makes you more money. Like the florist coffeeshop on la brea in LA.

Anonymous said...

We just need someone in there that has good taste and has actually been in a GOOD, modern coffee shop in New York City recently. People who want to open successful businesses should do their research first.

Anonymous said...

From what I heard when Gabby was trying to negotiate her lease the landlord wanted something like 4000$ a month plus taxes. (I could be wrong, though as it was awhile ago and memory can be faulty.) Gabby was doing ok business wise, but knew that she couldnt make it with the cost of rent. So, she closed shop and had a good rest. It's exhausting to run a small business - she did it for five years, which is prettty good. I do miss the shop, and I think that I can say that without any sort of negativity towards the Blue Roost. given how hard it is to run a business on your own, I wouldnt wish that on any particular person...you really need a group to do it and to spread out the stress of such a business endeavor.

I will say that I dont know where these "racial attacks" are coming from as some have stated. In my many discussions with Gabby race was never brought up. And given her own family background I would find it very, very unlikely for her to be the source of it. Also, I've never read or heard any such negativity myself, in regards to race, around this particular issue other than the claim that the owner thinks so. Racisim is a very real thing and it is super destructive to our society, I just hope that negative comments about rent and the like are not being miss construed and being preceived as racisim.

Anonymous said...

these catering people want to open a bakery/coffee shop there. they're building out for a few months. the landlord is indeed difficult (and i've dealt with her a LOT. trust me). best of luck to these people dealing with her. we'll see what happens!

Anonymous said...

Crownlfc: I never went into the new Blue Roost but from what I was told, they could not tell coffee from a cup of tea.

As much as I hate to say it, the location probably needs a tenant with less passion and more business savvy, like "Le Bagel or CT Muffin"

Anonymous said...

How do we get a CT Muffin or a La Bagel, or a Bergen Bagels, or any of the solid Brooklyn Chains, to come on out to PLG? CT Muffin is opening their 7th shop on Nostrand at Bergen... now if they'd just head over our way....

babs said...

A few months ago I had extensive discussions with Connecticut Muffin about a commercial space on Rogers Ave., which they were seriously considering for a bit - however, in the end they went with the Nostrand/Bergen location.

Anonymous said...

I think a wise movement on Ct Muffin's part. If shops along Flatbush and Lincoln are still struggling, there is not much hope for Rogers at this time, at least IMHO.

ElizabethC said...

This has always been my question about the small businesses along Flatbush: do so many struggle because there are so many of the same types of stores (hair stores, nail stores, pharmacies, pawn shops). There are, of course, successful chain food stores/restaurants, and some successful independent food stores that seem to have tapped into some kind of knowledge to keep them around for years. But I was excited when a new pharmacy opened on Parkside (Prospect Health). Super close, and small, (allowing me to try and wean myself off Duane Reade). Until I went back to pick up a prescription on saturday...and found them closed. And on Sunday as well. When I called from work on Monday, they informed me that they decided to close on weekends for the summer. so, ok: a)not very convenient for those of us with full time jobs and b) what kind of business starts out by limiting there own hours (and then not even putting up a sign). When I spoke to them, they said there simply "wasn't enough business on saturdays". Well, there's a self fulfilling prophecy; we don't have enough business, so we'll close so we never get more business. It was just so ANNOYING. I mean, the days of transferring prescriptions are over, so I'm basically married to the place that doesn't event think closing every weekend is in any way *inconveniencing*. Are these the kinds of things that take down businesses? Just bizarre business sense?

babs said...

The thing about Rogers Ave (the northern part, anyway, going down to maybe Midwood) is the proximity of LOTS of new rental tenants in the form of the Plex, that new construction building on the corner of Montgomery and Nostrand, as well as the rapidly changing makeup of the blocks between Nostrand and New York, which have several large rental buildings, as well as Rogers itself. In just the past month I have rented out four newly-renovated apartments on Rogers between Lefferts and Rutland, and there are more to come, as those buildings change hands to owners intent on renovating them into higher-end rental properties (if anyone is looking to sell on Rogers, contact me - I have buyers waiting). I have had conversations with residents of the Plex - they don't go out anywhere in the neighborhood, because there's nowhere for them to go - Flatbush is too far (it's almost too far for me too, especially with Blue Roost gone).

Many people have complained that the presence of the Manor prevents new businesses from opening because there just isn't enough population density. Well, east of the Manor there certainly is - in terms of both apartment buildings and two family houses.

And Connecticut Muffin would do very well here (or on Lincoln Road) because 1. They're a known quantity - everyone has heard of them, but they're not a Starbucks 2. They're professional - they have a business model that works, they don't shift their hours around, and they know what people buy and 3. They have free wi-fi, yet manage to turnover the tables enough to make a profit (maybe because their stores have more seats than K-Dog did).

Anonymous said...

Shops on Flatbush suffer because it's too much of the same over and over and so many keep random, inconsistent hours, etc. Babs , do you think CT Mufin would come back and consider Flatbush? There are some great spots they would totally fit well into like the corner of Midwood which has been sitting empty for a few years...

Anonymous said...

The Blue Roost did have that ginger tea though. It was on the menu as ginger citrus tea but a sign on the window called it Dirty Tea. I found it at the Flatbush Food Co-op now. Just saying...

babs said...

From my discussions with Connecticut Muffin, they have looked at and considered spaces on Flatbush, but they were all either too small (they need approx 1000 sq. ft. or more), or would require too much restoration/renovation or were too expensive, or all three. The sad part is that many of the buildings in which these spaces are located are also very poorly maintained by their owners, and therefore would have difficulty attracting a quality tenant - an example is 64 Lincoln Rd (the site of the original Blue Roost, which was forced to close ahead of its scheduled move to Lincoln Rd when the ceiling caved in due to a longtime water leak - the previous tenant had left for the same reason, and rather than fixing the problem, the landlord had just repaired the ceiling, which is what he did again this time, meaning the B'Fruitee will probably have to face the same situation in a few months).

This was also a cause of Blue Roost's difficulties in the new space - because they lost out on over a month's worth of business at the old place (if you recall, Linda was selling pastries in the morning outside of the new space for a while) they started off strapped for cash.

Peggy Lyttle said...

Having known Linda of Blue Roost for most of her life, I can tell you that she did do her research, she has been in the restaurant business for almost 30 years, had a solid business plan with a partner and the original plan would have worked in all probability. BUT the partner went away, Linda's life turned upside down, the payoff did not justify the cost to her health and happiness and she made a decision to close the cafe. The business did not fail. Regardless of whether you liked the decor or the coffee or the food, it was your choice to patronize the cafe or not. the lines and the receipts told the story that many did enjoy all the above. With the increased receipts came increased costs and increased headaches for one person to handle. A choice to take better care of yourself does not justify all this criticism and negativity. We are talking about a living, breathing, loving person and I for one am glad Linda chose herself over selling more coffee and muffins although both were tasty...IMHO. A life long friend who has seen the toll The Roost has had on my dear friend Linda. Put a bird on that!

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me, that the reason Flatbush Avenue is being held back from attracting new, solid businesses, is because of these landlords' disregard for their building's retail space, and their blatant disregard for this neighborhood. So... seems the people of PLG need to stage an intervention with the landlords and show them that there are lots of people here who want to see these vacant spaces fixed up and rented out to the kind of solid businesses we are lacking and sorely missing here. We have no BID and no proper Flatbush Avenue merchants association, so does anyone know how just concerned neighbors can do something to help here. Does anyone have experience with this?

babs said...

Thank you Peggy Lyttle for giving the straight story on what happened with Blue Roost. Linda realized pretty quickly the mistake she'd made getting involved with that partner - considering she'd worked for him at Enduro's. She really poured her heart and soul into the business, but when someone promises you $40K and then doesn't deliver after you'd made moves counting on that money, it's pretty debilitating. I was heartbroken to see the toll it took on her, and I miss Blue Roost intensely, but I'm with you in being glad that Linda chose to take care of herself, and I wish her all the best.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

To Anon at 2:50. Many, many concerned citizens have tried to engage the problems on Flatbush, from trash to retail to crime and landlords. Not to deflect your question, but I did write quite extensively about the situation a few months back. Here's one relevant post about a diligent concerned citizen and his attempt to draw new biz to the 'hood:
http://theqatparkside.blogspot.com/2011/11/cautionary-tale-that-bears-rehashing.html

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Mr. Q, but looking back at what was attempted 6 years ago, is not necessarily indicative of what needs to happen today. The neighborhood has continued to diversify in the last 6 years, and there are that many more new residents here looking for a few more amenities. If Connecticut Muffin has been here to look at spaces on Flatbush, and then they walk away because the multitudes of available space is just total crap inside, then we have a major problem with the landlords and they are holding us back. And we need to put an end to this, or we will continue having these conversations about lack of services indefinitely. I think it's interesting to read what Mr. Dicus attempted 6 years ago, only if it's to pick up where he left off. But without an organized group of individuals dedicated to making this happen, it's not going to happen. And, If each and every person who is fed up with the vacant store fronts, the trash up and down Flatbush, etc. confronted the shop keepers and individuals littering, if we all called the landlords' and or the realtors who are in supposedly representing vacant spaces, and generally if we all just made a REALLY BIG STINK about the state of these affairs, maybe, just maybe, we can move a few of these mountains. There's just no reason why there should be so many vacant spaces here, especially when we are so sorely lacking in so many of the basics most neighborhoods take for granted in Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to the neighborhood, so I don't know much about the history here, but it seems to me that there might be a role for a neighborhood association to play--for instance, in helping entrepreneurs find the financing to open the kind of businesses that the neighborhood needs, or in helping them locate retail space. And, further to the comment above (anon @ 11:37am), it might be helpful for new business owners to have a neighborhood group that could help them deal with landlord issues. I suppose that is exactly what PLUS was supposed to do, but it sounds like the reasons PLUS failed were internal to PLUS and not because PLUS wasn't a good idea. As a new homeowner here I would happily volunteer my time and energy to see more services in this hood.