01 October 2011

Hinsch's, Classic Bay Ridge Soda Fountain, Closes


Hinsch's, the 63-year-old soda fountain and luncheonette that was one of the oldest and best things about Bay Ridge, has abruptly closed. It was the owner's choice—partially. "Basically my lease is up and that’s all," owner John Logue told Brooklyn Paper. Logue posted a sign announcing the closure on the store’s window on Thursday.

However, a sign outside the Fifth Avenue shop—which I profiled in "Who Goes There?" only last March—said "Current economic conditions, customers changing eating patterns, and our desire to retire early have led us to this decision."

Also, a greedy landlord, as usual, takes some blame here. "Anna Tesoriero said that she was seeking rent of more than $10,000 a month from Logue or a deep-pocketed corporate client to take over the space —up from the $7,500 a month Hinsch’s was paying." And so you trade in a steady tenant and six decades of history for a temporary windfall. Ripping the heart of a community is worth that, right? Right?

UPDATE: Someone has contacted me who wants to save Hinsch's great neon signage. Does anyone know how to get ahold of owner John Logue? Please contact me at lostcitybrooks@gmail.com.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been getting chocolate from Hinsch's since I was a little girl and my dad worked at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Providentially, I began to work in Bay Ridge several years ago and renewed my aquaintance with their sweets, especially their homemade ice cream. What a loss to the neighborhood.

Ed said...

I hate lunch here once. My take was that it was a beautiful old school place with pretty crappy food.

The place looked great, but since there are actually several good cheap restaurants in the area, including three diners/ coffee shops farther down 5th Avenue, I can't say I'm that upset about this.

Ed said...

Sorry, I meant the other diners are located farther up 5th Avenue, where there are higher numbered cross streets, though you are going southwest. For all I know there may be similar palces farther down 5th Avenue, I'm not as familiar with that part.

Mitch said...

Anyone have an idea what the market rents are for that part of the world? Is it really true that a rise of $30000 per year would be sufficient to close the business?

Jeremiah Moss said...

oh no. i was only there once, and hoped to go again. this sucks.

ironrailsironweights said...

It sounds like the rent increase was just one of several factors contributing to Hinsch's demise. Reading the Who Goes There report, it's pretty clear (at least in hindsight) that time was not on its side.

Peter

Bopkat said...

I feel a little part of me has died.
I grew up in Dyker Heights, then lived in Bay Ridge for many years. The 86 St corridor was the local shopping destination. I can't count how many times I've been to Hinsch's. For years it was a toss up between the Green Tea Room (closed mid 1990's?) and Hinsch's for a diner stop. Hinsch's had the best vanilla ice cream and I always got their homemade chocolate at Easter time. The food was passable, but it was the experience that made it worth a stop. Before they redecorated in the 80's, it was worth a trip to the bathroom just to look at the formica.
I'm glad I made time to stop there during a recent trip to Bay Ridge and meet a friend for lunch. It was her first time to Hinsch's; I never imagined it would be my last. I wish the family well and thank them for many wonderful memories.

upstate Johnny G said...

The amateur reviews I've read were all over the place on just about every aspect of Hinsch's. I think the owner's comments say it all. The recession hurt a lot of businesses that rely on people having lots of discretionary income, including this place evidently. The owner also talked about changing eating habits. My guess is that this is shorthand for saying that not only were customers ordering less, but he was seeing fewer customers. I'm assuming that he could have improved his menu to conform more to current expectations. Why not give it a shot? Don't know. Maybe he just got stuck in that one groove and couldn't face change. Maybe he came to realize that he was really running a museum instead of a restaurant/confectionary. Maybe he just got tired, with none of his children interested in jumping in and turning the place around.

Starts to sound like the rent increase was just the straw that broke the camel's back. Too bad. Great opportunity though for someone to take it over and bring it back in a slightly more modern incarnation.

Note though, the words of the landlord. She was looking for "more" than 10 grand a month, either from Logue or from a "corporate client". There's the thing....every landlord wants a corporate client because you can get a lot more rent out of them...because they have a lot more money than a mom and pop. The corporation can be depended on to pay on time. And if the corp closes that location....don't worry because by the terms of the lease they'll have to keep paying rent until the lease is up. Mom and Pop, on the other hand, would probably not be able to keep paying if they had to close or move their business, so the landlord would have to go after them in court for a judgment and then try to collect on the judgment. See? It's just a whole lot easier for the landlord to max their profit and min their risk by having a corp client. Is it good for the neighborhood? Not if it becomes a pervasive practice. Fill a neighborhood with national chains and you might as well be living across the street from the Mall of America. Bland, boring, same-old same-old. But cities have always been places of new ideas, ferment, inventive business ideas. It's in cities, with their critical mass of potential customers where eclectic shops and restaurants can survive, and maybe even thrive. Bland and boring are for the burbs.

Michael Brown said...

Extra income of $30,000 annually equals an extra half a million dollars in value for the property (assuming a 6% cap rate, which is pretty high for the area, but I'm trying to be generous here). You're saying that the owner of the building should sacrifice HALF A MILLION DOLLARS in equity in his property (or, in his pocket, if he refinanced) in order to artificially subsidize the tenant's operation?

I am someone who grew up with his mother taking him here after trips to Century, parking in that horrible parking garage across the street, so I have fond memories myself of the place. Would always get a grilled cheese and milkshake. But I can't begrudge the owner for wanting a tenant to pay a market rate rent.

It was probably the comfort of a long-term below market lease that kept the business from evolving to a point to where they could pay a competitive, market rate rent.

casacara said...

$7500 a month hardly seems like a "comfortable" rent to pay (per Michael Brown) for an old-fashioned luncheonette and chocolate shop. I used to get novelty chocolates (roller skates, cell phones, etc. -- who says Hinsch's didn't keep up with the times?) for my kids there. But I wouldn't actually eat there... I did once, and that was enough... Still, bummer that they're closing.

Kirsten said...

I'm so glad I was able to capture that photo above before they went dark. I hope the fellow you can just make out behind the counter (who made me an excellent shake just after the picture was taken) was able to find a new job. Between my broken Spanish and his broken English, we talked a bit about photography (he likes to take city photos, too).

I had been planning to go back in the next month or so to get some better shots. I guess that won't happen... the city is a poorer place for the loss.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Hi Kirsten! Thanks for the use of the shot. Lovely picture. And yes, it's sad.

MiMi said...

Councilman Gentile posted on his facebook a few hours ago that the owners of Skinflints (another old school Bay Ridge joint) have come to an agreement with the landlord & will be reopening Hinsch's after (much needed) renovations.