Northeast Queens biz in transition

Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

Business has been better in Little Neck and Douglaston, shop owners along Northern Boulevard say.

And with the latest news of Staples’ and nearby Ceriello Fine Foods’ recent decision to split out of town, residents in the area said they could not help but think, “Here we go again.”

Over recent weeks, Ceriello’s Douglaston store, at 44-35 Douglaston Pkwy., saw its last days and added another shop to the list of local business has-beens. The name still lives on in other shops around the area, including Nassau County and Manhattan, and has become known for its Italian cuisine, Ceriello said.

A spokeswoman for Staples confirmed the store’s closure but could not delve into reasons why.

At Ceriello’s, a spokesman said the Little Neck location was not making enough money to sustain itself when compared to the other locations in nearby Nassau County.

Rod O’Connell, who owns Bryce Rea Real Estate on Northern Boulevard, said the store’s closing came to him as a shock.

“I was terribly disappointed about Ceriello’s closing,” O’Connell said. “You just hate to see upscale things leave town.”

O’Connell also mentioned that the nearby Fairway supermarket in Douglaston may have contributed to the store’s demise.

TimesLedger Newspapers cartoonist Tip Sempliner is a Northern Boulevard regular in the Little Neck business district and said he could not help but notice how the economic landscape of his town has changed over the years. In a passing conversation, he rattled off as many as 10 local establishments that closed up shop over the last decade, including Douglaston’s former Strawberry’s Sports Grill, which closed last year.

“It changes the quality of life,” Sempliner said. “It seems we’ve got no protection here.”

Sempliner said he could not accept the often-heard alternative of doing his shopping over in Bayside because the area did not match the character of Little Neck or Douglaston — or offer similar parking.

But as for Strawberry’s, a glimpse into the future appeared on the grill’s front window, where a sign read that Smoking Aces Bistro will soon move into the 235th Street spot near the Douglaston train station.

The owners of Smoking Aces Bistro did not return calls seeking comment.

In the case of Staples especially, when the Little Neck store, at 252-17 Northern Blvd., closed, it left the next closest option right down the same road, but in Bayside.

Next to Staples, the former Scobee Diner has also sat in waiting for years, although an application was recently filed with the city Board of Standards and Appeals for a new two-story building for retail and medical space on the property, according to Community Board 11.

The owner of both the Scobee property as well as the Staples next door, Gerry Greenberg of G&H Real Estate, did not return calls seeking comment.

Just across the street from Staples, Tony Fabiano and his Long Island Drum Center have grown into a staple of their own in Little Neck. According to Fabiano, the shopping experience along Northern Boulevard has been transformed over his 30 years in Queens.

Throughout the years, Fabiano said rent and taxes have gone up dramatically, yet the store has not raised its prices in more than a decade.

“I’ve seen a lot of small business come and go over the years. The area seems to be in transition,” Fabiano said. “It wasn’t always so turbulent.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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