Year in Review: Queens businesses rise and fall in 2018

Year in Review: Queens businesses rise and fall in 2018
MovieWorld, in operation since 1983, will closed its doors for good on July 3.
Courtesy of MovieWorld
By Jenna Bagcal

This year was marked by businesses opening and closing throughout Queens, with smaller businesses often shutting down to make room for new big-box businesses.

There were several changes throughout the borough in 2018. Here are some of the most noticeable business stories of the year:

MovieWorld closes its doors

The owners of the family-owned theater MovieWorld announced that they would be showing their last film on July 3, much to the disappointment of loyal patrons. According to the theater’s general manager Russell Levinson, whose father has owned the business since 2008, they were forced to close due to the terms of the lease.

The theater hosted a Customer Appreciation Party July 2 to “celebrate the history and memories of the theater” and the “diversity of its customers.” MovieWorld reached out to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter to invite him to the celebration.

MovieWorld opened in 1983 and Irwin Levinson purchased the theater in 2008. The purchase was a reflection of his own father’s career path as a film distributor. Russell Levinson shared that although they were being forced out of the business, he and his father were looking to buy another movie theater if the opportunity presented itself.

“This is a major loss for the borough and we are sad to leave it behind,” said Russell Levinson.

Lowe’s announces move to Douglaston Plaza

Also in July, news broke that Lowe’s Home Improvement would be moving into Douglaston Plaza after MovieWorld and Macy’s shut their doors at the shopping center.

An attorney representing the landlord, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, said that condominium owners in the immediate area supported the plan for Lowe’s to come in due to the fear that the ailing shopping center would have a “ghost town” effect on their property values.

Residents who were part of the Douglaston Townhouse Condominiums Association were in full support of Lowe’s coming into the old Macy’s space, but others in northeast Queens expressed concerns over losing the cheap, locally-owned MovieWorld.

MovieWorld was forced to accept a buyout per its contract with Ashkenazy. The theater had five years left in its contract.

“There was a lot of support in favor of maintaining the movie theater. It’s unfortunate the local, community people wanted the movie theater to stay, but if Lowe’s didn’t come in,” said Jon Popin, the lawyer from Duane Morris representing Ashkenazy. “My client had been trying [almost a year] to find a new tenant to fill the space and there was no one.”

Back in February, members of Community Board 11 “narrowly” approved a recommendation to pass a variance to expand the sub-cellar level where Lowe’s would be. The Board of Standards and Appeals approved a 15,000 square foot expansion of the Macy’s property.

The variance brought the proposed Lowe’s closer to the square footage it needed to operate. Macy’s reportedly operated within 157,000 square feet of space while Lowe’s needed 250,000 square feet to operate.

Sonic Drive-In opens in Flushing

In the western part of northeast Queens, Flushing residents welcomed a new Sonic Drive-In on Sept. 29.

Elected officials, including state Assemblyman Ron Kim and City Councilman Peter Koo, joined residents at the new location at 136-51 Roosevelt Ave. for the ribbon cutting and celebration. Owners of the newly opened drive-in hosted the ceremony, complete with face painting, half-priced drinks, slushes and prizes.

Fast-food industry veteran Raymond Eng was named as owner of the new Sonic franchise and brought over 20 years of experience to the restaurant. Eng’s newest venture is one of 10 other eateries he owns in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

“Sonic’s growing presence is a testament to the brand’s delicious menu items, and we look forward to bringing the Sonic experience to future guests in the Flushing area,” said Alexander Bowen, general manager of the Flushing location. “We welcome the community to stop by and enjoy all that Sonic has to offer.”

Sonic was named as America’s largest drive-in restaurant chain and serves approximately three million customers daily. The chain specializes in made-to-order fast food and is known for its carhop service.

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