National Chain Stores Decline in Brooklyn, New Study Shows

Shuttered Petland Discount. Liena Zagare/Bklyner.

Brooklyn, and all of New York City, is experiencing a decline in national chain stores, a new study shows.

In December the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) released its latest report on the State of the Chains, showing that Brooklyn experienced a 4% decline, and citywide there was a 3.7% decline over the last year, the largest year-over-year drop of chain stores since CUF began tracking in 2008. Brooklyn had 1,790 chain stores in 2018, now it has just 1,719.

This is the first year in which all five boroughs have registered declines, the study notes, with Queens leading with a 4.9% drop, followed by Brooklyn (4%), the Bronx (3.8 %), Manhattan (3.1%), and then Staten Island (2.4%). 

Facing growing competition from e-commerce giants like Amazon, retailers selling clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, cosmetics, pet supplies, and vitamins fared worst.

The drop was driven by two major chain store closures. Shoe retailer Payless shuttered all 71 of its locations after filing for bankruptcy in February of 2019, and Petland Discounts closed 60 stores citywide after filing for bankruptcy in March 2019

Payless closed its stores in 2019. Liena Zagare/Bklyner.

In addition, Beauty supply and accessories chain Ricky’s closed 12 stores, leaving only two stores operating in Manhattan. Mattress Firm with closed 20 locations and vitamin retailer GNC closed eight. Gymboree, a children’s clothing chain, closed all three locations in New York after filing for bankruptcy for its second time in January of 2019, as well.

There were noticeable declines among food chains, including fast-food restaurants, pizza shops, juice bars, ice cream, frozen yogurt chains, and bakeries. 

The bright spot was an increase in the number of coffee and tea shops. 

Five new Vivi Bubble Tea cafes, six Kung Fu Tea joints, three Blue Bottle Coffee spots opened citywide, and seven new Starbucks locations opened in Brooklyn in 2019, which also lost 10 Subway sandwich shops and four Baskin Robbins ice cream parlors. 

Other smaller food chains have suffered losses: Two Boots Pizza went from 10 locations to three, Maoz Vegetarian, a falafel and pita joint, closed three locations over the past few years, with only one remaining open, Cosi, a fast-casual restaurant with an emphasis on sandwiches and salads, went from 11 locations to three in the past few years.

Two boots closed location in Brooklyn/Bklyner Staff.

Dunkin’ Donuts is the biggest national retailer in the city for the twelfth year running, with 636 locations, gaining 12 locations since last year, however, with no new locations in Brooklyn. 

Brooklyn Heights and Flatlands had the highest amount of national chain stores this year in Brooklyn, with 162 and 135 respectively, and both saw slight growth this year. Greenpoint and the Navy Yard had none, according to the study. 

Besides national retailers, the city boasts smaller food chains making a name for themselves among the conglomerate giants. 

Bien Cuit, an artisan bakery, opened its third location (second in Brooklyn) in November. Hungry Ghost, a coffee shop, now has nine storefronts in Brooklyn with its latest opening in Williamsburg, and two in Manhattan. Founded in 2009, Little Skips cafe in Bushwick had been pushed out in August due to skyrocketing rent, however, you can still visit Baby Skips and Baby Skips East for coffee, treats, and community-driven events. Plant Love House, founded by an immigrant Thai-Chinese family, just opened their fourth restaurant in Brooklyn.

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Irina Groushevaia

Irina Groushevaia

Irina Groushevaia is the Managing Editor and covers Bushwick, Williamsburg, and beyond. Questions & tips: Irina@bklyner.com

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