Elayne Kling of ZP Auto, previously of Noho in Manhattan and now in Williamsburg, wrote in to let us know that her shop will be closing its doors on October 30, after 30 years in business. Previously located on Lafayette and Great Jones, ZP moved out 2011 when a new condo development moved in.
I asked Elayne a few questions about her situation.
photo via EV Grieve, 2011
Q: You've been in the city for 30 years. What caused you to relocate from Noho in Manhattan to Brooklyn?
A: We relocated in 2011 after years of threats to put up a building on our location. The reason why we lasted as long as we did is that the subway runs under that building and any new structure would have had to be reinforced which always seemed to be a deal breaker, much to our relief. Finally someone came along and agreed to spend that money, although close to 5 years later that building is still not finished. Work didn't even start for a couple of years after we left, which was so frustrating to watch.
Q: Why are you having to shut your doors now?
A: When we first moved here to Brooklyn we did so with the agreement that if the real estate market was good then they would not renew our lease. Since we almost went out of business at that time for lack of a decent location we agreed to the 5 years. Obviously, they can't wait for us to leave now.
Q: What's it been like searching for an affordable new space?
A: It hasn't been much work because there is really nothing to find. Auto repair, which requires a license from the DMV, can only be housed in a building with certificate of occupancy for auto repair. These buildings are few and far between and are so cool looking that other business who can afford to pay much more money are happy to take them over. This leaves auto repair shops with very limited choices, i.e., Queens and the far reaches of Brooklyn.
Q: How's business been in Brooklyn?
A: Business has been really great out here in Brooklyn. We had a thriving shop in Noho but less and less car owners live there and people in Brooklyn rely more on their cars so we've really been booming. It's bizarre to be shutting down a successful business, but if you don't have a location to run it out of, it's worthless.
Q: What would you like to see change in this city to help small businesses like yours?
A: It's difficult to answer this question since my issue is so specific. It is frustrating to see so many empty storefronts all over the city (tons in the village) and not be able to utilize any of them, even for those the rents are out of control.
I'm starting up a new business, Projects Unlimited, a project management company, and looking for small office space is daunting. I'll be using one of those share spaces like everyone else to start because they seem to be the only affordable choices. I guess the real answer is that it would be nice if the city seemed to care about the little guy enough to do something about it but when I hear about some of the proposals it just makes me shake my head--and not up and down.
Check out Elayne's blog, Don't Get Wrenched, where she gives auto repair advice to women. And, while you're at it, #SaveNYC.