With businesses coming, going, moving and growing, the Tiana Shopping Center in Hampton Bays has been undergoing a transformation over the past six months.
The changes began in July when the center’s longest and, perhaps, most noteworthy tenant, Center Island Pharmacy, closed its doors and vacated its 11,000-square-foot storefront after 40 years of business. Around that same time, Hampton Bays Bagels shifted a few stores to the west to make room for an expanded Planet Fitness, and construction began on a new Moe’s Southwest Grill.
These changes were orchestrated as part of an effort to bring more traffic to the Montauk Highway strip mall, according to Wilbur Breslin, the owner of Breslin Realty Development Corp., the Garden City company that manages the property.
Mr. Breslin said recently that his company has been taking a hands-on approach to revitalizing the shopping center, including recruiting business owners, such as Moe’s owners Guy and Elizabeth Constantopoulos, and even facilitating the expansion of Planet Fitness. Mr. Breslin noted that he expects the three remaining empty storefronts in the shopping center—the one next to the Wild By Nature grocery store, the large building left vacant by Center Island, and a space between Moe’s and Hampton Bays Village Dry Cleaning—to be filled within the next year.
“We are professional developers and professional managers,” he said. “We take assets that aren’t doing well and turn them around. By June of next year, July of next year, we expect it to be fully occupied.”
Mr. Breslin said he could not recall exactly when his company was brought in to manage the Montauk Highway retail complex but said it was not long after Manhattan-based Alrose Hampton Bays LLC acquired the property for $13.1 million in 2006, according to town records.
He also noted that a deal has been reached to have Dollar Tree, a chain of discount variety stores that is headquartered in Virginia and operates nearly 4,800 stories nationwide, sublease space at the far west end of the property from King Kullen, which owns the Wild By Nature store. Mr. Breslin said he expects Dollar Tree to open early next year.
Additionally, Mr. Breslin said he is speaking with potential tenants for the other two spaces, but declined to identify them.
Mr. Constantopoulos said business has been solid since he opened his restaurant on September 26, citing his business’s “niche” as the only Tex-Mex restaurant in the area. However, he said he would like to see more shops in the plaza to help increase foot traffic.
The owner of three East End 7-Eleven convenience stores and another Moe’s in Rocky Point, Mr. Constantopoulos said he plans on opening a third Moe’s restaurant next year in Riverhead, near the Peconic Bay Medical Center.
“I’d like to see somebody move into where the former Center Island Pharmacy was—that’s a vacant space that could be something great,” he said. “Once a business goes in there, I think we’re going to see a lot more traffic.”
After discussions with Frank Sileccia, the former owner of Center Island, about possibly renewing his lease, Mr. Breslin said the two reached the conclusion that it was in the best interest of both to part ways. Mr. Sileccia, 79, has said as much in previous interviews, citing an expected increase in rent as well as a desire to reduce his workload.
In searching for new tenants, Mr. Breslin said his company is seeking businesses that are a good fit for the Hampton Bays community. He added that the reason Planet Fitness grew is because his company recognized that it was a popular business that would benefit from an expansion.
“We looked at the facility and we know that they’re good operators, they do very well there by the way and they weren’t getting as much business as they could,” he said. “So, we went to the owner and discussed expanding. That was probably a year ago.”
John Mahoney, a co-owner of the Planet Fitness, said he had wanted to expand his gym for years and originally targeted the spot then-occupied by Blockbuster in 2010. After years of petitioning Breslin Realty Development Corp., Mr. Mahoney got his wish in 2012 when the management company worked out a deal for the bagel store to move so the gym could acquire more space; the move took about 18 months to come to fruition.
Although he thinks the plaza would be fully occupied by now if it were locally owned and operated rather than being one of 32 properties in the portfolio of one of Long Island’s largest land management companies, Mr. Mahoney said Mr. Breslin helped him personally during the expansion, which he said was a nice touch.
Mr. Mahoney, who has operated a gym in the shopping center since 1993, said he remains hopeful that the remaining vacant buildings will be occupied soon. He is also optimistic about the future of the plaza thanks, in part, to the recent addition of Moe’s.
“I genuinely believe that I see a positive trend and the visibility of the Moe’s location plays a major role in revitalizing the shopping center,” he said. “I think the Moe’s restaurant, with its vibrant signage, is a great asset to have near the entrance to draw people in.”