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What’s The Deal With All Those Empty Storefronts in Nyack? It’s Complicated.

If you stroll along Nyack’s Main Street, you will probably notice quite a few empty storefronts – and a few more along North and South Broadway. Around 20 if you’re counting.

There is an estimated 20-30% vacancy rate in downtown Nyack, according to news reports, but no single cause for the increase in “For Rent” signs, and no single silver bullet to put retailers back behind the shuttered doors.

“Nyack is a village that has its ups and downs,” said Alain Eigenmann, co-owner of Brasserie, who has operated restaurants along central Main Street for about 13 years.

Business slowed during COVID, then improved as people ventured outside their homes but stayed local, he said. In 2023, business suffered again as people resumed travel at pre-pandemic levels.

Another reason for the vacancies, Eigenmann said, is that the rent is just too darn high for new businesses. He said some landlords slashed rent during COVID, but then raised it again.

“Because the banks were giving mortgages forbearances for about three months passed that on to tenants for that period of time,” said  Adam O’Gorman, broker and owner of Nova North Commercial. 

“Many survived COVID– [federal programs] helped – but businesses had to pay back those loans,” he said, referring to  Paycheck Protection Program and COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). 

According to the Federal News Network, 96% of PPP loans had been forgiven by 2024, but the EIDL reports an estimated 37% default rate and the government is getting more aggressive in its collection efforts.

Adding to the pinch, he said, is the fact that banks are not giving lines of credit as readily as in years past, while utility costs have risen.  

“Most businesses have money to start,” he siad, “but little to continue.”

At the same time, he said, downtown is becoming less appealing due to shoppers’ unease about vagrants.

Despite the high vacancy rate, Mayor Joe Rand says the empty storefronts are a matter of “concern” but not “alarm.”  

“I think we’re in the down part of a business cycle, the flip side of where we were in late 2021 when we had a huge burst of new businesses that opened after the COVID regulations eased,” he said.

“The Village government itself has limited tools for encouraging business development,” said Rand. “But we’re working with the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to try to find ways to attract new businesses to the area. I do think most of these vacancies will be filled by late spring.”

But not everyone is so positive.

“The large square foot [spaces] are going to take longer to rent,” said commercial realtor Adam O’Gorman, broker and owner of Nova North Commercial. “Restaurants are [especially] facing difficulties with the cost of supplies and labor. And after COVID, the take-out business is not being replaced by dine-in.”

“We’re getting inquiries for 1,000 square feet or less,” he added, “but trying to find them is hard. If these owners could somehow split the spaces, that would help.”

Household consumption patterns may also play a role, O’Gorman said.

“We’ve had a lot of development downtown, especially multi-family building. The pricing for apartments has skyrocketed, so… I think [local] consumers are stressed,” he said. 

Jason Horowitz, broker of record for Triforce Commercial Real Estate, said another factor influencing vacancies is the attitude of some building owners.

“In Nyack, there are a lot of mom and pop landlords. They don’t want to pay commission to the realtor, which is the typical arrangement in commercial transactions. Some want the client to pay the commission. That could be a deterrent to both realtors and quality potential tenants,” he said.

Often, the small landlords don’t want to interact with real estate brokers, said Horowitz, adding that building owners should do more to market their vacancies.

“You can’t just put a sign in the window and set it and forget it. You need to be creative, embrace technology and be proactive. Make sure you’re on the commercial real estate sites and answer the phone,” he said.

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