Church Avenue in Brooklyn is a popular main street shopping line for local residents of the surrounding neighborhoods of Flatbush/Ditmas Park, East Flatbush and Prospect Park South. The shopping avenue which spans from 36th street to about E. 98th street is particularly a big hit with the West Indian and African population of the surrounding areas since many of the businesses are of Caribbean and African ancestry and provide respective products including groceries, restaurant and beauty services. In fact, if you take a stroll along Church Avenue you can hear the friendly shouts and conversations, in various caribbean dialects, from shoppers as they bustle along with bags filled with products.
To see a census of the stores click Census_of_Stores
This main shopping avenue has been the home to many shops for over decades. One can find shoe stores, men and ladies clothing, discount stores, Korean and Latin grocery stores and delicatessens (deli’s) just to name a few.
Lately there have been changes to some stores. On Church Avenue between E. 16th and E. 18th streets there have been newly opened stores within the past three weeks, and renovations while other vendors face challenges. Thankfully, this section of the avenue, like most other sections, was not affected by Hurricane Sandy.
On this one-block stretch there are about 20 businesses. These include 99 cent City variety store, Dunkin Donuts, H&R Block, Cohen’s Fashion Optical which opened two weeks ago and Bobby’s Department Store which has been at its 1601 and 1628 church avenue locations for 36 years. The Department store has two stores across from each other and people flock from all over Brooklyn to shop at Bobby’s, a discount retailer of a variety of products ranging from detergent, to electronics to home wares and baby clothing.
In the past year, Bobby’s has renovated and expanded its store at 1628 church ave. to house more products and make the shopping experience easier since the store is always crowded. This is a good sign. It suggests that commerce in the area is steady if not rising. Most of these stores have remained present on this block for 7, 10 and 20 years and new stores are moving in. But while some stores are seeing progress others are facing challenges.
Barry, owner of Barry Accessories which sells African DVDs and CDs says things aren’t easy. Barry has been at his location for 7 years. Recently his business got a face-lift Barry Accessories shares a part of Cohen’s Fashion Optical’s lot along with S&A Perfumes and Watches.
When Cohen’s took over the lot, they redesigned the building canopy and Barry benefited from the new, sleek, gray and white canopy. However, he said that the downside is that the canopy isn’t as long over the sidewalk as it used to be so now it doesn’t cover his products and protect them from rain when he lays them out on the sidewalk and he has no money to fix it. When asked if he thinks things are going to get better for him he replies with a saddened shake of his head, and says he doesn’t know. With African movies now streaming online it is impossible to tell if Barry Accessories will see a brighter day.
Other businesses however are doing well and the area seems to be doing well. New stores have opened, some stores are renovating while delis have extended open grill hours to cater to demand. The area seems to be prospering and those stores that are facing challenges, such as John’s Stores. which is a combination of two stores, ( like Bobby’s) and has been on the block for a number of years is re-strategizing, downsizing and focusing on only a select few products. John’s Stores used to be a convenience store and always has a line for the New York Lottery, but now, the store is focusing on its lottery sales and has done away with shelf products and packaged goods. The aisles and shelves have been stripped and there is empty, constructive space in the store. ( a representative for John’s Stores was not available for comments).
As the holidays lure around the corner, shoppers continue to flock to Church Avenue, to Bobby’s Department store and also to 99 cent City to purchase home items to decorate for the season.
Click below to view photos of the local shops