Long Island Serves as Launchpad for New Retail Concepts

by Kristin Harlow

Long Island represents one of the most sought-after suburban retail markets in the Northeast. It’s almost guaranteed that when a retailer opens on Long Island — especially concepts centered on fast-casual dining, boutique fitness experiences and specialized beauty services — it becomes a top performer in the chain’s overall portfolio. Service-oriented retailers are quickly replacing concepts cannibalized by online shopping and are proving to be wildly successful in this important market.

With an average household income that trends higher than the national average, a dense population — 2.8 million people live in Nassau and Suffolk counties — and a highly educated consumer base, high-profile national chains recognize the value of having a presence on Long Island.

Stefani Steinberg, CBRE

The daytime population swells in areas around shopping centers, hospitals and medical districts, as well as office corridors, while new multifamily and mixed-use developments promise to bring increased foot traffic to retailers seeking a presence on Long Island. Additionally, suburban downtown areas are making resurgences thanks to relaxed zoning restrictions.

As the areas around real estate hotbeds like the Route 110 office corridor in Farmingdale, New York, and the Roosevelt Field trade area continue to evolve, new retail centers and mixed-use campuses are emerging. Many new transit-oriented developments, including the Ronkonkoma HUB and Patchogue’s New Village project, are increasingly gaining approval as part of a push to keep the younger demographic on Long Island.

In turn, this demographic trend is creating additional need for new retail options around the train stations that dot the landscape across Long Island. As such, the expertise of seasoned brokers with in-depth regional knowledge is essential to guiding up-and-coming retailers to the best locations with the most potential for success.

The most sought-after spaces in prime locations naturally go fast, but with a little patience and perseverance, new retail concepts can find the right space to provide the best opportunity for success. With a solid customer base already in place, it’s simply a matter of realizing the potential via the physical real estate.

Eating It Up

The time-crunched Long Island consumer has a wealth of dining options available. In recent years, the demand for hip and healthy fast-casual food concepts has grown exponentially among Long Island’s choosy foodies. But those options need to be more than just healthy — they need to be easily accessible amid a busy consumer’s day-to-day activities. The health-conscious consumer wants to enjoy made-to-order food with more complex flavors than fast-food restaurants, all while making the best use of time.

National fast-casual chains like Pokeworks, Chopt and CoreLife have recently opened locations on Long Island, while others are often seeking endcap spaces with drive-thru allowances. For example, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, represented by the Long Island office of CBRE, has plans to open 10 to 12 area locations over the next 18 to 36 months and is in talks to open its first Long Island location in Smithtown.

Another CBRE Long Island client, I Heart Mac and Cheese, is a new sit-down concept that offers a fresh take on the traditional comfort food. The concept requires no fryers, grease trap systems or hood systems, and can be operated within a small space. The brand has signed a development agreement to open 23 locations across Long Island.

The Fitness Crunch

Fitness-minded consumers on Long Island crave the ability to pop in for a quick class as they go about their daily errands. Orangetheory Fitness has multiple locations on Long Island, and its high-intensity classes with definitive start and end times tap into the consumer’s most treasured and definitively finite resource: time.   

City Row, a “smart workout” concept that has already successfully opened two studios in Manhattan, is actively seeking a Long Island location and is zeroing in on space in Plainview. SoulCycle’s Long Island outpost is one of the top-performing locations in the United States, while group Pilates studios like Club
Pilates also continue to grow in popularity. Again, the higher-than-average household income and the dense population on Long Island are driving the success of these new boutique fitness concepts.

Raising the Beauty Bar

As retail evolves in response to the rise in online shopping, retail real estate on Long Island is seeing a new crop of service-based concepts as well. Specialty beauty concepts are on the rise and Long Island is seeing a surge in service providers that offer quick, feel-good experiences. After all, these experiences hit retail right in the sweet spot by providing a commodity that necessitates a physical store presence.

Eyelash extension shops, which typically range in size from 800 to 1,500 square feet, represent a new example of the personalized and accessible retail concepts upping the ante on Long Island. The second-largest chain in the country, Lash Lounge, will open its first location on Long Island when it debuts its 1,400-square-foot store in Carle Place, N.Y., this summer. The brand, which allows consumers to take a break from their busy day, will be easily accessible in Parkway Plaza, a super-regional center that is well-suited for this experiential concept.

By combining the evolving retail landscape with a well-educated, time-sensitive consumer base, Long Island is quickly becoming a popular choice for retailers that are launching new brand concepts. Low vacancies in the region make it more important than ever to have a solid understanding of the demographics and the inventory in order to capitalize on the potential upside for service-oriented retail experiences on Long Island.

— By Stefani Steinberg, Retail Specialist, CBRE. This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Northeast Real Estate Business magazine.

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