Thursday, January 14, 2016


Three shops opened at the storefronts in one of the newer Harlem buildings on Lenox by 129th Street this past year and now only one stands.  High end sushi, fast food sliders and artisan olive oil all had different customer demographics but only the more expensive business model now stands.

First a specialty olive oil shop opened last January that had many types of flavored oils which seemed like a solid concept for a block that has pricey condos on both sides of the street. In our opinion this type of storefront usually looks better in a smaller, older building to give a sense of craftsmanship and history.  With that said, the more clinical look of the retail space did nothing for curb appeal here which might have been part of the problem.

Next to close was a shop specializing in sliders which would make sense since fast foods is pretty popular uptown and there is a lot of foot traffic on Lenox.  This miniature food trend seems like something that was new about 8 years ago and to do anything that will take off will require a really excellent product.  A mini donut shop shuttered rather quickly the previous year within the same complex so maybe this idea is pretty passé at this point in time.

The one success story is Inoue Sushi which would go against the odds since an average omakase course runs around $120 which is not unheard of downtown for this quality of Japanese food but quite prohibitive for eateries uptown.  Plus the specialty is an edomae style menu which does not focus on a wide selection of crazy rolls but features mostly the purest raw fish flown in from various regions of Japan.   Sushi enthusiasts in the city will pay top dollar for a great spot and recent write-ups have created a buzz that has now packed Inoue on an average night.  Quality over quantity?  Sometimes this actually works.   More on Inoue can be found in our past post: LINK


  1. The olive oil place had virtually no marketing, signage, or merchendising; the employees really didn't know how to convey the special characteristics of the product; the team was very inexperienced.

    Likewise with the sliders and the mini-donuts. Also, the mini-donuts place wasn't open early enough, and was much more expensive than DD. Finally, that corner isn't near a subway and lacks foot traffic.

  2. I don't think traffic was the main problem as Lenox Coffee does quite well and the grocery store on the other corner does fine (and apparently the high end sushi restaurant is picking up steam).

    I think a specialty olive oil store could have done well if executed properly. However, when I stopped by, the store was not appealing and the employees were not helpful.

    The area needs a low key bar or inexpensive/midrange restaurant/take out. New places such as Babbaluci and Yuzu are doing well, but there is a concentration of high priced restaurants and scene-y places for drinks, which is great, but not enough mid priced take out places or neighborhood bars, like Mess Hall.