HOME > Chowhound > New York State (exc. NYC) >


Eastchester turns down Panera


On Tuesday the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected Panera's application to lease the former Blockbuster. The reason is it did not have waiter service even though Panera brings the food to the table. Is this the desire if the constituents?

  1. Is this for real? I was hoping that Panera would have opened up near Trader Joe's, but instead we got a T Mobile store. Panera would actually be a nice addition to the area, something quick that isn't "fast food" like a Burger King.

    So clearly it is not the desire of this constituent.

    2 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies

      That is ridiculous. So instead we are stuck with an eyesore empty store, and will probably end up getting something really boring like another Verizon store.

      1. re: rgny

        Or another half-baked eatery that closes within a year.

    2. Why am I not schocked. I was hoping it would work out. Sucks. I like Panera alot.

      4 Replies
      1. re: paris1976

        Why not wish for a local bakery to open up instead of yet another chain? screw panera! or if it's going to be a chain with waiter service....on second thought there aren't any good chains with waiter service. Put in another 5 Guys!

        1. re: cubanat

          This is not the good o' Chowhound we used to know.

          1. re: pabboy

            ok forget about 5 Guys...throw in a shake shack please!!!

          2. re: cubanat

            The space is too large for a local bakery. And please, not a 5 Guys. Ick

        2. Given how many empty storefronts go begging, this is somewhat surprising. I happen to like that there are no fast food chains in the area other than on Central Ave, but god knows, there are plenty of chains. CVS, anyone? And there really needed to be a Walgreens next door to CVS and down the block from Value Drugs. There are few places in that stretch of 22 to get a bite, and although my first choice wouldn't be Panera, it would be an improvement over the empty eyesore of the former Blockbuster.

          3 Replies
          1. re: roxlet

            true and well said roxlet!

            1. re: roxlet

              I agree - I don't get why the town would prefer an empty storefront.

              1. re: scarsdalesurprise

                I assume the Panera would have taken over both the empty Blockbuster and the empty Studio B, because the Blockbuster space alone is on the small side for a Panera. Before Studio B was in that space, it was a day old Wonder bread outlet. We also have lovely businesses like Mr Shower Door and Jenny Craig. A Panera would have been a vast improvement over a day old Wonder Bread outlet.

            2. Maybe Panera can find a nice empty storefront in Bronxville.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chowdom

                Yeah, that'd go over large in Bronxville. Anyway, the zoning in Bronxville is such that only an empty store that has previously had a food service business can be used for a restaurant or other type of outlet that serves food. I don't think that there are any of those available. Bronxville would be a gold mine for such a place, however, since all the schoolchildren go into town to buy lunch beginning in middle school. 600 kids wanting to be fed everyday. That's why there are no empty restaurant spots! Business is too good.

              2. Finally the town got it right. We have two nice bakeries within seconds of that property. We also have many delis and restaurants that would have suffered, especially during lunch. The last thing Eastchester needs is a food chain. Hopefully something will take over that benefits the community. Just in Eastchester alone we have 22 eateries counting crestwood, seven are Italian/Pizza, three chinese, four are sandwich/burger/pub grub the rest are deli/coffee and then there is Jackie's Bistro....how about something new, Panera would be more of the same

                7 Replies
                1. re: jhopp217

                  Not too many quick bites where you can sit to eat on that stretch of 22 though. Not that I'm advocating for Panera.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    Agreed - and honestly, what is in that area is not terribly appealing.

                  2. re: jhopp217

                    Ok I agree a food chain like Panera is maybe not the best idea, But I agree with Roxlet that theres not many places to get a quick bite and where you can sit on route 22. One place I do go once in awhile is the Bagel Place next to the new Fresh supermarket (where old navy was). So what would we like to see at the old Blockbuster? Does it have to be with food? Maybe a Greek place?? Not a diner though

                    1. re: paris1976

                      That's my question - what do people want to see? I know that people pine for a Vietnamese place or something along those lines, but my feeling is that unless it is FANTASTIC it would end up another empty storefront after less than a year. At least with Panera you know it will a thriving business and a decent option when in the area.

                      1. re: scarsdalesurprise

                        Eastchester/Tuckahoe are towns primarilly made up of middle class families with kids. When we moved to the area, there were lots of decent places that were oriented to families. They have all been disappearing, replaced with the likes of Fig and Olive, or Haiku, or the place in Tuckahoe that replaced Rockwells, overpriced fancy restaurants aimed at the singles crowd. We need places to take our kids that aren't McDonalds. We still have Pipers Kilt, but the wait to get in there is too long. Polpettinas is too expensive for me to take my kids.

                      2. re: paris1976

                        I don't think a Greek place would do well. There is already a Greek place in Chester Heights and although it's gotten rave reviews from friends, it's the kind of place people got to once in a while. It's also a tiny location and to my knowledge you don't need a reservation, so it's right for the size. A Vietnamese place wouldn't do well, because the town is filled with unadventurous eaters. Honestly, I'd love if they opened a BBQ type place....not like Q, but a true BBQ restaurant.

                        1. re: jhopp217

                          Ooohhh BBQ.....That;s def a place you can bring kids to. But BBQ resto's don't seem to really work i thought. The restauratn in Mount Kisco closed within 2 years.....

                    2. someone should call danny meyer and tell him to put a shake shack in! or have polpettina move in and expand their seating!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cubanat

                        yea westchester could definitely use a shake shack instead we get weschester burger at 3x the price and1/2 as good blech

                        1. re: rich51

                          I never ate at a shake shack but it looks good on line. Maybe they will come to Ridge Hill. It looks like they are expanding carefully.

                          Yesterday I ate at our local treasure, Nathan's. I ordered two hot dogs and a diet soda. The grossly obese server recommended french fires which I yearned but but the calorie count on the menu board and her sweating button-popping presence bought me to my senses. I luxuriated in the pleasure of two perfect hog dogs with mustard and sauerkraut while observing the diner's resemblance to the cast of HBO's show "Luck"

                      2. I've lived in Westchester for over 30 years. The empirical willingness of some landlords to forgo renting their stores and the income these rentals would bring is an enigma to me.
                        There's something going on here that I just don't get and wish someone with a professional grasp of the situation would explain to me.

                        There is no apparent logic, at least to me, as to why an empty store is more desirable (assuming an appropriate market rental rate is offered by a lawful tenant) to a property owner, versus one which is income-producing. Also consider the loss of real estate taxes, sales taxes and whatever other revenue which would likely accrue to the town, village or city on which the rented property stands. These incremental revenues would, by the way, lighten the surrounding citizens’ tax burden.

                        Given the loss of revenue to the land owner, the political entity and its residents, it’s counter intuitive for a commercial space to remain empty as long as there is a lawful tenant willing to pay a reasonable rent.

                        So that leaves some questions:

                        Do property owners get preferential treatment re their tax bill if the space is NOT rented? Is that why there are unleased spaces in Hartsdale and other towns? Can property owners use those unleased properties as tax losses to mitigate gains made on other properties?

                        Maybe this is a parallel situation, and maybe it's not, but let's say you have paper losses on a stock (we can call it Research in Motion, or any loser investment of your choice). On paper, you have lost money - you didn't sell the stock and take the loss, but you know you can. On the plus side, you had the brilliant foresight to buy Apple stock at $350. You want to reap your bushel of Apple profit, but you want to minimize your tax bite on your gain. Simplistically (and yes, I know the diff between long term and short term gains and losses, but just go with me here), you sell your RIM at a loss, sell your Apple at a gain and use the loss of the RIM to offset some of your tax bill on your Apple gains. You made money on the AKC winner while selling the dog you no longer wanted anyway. And you paid less tax.

                        Let’s examine Eastchester’s current rejection of Panera. It brings up a host of issues. Maybe the town didn’t want Panera because they didn’t want to open the floodgates for other chains: to me, a laudable aim. But then, why give Eastchester’s Polpettina such a hard time vis-à-vis the parking/expansion? The town is not making it easy for a successful non-chain to succeed, while simultaneously limiting the revenue the town might receive, and the possible halo effect successful independent businesses bring to a town.

                        Eastchester has to pay their bills, and Eastchester residents have to foot much of the bill. Broaden the business tax base and you lessen the residential tax bill. Homeowners pay less in taxes while enjoying the benefits of cool restaurants and great food.

                        Do we want the chains or do we want the little guys? Myself, I want the little guys. To me, the motivated entrepreneur brings differentiation, innovation and helps to weave the distinctive fabric of a neighborhood.

                        I think it’s misplaced to blame the town for rejecting a business without considering the back story. Villages are made up of (usually) elected officials. If the constituency doesn’t like the decisions, it is up to them to make their voices heard. You want Panera – fine – speak up. But, if you want to live in a town with thriving family businesses, I’m thinking you better speak up sooner, louder and more often. Because, guess who has the deeper pockets and more experience dealing with reluctant locals? Hint – not the little guy.

                        The bigger question is, what’s behind all the empty stores? If a landlord receives a reasonable offer from a viable tenant, and towns are subsidizing landlords for any reason including tax breaks (and I don’t know that they are), that hurts small businesses and residential tax payers.

                        Commercial tax abatement is arcane, capricious and opaque. But we live in small towns, not NYC. I’m not singling out Eastchester (similar problems exist in Hartsdale, Scarsdale, etc). I’m just interested in learning if there are financial benefits available to our local landlords which may or may not be encouraging them to keep their stores empty while limiting governmental tax revenues and increasing residential (and commercial) tax burdens. I still remember (actually it happened a few times) when Hartsdale was a ghost town. It's gratifying to see the hub of activity (albeit mostly in restaurants which serve only a portion of the town's residents' needs). Still, it beats tumbleweeds blowing down H'dale Ave - not an inspiring sight and certainly not one that brings in the shopping hordes,

                        Yes, this is America. Landlord have the right, with apparently mutable caveats,to lease their property to whomever they wish.

                        If Eastchester can say no to Panera, and also stymie the success of a smaller, independent enterprise such as Polpettina (I’ve never eaten at either Panera or Polpettina, by the way), who exactly loses here? And why?

                        If it bothers you that a new, independent restaurant, bakery or deli opens, and you want to patronize the older one, that’s your choice. But if the new place has better food and draws more customers, that’s called capitalism.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: mrsdebdav

                          The rejection of Panera involved an zoning code paragraph written to keep fast food chains out of Eastchester. It required permit applicants to be a waiter served restaurant or one where yor order at a counter (like a coffee shop). Panera was a hybrid clearly not contemplated during the drafting of the law. Panera argued they took orders at the counter and you then sat at a table and employees served your food order. I encourage the curious to try a Panera like the one on Central Ave. near Shoprite.

                          The Zoning Board was responsible to interpret the ordinance and rule based upon the law. There was a public session in December where opposition came from adjoining shopping center owners who were jealous or protective of their tenants who compete for your food dollar. Also local deli owners objected in a blatant show of self interest. Octogenarian busy body cranks wearing Depends gave long rambling filibuster speeches extolling the degeneracy of modern culture and demonizing franchised and chain restaurants as an example of our downfall.

                          This ruling will deprive Eastchester from having a fine casual restaurant that would have been a financial asset to the Town. It would have employed many at a high wage around $14.00 an hour unlike minimum paying fast food or local delis. The rent they would have paid could justify the tax assessment that brings revenue to the Town coffers and sales tax to the County and State. Instead there will be another long standing vacancy and an application for a property tax reduction based upon diminution of rental income and hardship.

                          One day the residents of Westchester will wake up to the fact they have driven young people to the City where they can have the social life and amenities they want and need. Starter apartments sell for $800,000 there while $800,000 houses languish for sale here. The population gets older and less productive while the burden of municipal expenses rise exponentially. Delusional senior citizens yearning for an idyllic county life style of the 1940s pack town meetings with crank opposition to normal business matters that are approved as of right in major cities.

                          Blame yourselves if your kids move to Brooklyn or the Rockie Mountains and don't call.

                          1. re: Barrels41

                            Where are you getting the $14 per hour wage information? I find that highly unlikely unless you are talking about the manager maybe.

                          2. re: mrsdebdav

                            A property owner gains no financial benefit from having a vacancy. If you see a long standing vacancy there may be a back story involving ownership issues impeding decision making. Most inquires owners get are from under-capitaized, inexperienced persons who could cost the owners more in damages and legal fees if they were leased a store and soon failed..Some never even open and leave a mess. There are few good businesses seeking retail space. Restaurant expansion is strong but some communities are not friendly to that business sector.

                            1. re: Barrels41

                              Sometimes it is just landlord stupidity. Remember the nice kids shoe store next to the Starbucks in the plaza with the Borders? It had been there for a long time. In 2007, the rent was raised, and they were forced out. The store has been empty ever since. Total stupidity.

                              1. re: rgny

                                I was thinking this exact thing. That nice shoe store gone, and instead there is....nothing. For years and years and years.

                                I'm trying to remember if there is table service at the bagel shop in the Vnon Hills shopping center. I've ordered at the counter, but I can't remember if that was for eat in or take out. Listen, I support keeping Micky D's and such out of the area. But if they bring in something like Applebee's or another fabulous place that has table service, then what has the area gained? Table service isn't tht meaningful when you are talking about restaurants...

                              2. re: Barrels41

                                People are leaving Manhattan and heading to Brooklyn which is now more desirable to individals who find uniqueness and quirkiness appealing. Manhattan is becoming a chain theme park. Brooklynites are fighting tooth and nail to keep the chains out and to maintain their autonomy.

                            2. Folks, there's really not much that's actually about food in this thread, and local politics are off-topic, so we're going to lock it now.