Relief for local businesses after Smith-9th Street station reopens

Commuters along the F and G lines may be glad to have the Smith-9th Street subway station back after over two years of having to walk or bus themselves over to alternative transit routes, but their excitement arguably pales in comparison to the relief felt by some local businessowners whose enterprises have struggled without the foot traffic to and from the transit hub.

“Customers are saying ‘congratulations'” today,” chuckled Shakar Zaokari, who has owned and run a luncheonette at 7 9th Street — right next to the subway station entrance — for 13 years.

“Oh yes, it will help a lot” now that the subway station is reopened,” he said. “I had to close at 4 p.m. because there was no business. Now, I will move it back to 6 p.m.”

As at Zaokari’s luncheonette, Line Bagels across the street see their busiest time of day in the mornings, during the morning rush hour(s).

“The station’s closing [in 2011] affected us big time,” said Victor Carino, manager at Line Bagels, at 476 Smith Street. “A lot of business is foot traffic and we had to scale back hours and let go of some workers. We used to open til 7 p.m. and now we go til 5 p.m. If it weren’t for loyal customers, we wouldn’t be here.”

Also making things difficult were the rising waters of the Gowanus Canal during Hurricane Sandy. “We had some flooding from Sandy, around seven inches, and we had to throw away a few things,” he said. “But it was not too bad.”

Now, “hopefully things will be close to normal,” Carino said. “Maybe by next week we’ll see a difference.”

Residents who are regulars at such local eateries are also happy for the businessowners and workers.

Walking out of the Smith-9th Street Deli & Grocery on Friday afternoon, Carroll Gardens resident Fred Krughoff said that he thinks that “the only reason the deli survived is because they’ve been here so long.

“The pizza place across the street was killed,” he said of the locked storefront that still wears the signage for Smith Pizza N Pita and may just still be recovering after Sandy, as the store’s inside still has tables, chairs, and dusty bags of refuse. “The only thing here is the B61 bus, but no one would stop here [on their way to and from] Red Hook and Park Slope.”

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