Grand Avenue Merchant News

We were disappointed this past week to learn that two additional businesses on Grand had closed permanently as a direct result of the Coronavirus. Oak Common had been a popular destination since its opening circa 2013. Aisle 5, on the other hand, was a relative newbie with an in-house brewery just coming into its own while Sandy Graves (Michael’s mother) was busily perfecting pretzels made from beer mash. Both businesses, their owners, and their staff will be sorely missed. 

Happily, there’s quite a bit of good news to report on Grand as well. Gerry Mogg, owner of Modigliani Cafe, tells us that business is as good as ever due mainly to new patrons who have discovered what his large contingent of devoted customers have known for years. Namely, it’s a great place to get incredible sandwiches-to-go at an affordable price. Unfortunately, although net income has risen, increased costs have cut deeply into his profit margin. One example he cited were plastic disposable gloves, the price of which have increased by 400%. Nonetheless, he has no intention to raise prices. Recurring shortages in the supply chain, which we have all been experiencing, are also a problem. In Modigliani’s case the effect is significant, as it means he has to shop almost daily on top of  working six or seven days a week. 

Although the hours are long, Gerry feels obligated to stay open not just for his loyal customers but also for his employees. Asked what, if anything, he could say about the impact of the COVID virus, Gerry opined that, “There seems to be a bigger sense of community and customers seem more appreciative.” For his employees, this means bigger tips, which are always welcomed. 

The Modigliani menu, which is available online, includes sandwiches, salads, and old fashioned milk shakes. The menu does not, however, include the ever-changing “Specials” that are posted on the café blackboard. If you want to pay with a credit card, you’ll have to order online for pick up or delivery. If you’re picking up and paying cash, please call Modigliani directly to avoid them being charged service fees.

Alyce Preston, the Alyce on Grand namesake, was in a great frame of mind when we talked on Friday. Business isn’t what it used to be, but she and her business partner, Kalu, are hanging in there. That’s due in part to a gorgeous website where you can shop and order online for delivery or for pick-up. If you prefer the latter, pickups are scheduled Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:00–5:00 pm. If you want to shop in person, Alyce on Grand is open every day except Tuesday from noon–5:00 pm. Only two customers are allowed in at a time, and masks and hand sanitizing are required. If you’d like to book a private appointment, please phone in advance. 

Diego Nazzac, who opened the Custom Sofa Company at 3304 Grand in January 2019 in partnership with his twin brother, Dom, has a very positive outlook on the future, despite all the obstacles that have hampered business and life in general. He started our brief conversation last Friday by noting how much they are indebted to their landlord, Stewart Kisner, who said, “We’re here to help each other survive” and then cut them some slack when they had to close for a couple of months after their manufacturing source in L.A. temporarily shut down. They are equally thankful to all the customers who had ordered sofas that were suddenly no longer available. No one requested refunds. Custom Sofa is open Monday through Saturdays from 11:00 am–7:00 pm and Sundays 11:00 am–6:00 pm. They are always happy to schedule one-on-one appointments if requested. 

Elsa Cardona, the Manager of Urban Furniture Boutique emailed us to say that they are currently open Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 am–3:00 pm, and on the last Friday of the month from 1:00 pm–6:00 pm. For the month of February, Black History Month, they are featuring artist China Tolliver.     

On Saturday morning, Elida Scola, owner of Galleria Scola, posted these images on her Facebook page accompanied by a message saying:

I have been making some custom boxes lately. Great for gifts or to store your trinkets. We will have some for sale at Galleria Scola soon. This one was made using an original Louis Icart print, Birch wood sides, decorative hand made paper, and an original chromolithograph fish print.

The space vacated by 510 Brand is now occupied by Mamba Smoke Shop, which carries some CBD products but specializes in vaping and pipes. A shop that offered vaping products exclusively opened several years ago next to Shakewell and they survived less than a year. It will be interesting to see if the market has changed or a much broader range of products and a busier location will make a difference.  

Late breaking news: Walden Pond is once again buying books and records. Details here

Editor’s note repeated from last month: Virtually all the restaurants on Lakeshore, Lake Park, and Grand remain open for pick-up and deliveries, and they are relying on our continued support for their survival. In a December 8 opinion piece in the New York Times titled Apps Are Helping to Gut the Restaurant Industry, Greg Bensinger notes that, in the past nine months, “one in six restaurants nationwide has closed permanently.” A big factor in those closures has been excessive fees (up to 30%) charged by Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grub Hub. An exception is Clover which apparently charges a very nominal fee. To maximize your support, phone in and pick up your order whenever possible and make sure you’re ordering directly from the restaurant itself.