Sotto Luna, Joven Cleaners to leave Willis Ave. shopping center

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A rendering of what the fully renovated shopping center will look like. (Image courtesy of Adam Mann and Louis Silverman)

Nestled in a shopping center on Willis Avenue for more than two decades, Joven Cleaners, Sotto Luna and Olive Market, all family businesses, became embedded in the Roslyn community.

But the building they reside in gradually deteriorated during those decades under the previous ownership, which also had most tenants underpaying and without leases, said Louis Silverman, who bought the property last year with Adam Mann.

The two Town of North Hempstead residents had a vision of a Hampton-style modern shopping center. Now, as renovations ramp up, Joven Cleaners and Sotto Luna are heading out. Olive Market’s owners are still in discussions with the property owners in the hopes of staying, said owner Jack, who declined to provide his last name.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Cathy Lanza, who owns Sotto Luna. “We’ve been there a long time and we have a nice clientele and obviously we’re comfortable in the shopping center, but I’m happy we have a place to go and a change to make. It’s not my choice, but it’s working out.”

Her restaurant will serve its final meals at 367 Willis Ave. on Mother’s Day. It will reopen in a standalone building at 875 Willis Ave., formerly home to Mitch & Toni’s American Bistro, later in May.

Joven Cleaners has already begun moving into a space a mile away on IU Willets Road.

Their neighbors CVS and Starbucks will stay and remain open throughout construction.

To their left will be a boutique fitness center and a fast-casual dining destination, hinted Silverman, who said he is not at liberty to disclose the new tenants. They should be in by the end of the year.

New tenants to the right of Starbucks have yet to be confirmed.

Silverman and Mann, who work for separate real estate companies, bought the property with recognition of its potential, Silverman said. They have been shopping there for decades, they said; Silverman lives in Old Westbury and Mann lives in North Hills.

“It was an amazing center many years ago,” Silverman said. “We wanted to take on the mission to make it a world-class shopping center, which it should be.”

They purchased the building in May and began with renovations to the left side, which had been vacant for at least 10 years, he said.

There was an outpouring of responses from interested businesses when spaces went on the market under the new ownership, said Doug Weinstein, the leasing agent for the property. Some had wanted to move in for years but had been unable to successfully negotiate with the previous owners, he said.

In February, the owners warned the three remaining mom-and-pop shops of impending renovations in their spaces and rent hikes that would follow, tenants said.

“It was always in the back of our minds that change could be coming,” Lanza said. “There’s never the right time, but yes I did have that.”

Joven Cleaners has partially moved into its new location. (Photo by Teri West)

Namy Tyo, who owns Joven Cleaners, said her customers were concerned about the future of their trusty dry cleaner but relieved when Joven Cleaners found a new space nearby. She’s seen her customers’ children grow up before her eyes, she said.

Now, her customers have made flyers to spread the news about the new location, she said.

“They’re all chipping in and trying to spread the word to their neighbors and their friends because they’re so excited that I found a place that’s local,” she said.

The shopping center provided a community-living environment, Lanza said, where customers were able to multitask. Having a solo building will be a new chapter.

“There’s comfort in numbers, but we’re excited about being in a freestanding building as well with our own parking and our own space,” she said.

Jack said that increased rent is a concern, but also part of the negotiations that are still pending. Olive Market has been in the center for 25 years. He owns it with his father.

“It’s not easy to change locations when you already have a good location … but if the setting is not right, you’ve got to move on,” he said.

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