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High rents force Bell Blvd. hardware store to relocate

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After several decades in the same Bell Boulevard shop, Bell Hardware was forced to relocate because of rising rents.

Owner Tom Carreras said luck was pretty much the only thing allowing him to stay in business after the landlord of his 38-11 Bell Blvd. store nearly doubled his rent. The longtime Bayside merchant managed to find an affordable spot about two blocks away, at 36-41 Bell Blvd.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Carreras said. “This space was more affordable — if this place hadn’t opened up, where would I have gone?”

Carreras’ original landlord, Mario Centa of Centa Plumbing and Heating Inc., declined to comment for this story.

Bell Hardware has been operating in Bayside since at least the 1930s, said Carreras, who has owned the shop for 10 years.

“It’s a funny story,” he said. “One day a man came into the shop — he must have been in his 90s, and he pointed to a chair near the counter and he said, ‘I used to sit right there.’

“Then he said, ‘Didn’t you know? This used to be a speakeasy!’” Carreras said, smiling. “It’s a fun story. That place had a history, so I’m kind of nostalgic.”

Carreras said his new location has several benefits in addition to an affordable rent.

“I’m happy here,” he said, gesturing around the new shop. “The customers get parking in the back, it’s a decent lease, and it’s close. If you move far enough, then you lose your customers.”

The Hillcrest resident said another positive factor is a major increase in storage space for the hardware store.

His former landlord “took over almost half my space,” Carreras said. “At least now over here, I can keep everything nice and neat.”

Carreras said he was angered by the rent increase and that Bayside landlords should give back to the community more often.

“They make the money off of the community but don’t care about it,” he said.

Bell Hardware’s relocation is one of several recent changes on Bell Boulevard in the last several months.

Happy Hour Photo Shop, which had been on Bell Boulevard for more than 20 years, closed its doors after the landlord would not extend its lease, the owners said last month.

New office space has been under construction at Bell Boulevard and 39th Avenue since December, when new owners took over the Bayside Movie Theater building.

New owners Herb Suib and Terry Triades said they would seek to charge “market value rent” for the office space, a change that has led at least two organizations — the Bayside Little League and the Bayside Camera Shop — to leave the building. One store, the Place for Posters, was set to continue in the building.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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