Auburndale retail center open for business

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Open for business two months ago, the six ground-level stores and 18 upper level office suites of Gardena Place are spotlessly clean. Two store sites remain vacant, as do half a dozen of the offices. The rest are occupied by physical therapists, lawyers and architects.

"It's a beautiful building and a very desirable location," said Paul Pescatore, a representative for Greenhill Development, which operates the shopping center. "When we were under construction people walking by stopped by and commented on how beautiful the building was and how much they were anticipating it." Pescatore said Greenhill may move into one of the vacant upstairs offices.

Inside the Eye Galleria, an eyeglass and eyecare store, potted orchids sit in a neat row on the floor. Owner Jay Park, a licensed optician who lives in downtown Flushing, was attracted to the center's prime location on Northern Boulevard as he drove by and decided to open his store there a few weeks ago.

"This is a good area to have a business like this," Park said. He pointed out the ample parking, provided by a 50-car-capacity underground garage and several spaces in front of the center.

The Eye Galleria's name is written in English on the building sign, with smaller Korean characters underneath. Recent controversy over non-English signs on Northern Boulevard has prompted some local businesses to not only provide the English name of their stores, but also to tone down the size of the other language's lettering.

"I'm Korean, so I have Korean clients coming in," said Park, who is still building the customer base for his first business. "People walk by and see the sign, so people are getting to know it," he said. "Business is okay. It's only three weeks old, so it's not great. I have lots of friends, family coming in."

He estimated that presently 70 percent to 80 percent of his customers are Korean. "I'm focusing on the Korean community right now, but sooner or later I'll have to focus on everyone," Park said.

A Long Island-based window, siding and door showroom next to the Galleria, Elegant Entries, is the family business's 15th store. Salesman Vinny Donato noted the decision to open a branch in the center was based on customer convenience.

"The owners just want to make it more convenient for the customers," he said. "Business is good. There are a lot of repeat customers. This is more convenient than going to Corona," the next closest Queens location.

He said the company has no plans to have a bilingual sign. "We're not really catering to the Oriental population here," Donato said. "We're catering to all our customers."

Next door at Alta Moda Fashion, an upscale women's clothing boutique, the sign also is posted in Korean.

Its interior pink walls glow with soft opulence; a jacket displayed on a front table touts a $1,150 price tag. But the owner, busily arranging clothes from high-end designers on garment racks, declined to comment on her store's location.

Anchoring the south end of Gardena Place is the newest branch of the Queens County Savings Bank. Roxienne Ramirez, branch manager, said the prime reason for moving to the new location was expansion from the service branch located catercorner across the intersection in the Eckerd's drugstore.

"We already had a presence in the area and needed to expand and open a full branch," she said.

Ramirez said she was pleased with the new location. "It's beautiful. We're comfortable here." She expressed a willingness to have a bilingual sign, jotting the idea down on a notepad after a visitor brought up the subject.

"I would like to place an ad in the Korean phone book," she added. "It would be a plus."

Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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