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Rising Rents Cause Wave of Change in Queens Shopping District

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A popular shopping strip that became known for its unique mom and pop businesses is undergoing a makeover and there is mixed reaction as to whether the changes are for the better. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

There are a number of boutique stores, specialty shops and small restaurants on Austin Street in Fores Hills, but you have to search to find them in between all the chain stores that have popped up over the years. Small businesses no longer dominate the strip.

"I've watched the stores. I mean, many stores on this street go in and out. It kind of loses its zest and that original community feel," said one shopper.

And that makes it tough on the bottom line, according to the manager of Via Veneto. He says the store still has its die hard customer base, but it's hard to attract foot traffic these days.

"A lot of people they use to come here to Forest Hills to hang out at least and do some shopping but not really any more. "

So what caused the change? Local officials say the down economy is a problem and many businesses can't afford what the chain stores and medical businesses are willing to pay for space.

"Rents have certainly jumped and the landlords that are there are seeing that they can get a higher rent," said Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio.

Some residents say the street has lost its charm as a result.

"It's kind of changing its character. It's become very generic. It's sad," said one shopper.

But not everyone is against the change.

"I miss the old stores but what I'm pleased is that the high level stores come here," said one shopper.

"Yeah, times have changed but it's still a major shopping area, you know, for people like us who like to come and browse around and shop and try to keep the little store owner going," said another shopper.

And from the look of things many of those little guys will need all the help they can get.

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