MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- A Modell’s Sporting Goods that is proposed for most of the former Borders site in downtown Mount Kisco elicited a range of feedback from local merchants at a recent public hearing.
The hearing, which was held by the planning board, is for a special permit needed for the project, which will take up roughly 16,000 square feet of the former bookstore space.
The permit is needed because the project exceeds 8,000 square feet, according to William Null, an attorney for Modell's. Total building square footage is about 22,500, Null added.
Several merchants with shops along the East Main Street corridor endorsed the proposal, viewing it as a way to help reverse declining business caused by Borders' 2011 closure.
Speaking on behalf of the merchants was Cathy Deutsch, owner of clothing store Tiger Lily.
Deutsch also noted the drop in business in recent years.
“I’d like to note that Main Street has suffered severely since the closing of Borders. Our numbers are down 20 to 40 percent over the last four years.”
Deutsch noted that there are several vacant storefronts in the two-block area.
“It is a ghost town on Main Street.”
Deutsch, who lives in South Salem, told the planning board that she had petitions and letters from customers. In addition, she noted that her uncle once worked for Modell’s and spoke favorably of it.
“He said it was the greatest family he ever had.”
In contrast, prospect of Modell’s coming in is an unwelcome one for Mount Kisco Sports co-owner Robert Bernstein.
A North Salem resident who has operated Mount Kisco Sports for 18 years, Robert Bernstein doubted that Modell’s would bring in the volume of foot traffic that is hoped for.
Robert Bernstein also suggested that the store would not fit in with the village’s character and suggested that the storefront, which is located at 154-162 E. Main St., would be better suited in that regard if it was split into four or five retail spaces.
“Allowing Modell’s into Mount Kisco, in my opinion, is a beginning of an end to a charming village,” he said.
Robert Bernstein also noted that Mount Kisco Sports will be opening a new downtown location, which is at 13 E. Main St. and next to Bicycle World. Construction on the new storefront has been ongoing.
Tina Bernstein, who is Robert Bernstein’s wife and business co-owner, explained she was not against competition in and of itself. However, she argued that Modell’s large size presents an unfair competitive playing field.
“What we’re objecting to is a store that is going to be seven to eight times the space we are; seven to eight, that’s huge.”
Area residents also gave their input at the hearing.
North Castle's Mitchell Rosin said that Mitchell Modell, the company’s CEO and a family owner, is “one of my close friends” for years. Rosin described a store owner who is altruistic, noting that he expressed interest in supporting Northern Westchester Hospital as an example.
The Modell family, along with commercial real estate manager Stephen Lerner, acquired the property earlier this year as joint investors. Previous coverage of the site’s history is available here.
Mount Kisco’s Gina Picinich argued that the stores will have different target audiences, describing Modell’s as a place for casual shopping while arguing that Mount Kisco Sports has advantages in knowledge and expertise.
The board adjourned the public hearing to a meeting in September; more details about Modell’s handles other downtown locations were requested.