The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Perks, longtime Katonah gathering spot, to close

By JOHN ROCHE
JOHN ROCHE PHOTO

Some of the Perks regulars, Bruce Cooperstein, Tom Molito, Steve Levine and Richard Satenberg, sit outside the coffee shop in Katonah on Tuesday afternoon. Perks is slated to close on March 30 after 15 years.

 

Perks, which has served not only as a coffee shop but a popular gathering place in downtown Katonah for 15 years, is closing next week, according to staff and some of its longtime regular customers.

The last day for the coffee shop, located at 197 Katonah Ave., will be Friday, March 30, a Perks employee said on Tuesday.

“It’s sad for all of us, staff and customers alike, but I’m told there’s nothing that can be done,” said Dale, an employee for the past four years, who did not want to provide his last name. “Many people consider this an institution for the community, because it’s been a meeting place, inside and out. It will definitely leave a void in Katonah.”

Many of the regulars agreed. “It’s the end of an era,” said Richard Satenberg, who is among the small band of customers who meet at Perks to socialize over coffee virtually every day. “It’s much more than a place for coffee. It’s been a hub for friends, for conversation, for watching the comings and goings and discussing what’s going on in town. There’s probably not a person in Katonah who we haven’t said hello to passing by Perks, or a dog that doesn’t know us. That will be missed.”

Tom Molito, another of the regulars, shared a similar sentiment. “This has been our village green, our town square, the hub of Katonah for us and so many others over the years,” Mr. Molito said. “In this age of texting, Twitter, Facebook, other social media and the Internet, it’s been a terrific place to meet face to face with friends and neighbors and have actual conversations in person. Nobody knows what, if anything, is coming to this spot, but there’s a chance that that social hub for so many of us will cease once Perks closes at the end of the month. And that would be a real loss for the community.”

Perks’s owner, Christine Megerdichian, did not return calls for comment this week. Employees and customers said they were told that the shop’s lease expires on March 31, and Ms. Megerdichian will not be renewing it.

“We have great customers, but foot traffic isn’t what it used to be around Katonah,” said Dale, who looked into buying the business himself. “It’s a tough economy, and you can see the effects of that here in downtown Katonah and pretty much everywhere.”

Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc., the Connecticut-based real estate investment company that owns the building where Perks is located, also did not respond to requests this week for comment about the store’s lease or future.

The year before Perks opened in 1997, Katonah residents and merchants successfully fought a plan by Starbucks to lease the space. The opposition largely centered on the fact that a mega-chain store like Starbucks would negatively impact the small-town character of the hamlet, as well as drive other Katonah coffee shops out of business. Other merchants at that time countered that a Starbucks would be a boon for Katonah’s shopping hub, attracting more customers for all businesses. Ultimately, the Starbucks proposal was withdrawn because of the general outcry from the community as well as concerns over water usage and other zoning stipulations.

When Perks closes on Friday, it will be the second business to vacate the three-store building known as Village Commons West. Toney Toni and the Gang, a women’s apparel, jewelry and accessories store, relocated last month to 131 Katonah Avenue, leaving Squires Family Clothing and Footwear as the sole remaining tenant.

Two years ago, Urstadt Biddle purchased the building where Perks is located, along with the commercial building of street-level stores and office space above it directly across Katonah Avenue. The company paid $8.52 million for the 32,000-square-foot commercial property, called Village Commons, lining a stretch of the east and west sides of Katonah Avenue.

While those who meet daily at Perks said they are sorry to see the coffee shop close, they are hopeful that a new business suitable for socializing will take its place.

“If it’s another coffee shop or something similar, I’ll be here,” said Mr. Satenberg, who began his daily visits to Perks as a respite from chemotherapy treatments seven years ago.

A recent order from the town prompted Perks to do away with its outdoor seating, but that didn’t thwart the gang of regulars from their daily gatherings. They simply brought their own table and chairs.

“We’ve had a core group, but it’s also evolved over the years, constantly bringing in new blood,” Mr. Molito explained. “The best part about our little circle, and others who come to Perks pretty regularly, is that it’s really a collection of all types of people. You check your social status at the door. Whether someone’s a multimillionaire or a blue-collar guy, it never mattered here. It’s been coffee and conversation, and I hope that’s not lost. It looks like it might be, depending on what comes in, but I hope not.”


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March 23, 2012