Horseman Antiques, a longtime institution on Atlantic Avenue, will shut its doors in nine months, after the owner agreed to sell the building for $18 million. The news follows years of speculation that owner Donald Gianchetta would sell the 18,000-square-foot building and shutter his 53-year-old store, officially ending the era of Atlantic Avenue as an antiques row.
“Fifty-three years ago, Atlantic Avenue was a commercial avenue, extremely dangerous, but with cheap rents,” Gianchetta said. “At one time there were 50 antique stores. But it’s gotten to be very trendy. It’s gotten to look very much like Manhattan. You start to see tour buses coming through and tourists coming through.”
Gianchetta has nine months to clear out five floors of midcentury furnishings, artworks and lighting. All items are being sold at a deep discount, he said. The building at 351 Atlantic Avenue will be sold to an unnamed investor, and Gianchetta will continue to operate his two stores in New Jersey.
He attributes the steady decline of antiques stores along the avenue to rising rents, shifting tastes away from antiques to midcentury furniture, a dearth of parking on the avenue, and the trend toward online furniture shopping. He now conducts 80 percent of his sales online.
“Mortar and brick is very much history,” Gianchetta said. “Nobody will ever see this again in Brooklyn.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, dozens of antique stores lined Atlantic Avenue and shoppers would spill into stores on weekends searching for treasures. But as rents increased and tastes changed over the past two decades, antique stores were slowly replaced by boutiques, bars and restaurants. Upscale chains like Barneys, Steven Alan and Urban Outfitters have opened in recent years.
“When I moved to Brooklyn in the late ‘70s, Atlantic Avenue was a true antiques row. There were dozens and dozens of antiques stores from 4th Avenue to the river,” said Brownstoner Insider columnist Cara Greenberg, a longtime Boerum Hill resident, design writer and author of Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.
“Horseman Antiques came along a bit later, I believe, but it was one of the biggest, practically a flea market in and of itself,” Greenberg said. “The character of the avenue has totally changed, but I would gladly trade a few antiques stores for bars and restaurants.”
Established in 1962, Horseman had moved to its present location on the avenue by the late 1980s. The busy commercial street is a low-rise one sprung from former mid-19th century townhouses, many with charming historic storefronts.
The 50-feet-wide, four-story property is an “architecturally significant, 1920s-era, four-story elevator commercial building,” according to the sales listing. It’s not part of an historic district but is nonetheless unlikely to be razed because it has less than 1,000 square feet in unused expansion rights.
To build an apartment tower here, a buyer would have to cobble together air rights from other nearby buildings or apply for a rezoning. Elsewhere on the avenue, buildings as high as 12 stories have gone up in recent years.
Horseman is one of a wave of independent Brooklyn businesses that have cashed out and sold their buildings, lured by high real estate prices in the borough. Others include Community Bookstore, BookCourt and Moon River Chattel.
Now there are just a few stores left that focus on antique and vintage furniture and objects. These include Holler & Squall, Wynne City Works and City Foundry, which specializes in midcentury and industrial.
“The avenue used to be lined with antique stores,” said Claudia Cuseta, who has worked at City Foundry for 12 years and grew up nearby. “The neighborhood has evolved with all the new people coming in.”
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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