Cobble Hill will lose another of its colorful institutions when the Musician’s General Store closes at the end of the month, squeezed out by soaring rents in the fast-changing neighborhood.
The store’s closing after 13 years is no surprise to anyone following the exodus of artists and musicians from a neighborhood they can no longer afford.
“We caught the virus” of high rents, said Mingo Tull, co-owner of the store with its well-worn wooden bar and a showroom filled with instruments, sheet music and hominess.
“The neighborhood has priced us out. People are very upset because we had something special here.”
Tull said he and co-owner Roseann Natale paid $2,500 in rent when the store moved from Amity Street to Court Street 10 years ago, and it has increased every year to $8,000 today. Commercial rents have gone up 25 to 50 percent over the past two years, Cobble Hill real-estate brokers estimated.
“People are willing to pay $9,000 or $10,000” for a space like Tull’s, said Alex Calabretta of Cobble Heights Realty.
Such “people” however, aren’t musicians like Mark Smith and Dan Pritchard, who have moved away, but still shop at the store.
“There’s no other music store like this,” said Smith, who has bought two bass guitars from Tull and Natale. “The closing is a shame. This neighborhood has nothing now.”
Pritchard went further: “How many freakin’ bagel shops and kids’ clothing stores do you need? Every block, it’s the same thing. This was a one-of-a-kind place.”
Another customer said the “impersonal” feel of major retailers like the Guitar Center, which opened at the Atlantic Terminal Mall almost a year ago, can’t compare with the ambience of the Musician’s General Store.
Tull agreed: “It’s the Manhattanization of Brooklyn. It doesn’t feel like a village anymore. [It’s] more like a commercial center.”
But Tull said the Guitar Center actually helped his business, sending his way customers who needed repairs, music lessons and a wider variety of hands-on services that a chain store can’t give.
He and Natale will stay in Cobble Hill, where they are lifelong residents, offering music lessons at the Micro Museum on Smith Street.
And Tull said he would have a hand in the evolution of the neighborhood: he plans to work with his best friend and landlord, a real-estate developer.
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” he said.