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Kitsched out! Landmarked Gage and Tollner finally free of gaudy jewelry store

The big reveal: Gage and Tollner’s landmarked interior is once again visible after workers tore down the fake walls that had been masking it for years.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’s a schlock-out!

Downtown’s landmarked Gage and Tollner building has booted out the discount store that filled its 124-year-old cherry-wood and mahogany interior with gaudy costume jewelry and sparkly cellphone covers for many years and the space is now up for rent — giving local preservationists hope that the next tenant will be something classy that allows visitors to enjoy the room in all its historic splendor.

“The jewelry store seemed like it was a bad fit, it looked really shabby,” said Simeon Bankoff, head of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council. “A restaurant or any kind of creative use would be terrific, just so people can get inside and experience the 19th-century interior space. It’s pretty rare to have an interior space that old, especially for Brooklyn.”

Historic architecture buffs were horrified when cut-price emporium Ladies and Gents took over the fabled Fulton Mall space between Jay Street and Red Hook Lane in 2011 and covered its iconic arched mirrors and gaslight chandeliers with hot pink fake walls.

The landlord evicted Ladies and Gents on Nov. 14, according to a DNA Info report, which first reported the vacancy.

In its heyday, Gage and Tollner was one of the borough’s fanciest restaurants, serving up steak and seafood to the likes of writer Truman Capote and actress Mae West. The city designated the building’s interior as a landmark in 1975, which means the owner can’t modify the original decor without permission.

But the brownstone’s fortunes have been declining since Gage and Tollner’s most recent owner closed the then-struggling restaurant in 2004 and sold the building to current landlord William Jemal, who brought in restaurant chain T.G.I. Fridays, then an outlet of fast food empire Arby’s, and finally handing it off to the bargain store.

Jemal did not return requests for comment, but he told food blog Eater in April that he’s hoping to bring in a “top restaurant or restaurateur” that appreciates the building’s history now that the retail strip is gentrifying — and local leaders hope he succeeds.

“The best thing for that space would be a more upscale restaurant establishment rather than fast food,” said Peter Bray, head of local civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association. “I think that anybody who has an affection for the way Gage and Tollner had it would like to see a new user go in that shows greater respect for the architectural attributes of the interior.”

Workers removed the fake walls last week, and from the street, the interior furnishings appear to be in decent if dusty condition.

A Department of Buildings inspector visited on Friday after reports of construction without a permit, but found the workers were just removing display fixtures from the first floor and basement, which they don’t need approval for, according to an agency spokesman.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Edna Lewis from beyond the grave says:
Jemal is asking $65,000/month in rent. Good luck to any restaurant opening in the former G&T.
Dec. 6, 2016, 10:01 am
Messrs. Gage & Tollner from Fulton Street says:
It's hard to see how any business could survive with rent at $65K. But then, the landlord cannot profit when the space lies empty. We recommend that he offer a long-term lease and a more reasonable rent to a tenant that is prepared to operate an upscale traditional restaurant such as ours was. The only logical alternative is for him to sell the building to someone who cares about this city's history.
Dec. 6, 2016, 12:43 pm
George from Red Hook says:
A landlord willing to charge that much would demolish the building, if the shoe fit differently.
Dec. 6, 2016, 1:23 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Is that $65k per month figure actually accurate? Seems a bit crazy for a design-restricted space like this... It's also not that big and it's location is not exactly screaming "high-end eatery."

Even a figure of half that seems extraordinary.

They bought the place for $2.8 million... $65k per month pays that off in a little over 3 years. But I'm assuming they've been renting out the rest of the building too?

"Hey honey, you go get your beauty supplies, I'll go browse in Expo 2000 and pop over to Metro PCS, and we'll meet in between for a $500 steak dinner."
Dec. 6, 2016, 3:11 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
I ahd taken clients their for lunch several times and it had a very busy clientele and was delicious.
Dec. 7, 2016, 1:25 pm
Edna says:
Tyler, I went to the broker's website and multiplied the price-per-square-foot by the available-square-feet and divided that by 12.
Dec. 8, 2016, 8:44 am
Tyler from pps says:
Edna -- Thanks... then, that's just a bonkers price.
Dec. 8, 2016, 3:38 pm
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
I understand all the retail space at Metrotech has been put on the market. That might drive out some retailers, make the former G&T site more viable.
Dec. 9, 2016, 11:20 am

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