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.