Kevin Cody

Beaches & Business: North Manhattan business on the rise

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Servers Alisha Ginsberg and Tionnie Baker welcome diners to the newly remodeled FishBar in North Manhattan Beach. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Tony Cordi

North Manhattan Beach has a unique appeal that has resulted in substantial home appreciation over the last several years. Alex Yoffe, a partner with Yoffe & Cooper, LLP, lives and works in the area. He sums up the attraction best by saying, “North Manhattan Beach reminds me of Manhattan Beach from 20 years ago.” It has “the charm of a quiet, little beach town, where surf, flip-flops, and tacos are still the standard.” It is no wonder then that we have seen a burst in business activity along Highland Avenue over the past several years. It shows no signs of abating.      

Artful accents have been added to the remodeled FishBar exterior. Photo by Kevin Cody

Demand for commercial space may be at an all-time high. Lease rates have doubled over the past five to six years,  yet they are still half of what the rent is in downtown Manhattan. These rates will no doubt continue to increase if the rumored escrow for Veranda’s and some adjacent property actually closes and the properties are redeveloped. Though many factors have contributed to the rebound, it is the successes of particular businesses that stoke the surge. As an old proverb suggests, nothing succeeds like success.      When I moved to Manhattan Beach over 20 years ago, the place to be in the evening was the north part of town. Sharkeez, Pancho’s, Harry O’s and Hillary’s Hole in the Wall would all have lines out the door. However, these early successes were diminished with the opening of Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach in 1997. By 2011, there had been dozens of changes in the businesses along Highland Avenue in North Manhattan Beach, but these changes were gradual in their progression. Real change, on the other hand, started to accelerate six years ago when Sharkeez, a strong local brand, sold their original Highland Avenue location, at 38th Street, to the owners of FishBar and moved across Highland to their current location at 36th St. This gave Sharkeez a chance to expand their evening hours while reaching a broader demographic. Additionally, it opened the way for FishBar to explode on to the scene.   

Zac Rothman, co-owner of FishBar, said his decision to open a family-friendly, seafood restaurant was easy. The combination of “a saturation of homes and young professionals who appreciate quality seafood” has worked out well. More than 70 percent of their patrons are regulars. Business has been so good, that they are among the top restaurants in the city, as measured by revenue per square foot. Rothman said that they made the decision to remodel “even though it might not increase revenues” because they want to create a proud gateway to the city.

An unintended consequence of their success was the growing number of people crossing Highland Avenue at 38th St. Public Works just completed street improvements at 38th and also at Rosecrans to address this. Successes like FishBar are one reason why investment activity has been increasing along Highland Avenue and why we may see some significant new development there in the future.  

Tony Cordi can be reached at tony@theinnategroup.com

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