Leasing activity at Commack retail complex highlights sector’s evolution

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By Dan Sears

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Challenged by growing competition from ecommerce and temporarily derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, most brick-and-mortar retail on Long Island remains resilient, though it continues to evolve. 

A prime example of the sector’s strength and its tilt towards the experiential consumer can be found in the venerable Mayfair Shopping Center in Commack, which has welcomed a slew of new tenants in the last couple of years. 

Aerial view of the Mayfair Shopping Center. / Courtesy of Levin Management

First built some 60 years ago, the sprawling 24.23-acre Mayfair complex totals 221,612 square feet of leasable space and boasts a tenant mix that has morphed over time to accommodate the changing needs of its customers. 

Mayfair’s newest tenant, Champions Martial Arts, opened in January in a 1,320-square-foot space. Champions, which checks the experiential retail box, is the latest of several new additions to the Commack center. In 2023, new Mayfair tenants filled more than 45,000 square feet and the property welcomed more than 112,000 square feet of new businesses going back to 2021. 

Some of Mayfair’s newer tenants are genuine traffic generators, such as Planet Fitness, PGA Tour Superstore and Lidl, the center’s latest grocery anchor which replaced the 30,000-square-foot Stein Mart department store. 

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Photo by Judy Walker

The shift towards experiential retail appears to be working. Traffic at the shopping center in 2023 increased over 19 percent from the previous year, according to Placer.ai, which tracks anonymous cellphone data. Mayfair saw 2.1 million visits last year, an all-time record for the property. 

“Mayfair Shopping Center really does show the evolution of retail over time and how uses change,” said Matthew Harding, CEO of Levin Management, the Plainfield, N.J. firm that manages the Commack center for owner Arlona Limited Partnership. “Overall, I’d say there’s been a little transition from more fashion to less fashion. Retail is always evolving. It always has.” 

Levin has managed the Mayfair center since 1997 and has about 16 million square feet of mostly retail properties in its management portfolio, so the firm is well versed in the comings and goings of the retail sector. 

Along the lines of offering what customers can’t do on the internet, Mayfair has increased its number of restaurants and food businesses. The most recent addition is the 1,200-square-foot MiMi’s Coffee and Bubble Tea. 

Levin Management CEO Matthew Harding

“We’ve added a bunch of restaurants recently and a real great variety of restaurants as well,” Harding said. “We had an Italian restaurant Ciao Baby which changed its concept a little bit to Prato 850, a little more casual concept. We added some Asian restaurants, and we just got a bagel store that moved in, replacing a bagel store that was there for a while, so we have a very good mix. We also see that evolution at other properties as well.” 

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Brokers who specialize in retail leasing recognize Mayfair as a quintessential neighborhood center with a broad reach.  

“That center was a lifestyle center before its time,” said Ken Schuckman, principal of Schuckman Realty, which has represented some tenants in Mayfair leases in the past. “It’s a community shopping center serving the daily needs of the community.” 

Schuckman added that the grocery-anchored community shopping center is having a renaissance and Mayfair specifically enjoys a good demographic which is represented in the tenants that have leased there. 

Harding agrees. “Grocery anchors are very important because of frequency,” he said. “Shoppers most frequent visits are to grocers and drugstores, bringing in people a couple of times a week. We’re fortunate with Mayfair. It’s in a great spot and we’re able to work with tenants who want to be there and serve the community that surrounds it.” 

Meanwhile, Harding points to Mayfair’s record year of customer visits as an indication of where the sector is headed. 

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“Brick-and-mortar retail is very strong. During the COVID crisis and lockdown many people switched to online shopping out of necessity, and they came right back with a vengeance,” he said. “People like to go out and shop. They like to touch the merchandise. They like to pick up their tomatoes.” 

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