Decades ago, Michael Pintchik and his father Jack peered down Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue and saw the future.
“When I was a little kid, I would drive in with my dad and he would take me to [the paint shop Jack owned at 478 Bergen Street in Boerum Hill],” Pintchik said. “And when we would drive down Flatbush Avenue, he would say to me, ‘Someday this street is going to be very different, and it’s going to be a great street.’ This is during a time on Flatbush Avenue where there was what was the equivalent of shanties. They didn’t even have storefronts.”
What his father may not have realized is that fast-forward 60 years and Pintchik would be the one to make many of those changes on the Boerum Hill commercial strip just south of Downtown Brooklyn.
Pintchik, 65, whose family has owned 13 eponymous paint stores in the city for 104 years—beginning with his grandfather, Nathan—currently owns one paint shop and about 60 low-rise mixed-use buildings on Flatbush Avenue between the Barclays Center and Grand Army Plaza. And Pintchik has recently signed about a dozen leases for new restaurants and retail concepts. His goal is for Flatbush Avenue to be filled with offerings truly worthy of that decades-old vision.
“Our goal is to have very artisanal, unique tenants,” Pintchik said. “We feel a certain responsibility, because we have almost contiguous blocks of buildings. Because we can shape things, we have been really careful.”
Of particular interest is what he is doing at 166 Flatbush Avenue, across from Barclays Center. There Pintchik signed a deal with a group of partners led by Peter Levin, the owner of sports bar Professor Thom’s in the East Village, and Jay Zimmerman, the owner of Queens watering hole Astoria’s Sek’end Sun, for a new sports-themed gastro pub called Kings Town with a 5,000-square-rooftop bar. The location will be a place for hardcore sports fans (with private rooms for draft nights), but it will not alienate the casual sportswatcher because it will serve an array of drinks and have a new American restaurant. That will open in April.
“He is so extremely fair and open- minded, which makes the process very easy,” Zimmerman said. “We are carving out something that doesn’t exist in that neighborhood.”
In the same building, Japanese hospitality company Plan Do See plans to open a 3,700-square-foot sushi bar in the lower level. (Plans for that space have yet to be completed.)
“It will be the venue for sporting events viewing in the borough,” said Peter Schubert of TerraCRG, who handled the deal for Pintchik. “[Pintchik is] old school but forward-looking. When Michael likes a certain concept, he does what it takes to work with the tenant and does what it takes to make the deal happen.”
Pintchik tries to go beyond the run-of-the-mill or national chain retailers, because he hopes to create an area that prides itself on great stores that stand out.
Years before Apple opened in Williamsburg last summer, he tried to lure the technology behemoth to 166 Flatbush Avenue. He was unsuccessful as the company didn’t have plans for a Downtown Brooklyn location at the time. (Apple recently signed a lease at Two Trees Management Company’s 300 Ashland Place nearby.)
And it was widely reported that Pintchik turned down Hooters from 166 Flatbush Avenue. “My biggest objection is their operation objectifies women,” Pintchik told the New York Daily News in 2012.
“[Hooters] said to us, ‘You don’t own everything, and we could still be in your neighborhood,’ and I said, ‘Of course you can, but I don’t have to participate in that,’” Pintchik told CO.
That’s certainly not the first big name restaurant he rejected. “McDonald’s came to us a few years ago, and they came back four or five times, always tweaking their plans,” Pintchik said. “We loved their credit, but it wasn’t going to satisfy what we were trying to do.” He opted for a Shake Shack, instead, which opened in August 2014.
Pintchik has a thing for New York-born concepts. For example, at 210 Flatbush Avenue, he inked a 900-square-foot deal with up-and-coming Brooklyn-based bakery Ovenly, which is set to open this quarter. Next door at 212 Flatbush Avenue Pintchik did a 2,000-square-foot lease with Mok Bar, a Korean ramen eatery, which has its only location in Chelsea Market, and has been gaining raving reviews. Mok Bar is under construction.
East Village-based shaved ice cream shop Snowdays, which has two locations in Queens and three in Manhattan, will be opening its first Brooklyn outpost in 1,900 square feet at 214 Flatbush Avenue at the end of January.
“Best landlord I’ve got. I swear, it’s not a lie,” Snowdays owner and founder Tony Quach said. “He’s very good at what he does, and you see Bergen Street—it looks like that for a reason.”
On Bergen Street off Flatbush Avenue in the last few years, Pintchik brought in neighborhood-friendly retailers to enhance the quality of living. Those stores include Wild Was Mama, an accessories and clothes shop for new moms and pregnant women; Stories Bookshop, a bookshop that has storytelling classes and children’s creative writing classes; bicycle shop Ride Brooklyn; and clothing store V Curated, which features local up-and-coming designers.
“He’s not trying to put a Starbucks on every corner here,” Quach said. “He’s really working with small businesses in the neighborhood and all over the city.” (There is a Starbucks in Barclays Center and another at 164 Park Place, but those aren’t Pintchik properties).
Pintchik keeps his nose to the ground for the latest hot food and retail ideas but tests them out himself.
“Before we go and take a tenant on, we go anonymously, and we dine or shop at a space,” Pintchik said. “We want to understand the ethos of the space.”
Other eateries Pintchik is bringing in this year include Philadelphia-style sandwiches and cheesesteaks shop Shorty’s, which has four Manhattan locations, to an 1,800-square-foot space at 229 Flatbush Avenue. And Friedman’s, a full-service, family-owned eatery known for its gluten-free options, will be opening in 1,900 sqaure feet at 474 Bergen Street just off Flatbush Avenue. The restaurant has four locations in Manhattan.
A new Indian concept by Brooklyn chef Tariq Haq will be opening off Flatbush Avenue at Pintchik’s 447 Bergen Street in 1,800 square feet as well. It will serve traditional Indian food in a space with a “cool vibe with wine and cocktail” options, according to Haq, who praised Pintchik for having an open mind to new ideas in the neighborhood.
“I love him,” said Haq, who declined to release the name of his new restaurant. “He is a hands-on guy. He is a very friendly guy, and he cares, and that’s not usually a common trait in landlords these days. I got lucky.”
Besides restaurant options, Pintchik is bringing health-conscious retailers and fitness concepts, too. At 248 Flatbush Avenue, he signed a 4,600-square-foot deal with Orange Theory, a growing fitness brand that focuses on various types of cardio and strength. And a few blocks south he inked a deal for Union Market, which specializes in organic produce, at 342 Flatbush Avenue between Sterling and St. John’s Places. Above the 11,000-square-foot Union Market will be a new 3,700-square-foot SoulCycle.
And since the area around Barclays Center doesn’t have many full-service national banks, Pintchik signed a lease to TD Bank at 42-44 Bergen Street, which has frontage on Flatbush Avenue.
It will be a 4,300-square-foot branch with all services unlike like the Bank of America ATM across the street. (The only other national bank in the area is a Chase at 401 Flatbush Avenue.)
While today he is a large Brooklyn owner, at one time Pintchik’s body (and mind) was almost as far away as one could be from it in the U.S.; he lived in Boulder, Colo.
After growing up on Long Island, Pintchik attended the University of Colorado Boulder and graduated with a degree in clinical psychology and culinary arts of Japan and China in 1973. After several years of working for his father in the paint business he decided to head back to Boulder because he missed the outdoors. In Colorado, he paid the bills as an auto mechanic and painting antique Porches in a barn behind his house. On his days off, he’d camp in the mountains.
“It was a great life,” Pintchik said, but he eventually returned to the business because his father wasn’t feeling well and he became worried about him, so he wanted to help out.
“My father never pressured me to come back,” said Pintchik, a married father of a 26-year-old son and a 24-year-old daughter. “But when I came back I knew he was happy, and he very proudly told me this is what your salary is going to be, and I never had the nerve to tell him I was making more money painting cars three or four days a week than what he had offered me.”
That adventurous, Colorado spirit never left Pintchik. While he was in the The Centennial State he took flying lessons but never got his license because his instructor turned out to be a shady individual who wasn’t licensed.
But about a decade ago he took flight lessons (in a proper class) and received his license, and today he is the owner of a small plane. He frequently flies friends to Florida, the Bahamas and Maine “for lunch,” he said. (We couldn’t 100 percent determine if the lunch line was a joke.)
“It saved my life, seriously, because I was a workaholic,” Pintchik said about his plane. “I live to fly. When I was a kid I was fascinated. Even though my father worked about 99 hours a week—I never saw him—the one thing he would do is on Sundays take me to [John F.] Kennedy airport, and we parked on the road, and planes would come right overhead. To me, that was just the cat’s meow.”
Real estate wasn’t always the family business, but Pintchik changed the focus after a paint store in Astoria caught fire in 1982. The store had a lease that called for the landlord restoring the space if there was a fire, he said.
“I called the landlord. It was an 80-some-odd-year-old woman whose husband had died. He had owned the building. She said to me, ‘Sonny, I don’t have the first idea of what to do.’ I said, ‘How about we buy the building, and you give us the insurance?’ She was like, ‘Okay that sounds like a good idea.’ ”
Pintchik bought the building for $275,000 and got more than $100,000 from the insurance company. He restored the building and converted it to apartments. Since then, the family has been buying real estate in Brooklyn, mostly low-rise residential and retail properties. But Pintchik hopes to develop larger ones.
On Flatbush Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place, Pintchik is planning to demolish three two-story buildings that his family owns to erect an eight-story, mixed-use structure. At the base, he is hoping to bring in a home goods retailer, such as West Elm or Home Depot, he said.
And while the family’s paint store isn’t a main focus of the business, (yes, hardware is still a part of Pintchik’s professional life), Pintchik has begun renovating the historic store on the corner of Bergen Street and Flatbush Avenue. The store is moving one door down and will feature a brand new layout.
“We are going to have a really professional paint and neighborhood hardware store,” Pintchik said. “And by moving over to this new space the physical plan will be able to enable our people to service the customers better.”
While flying keeps him relaxed, the one thing that worries him is the next generation of the family business. His children don’t have much interest in real estate at the moment—much like how he preferred to escape to the mountains of Colorado in the 1970s.
Both children have had short stints in the business, but today his son Zack studies photography at the International Center for Photography in Manhattan, while his daughter, Tess, manages a toy shop called the Children’s General Store on the Upper East Side at 168 East 91st Street, which was started by Pintchik’s wife, Laura.
“I always made the assumption that my kids would take this over,” Pintchik said. “And it is possible that that would happen, but it’s also possible that they have different ideas about life and no matter how lucrative this is I don’t want to force this on them because they have one life.”
He added, somewhat wistfully, “I don’t know what is going to happen. At a certain point, I am going to blow the whistle and say, ‘Last call at the bar.’ ”