Cheesecake lovers rejoice: Iconic Junior’s will stay intact

Customers cheer for owner Alan Rosen's decision to not sell famed Downtown Brooklyn restaurant

September 9, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Saved! Owner Alan Rosen has decided not to sell Junior's iconic Downtown Brooklyn restaurant.
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Say cheese!

Devoted customers of iconic Junior’s Restaurant — and its owner Alan Rosen — were smiling big Tuesday because the famed cheesecake purveyor will not be torn down and replaced with an apartment tower.

Rosen, the third-generation owner of the famed eatery that has commanded the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue since 1950, has decided not to sell the property for a whopping $45 million. He had gotten that offer because he’d had the building on the sale market since February.

“I feel great,” Rosen told the Brooklyn Eagle Tuesday. “I feel relieved.

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“I’m going to sleep well tonight. I had many sleepless nights — trust me.”

His customers are thrilled by his decision.

“It’s a good thing,” Alejandro Ramirez, a Korean War veteran who stopped by the Downtown Brooklyn dessert mecca Tuesday to pick up — you guessed it — a plain cheesecake, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

How long has Ramirez been a regular at 386 Flatbush Ave. Extension?

“Forget about it,” he laughed. “Since before you were born.

“Sometimes I would bring my old lady, but she died. And my second wife — but she died too.”

The New York Times was first to report Rosen’s decision to Just Say No to the big-bucks offer — from a would-be purchaser who did not plan to make room for a rebuilt Junior’s in the ground floor of a new development.

“How could he take away such a historic site?” said Beverley Small, who works nearby. For a while, she bought cheesecake for lunch every day.

The corner restaurant, with its name in flame-red and yellow lights, has been in operation since Harry Truman was president and the Dodgers played baseball in Brooklyn (sigh).

President Obama checked out the goodies at the iconic restaurant recently. Autographed photos on the restaurant wall of Barbra Streisand, Mel Brooks and Mary Tyler Moore attest to its celebrity fans.

“Forty-five million dollars is a lot of money,”  Rosen, 45, told the Eagle Tuesday. “We’ll never make that kind of money with this restaurant. But everything in life is not about money.

“Now I feel reborn. That’s the truth.”

He received an offer for half that sum from a developer who would have made room for his restaurant — but Junior’s would have had to leave the corner location for two years. In the end, Rosen decided that would be unacceptable.

Rosen, who has run the Downtown Brooklyn Junior’s for 25 years, started spending time there when he was 5 years old. “If I wanted to see my dad, I had to go to work,” he said.

He has his three kids join him on the job from time to time — but he’s got no idea whether any of them might be interested in running Junior’s as adults.

“We’re not going to apply pressure on the fourth generation,” he said.

While deciding what to do about the offers he got for the restaurant, he heard from so many customers who said they had their anniversaries at Junior’s, or had met their husbands there.

“That stuff weighs on you,” he said.

There could be an alternative way to make money off the Junior’s site — by selling air rights, which allow neighboring property owners to construct taller buildings. Is Rosen considering it?

“That’s not even a thought,” he told the Eagle.

The Downtown Brooklyn Junior’s has 175 employees who will be spared the upheaval of a move to a temporary location — or worse.

“We’re all very happy,” executive chef Adam Marks told the Eagle.

Customers shared employees’ elation.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” D.J. Grady of Fort Greene told the Eagle of Rosen’s decision not to sell the restaurant. “I’m in my early 60s and I’ve been coming here since I was in my early 20s.”

Grady — whose favorite Junior’s dessert is the strawberry shortcake — was at the restaurant Tuesday to pick up a rotisserie chicken because he is staying away from fried foods.

(Note to calorie-counting worry warts: You can eat healthy at Junior’s. So there.)

Community Board 2 district manager Robert Perris gave a cheer Tuesday for the popular restaurant.

“Junior’s is an iconic restaurant, but it is also a family restaurant,” Perris said. “Community Board 2 respects the Rosens’ decision.

“Whatever the future of the site, the community board hopes there will always be a Junior’s at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.”

Junior’s also has locations in Manhattan at Grand Central Terminal and in Times Square and at Connecticut’s MGM Grand at Foxwoods.

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