Childs Restaurant in Coney Island

Childs Restaurants were a NYC-based chain that peaked around the 1920s and 1930s. With a focus on casual, economical dining, the restaurants also innovated in the areas of cleanliness and hygiene, and were the first to introduce the self-service “tray line.”

The Coney Island location, at 2102 Boardwalk, was built in 1924 and is covered in elaborate ornamentation featuring Neptune, sailing ships, and fish. It’s grotesque and amazing. In the middle of winter, this lone building on the edge of an empty beach has a haunting presence.

Today, thanks to a competition sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger and Glamour Magazine, this location is a roller-skating rink; read more about one woman’s dream come true here, and learn more about her Dreamland Roller Rink.

My sister, with typical Coney-centric attitude, disapproves of the roller rink. She says that “Childs sold out.” Well, buildings themselves don’t sell out but, when I heard about this reuse, I smirked at the visions of skinny-jeaned Williamsburg hipsters descending on Coney for a day of ironic rollerskating. The URL of the venue is even plastered on the building [I didn’t have the heart to document that].

On the other hand, if this building became obsolete, and if someone has successfully fulfilled a vision of adaptive reuse, who am I to judge? It’s a crazy, landmarked building that deserves to continue being used and appreciated. So, bring on the hipsters, if you must.

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8 thoughts on “Childs Restaurant in Coney Island

  1. Great post. We used to have some cafeteria type places in downtown Cincy. Could something like that make a comeback?

    I think the roller rink is an appropriate reuse for a big open building on the boardwalk.

  2. Lovely photos and photoblog!

    But I have to say your sister’s disapproval of the roller rink is misguided and not Coney-centric at all. Dreamland Roller Rink is one of the few successful new businesses founded during the dark years of Thor Equities. It is owned and operated by Lola Staar, who is also the founder of Save Coney Island. How Coney-centric can you get?

    In any case, the Childs Building was last used as a candy factory and isn’t destined to be a roller rink forever. Taconic Investment Partners has a 99 year lease on the property. Now that the rezoning is done and once development gets underway, the plan is to make it into a restaurant and catering hall. This is great, but we’re not too thrilled with the high rise condos that are slated to be built next door!

  3. I’d love to see more simple fare offered simply in downtown Cincinnati, and I agree that this is good reuse of a big building, especially given its location near and rides and games of Coney Island.

    Tricia, I hope you can understand the [misguided but fairly common] trepidation that people feel about relative newcomers to their neighborhood, especially one that’s been as contested as Coney Island has in recent years. It’s partly old school posturing, I guess, but there’s also a real concern behind it about the future of the area. I’m not criticizing Lola Staar, but she is a relative newcomer and deserves a bit of scrutiny from her neighbors. Ultimately, I appreciate her go-getter spirit and positive energy [though I could personally do without the URL-emblazoned banner on the building].

  4. If the rollermonger are not such good neighbors, somebody who knows somebody at the 60th will be talking about it over lunch. Your “quality of life” crime citations, parking tickets, etc. will increase dramatically until the hipsters go someplace else. Or possibly an overture to some enterprising russkaya mafiya in Brighton Beach could result in
    his torching the place. For a fee, or course.

    I could swear I visited one of Childs’ places as a kid. Did they have one in Asbury Park? I’m not clear about when they folded. Or I might be having a Horn & Hardart flashback, which years of intense psychotherapy have failed to arrest.

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