Shopping 'small' yields big rewards
by Michael Perlman
Dec 04, 2013 | 2973 views | 1 1 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
La Boulangerie
La Boulangerie
Roberto, the owner of Mr. Vino's Cucina
Roberto, the owner of Mr. Vino's Cucina
Rena Monogenis, co-owner of Stoa Jewelry
Rena Monogenis, co-owner of Stoa Jewelry
Small businesses once dotted every neighborhood across the country, predating the rise of large chains, landlords imposing hefty rents, and the public more and more opting for online shopping. And then there was the economic recession.

Nevertheless, small businesses, or “mom and pop” shops, remain a definitive aspect of every community’s character and local economy.

Small Business Saturday is a new tradition held on the last Saturday in November since 2010 to promote shopping locally. It follows Black Friday and precedes Cyber Monday.

“Last year, consumers familiar with Small Business Saturday spent $5.5 billion, and we saw small businesses take ownership of the day,” said Scott Krugsman, a spokesperson for American Express, which created the event. “This year, roughly 1,500 neighborhood champions are rallying communities in all 50 states.”

According to Krugsman, for every dollar spent at a small business, 52 cents stays local.

“We wanted to help give small business owners the tools they need to market their business,” Krugsman added. “While Small Business Saturday takes place during the holiday season, the tools and experience will serve them well throughout the year.”

Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, commended Small Business Saturday for highlighting small businesses’ roles in the borough's micro-economy.

“Each of our over 60 communities has a ‘Main Street,’ which are local destinations for shopping, dining, and businesses,” he said. “Many shops are locally owned and employ locals.”

The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce distributed posters, doormats and rubber stamps bearing the slogan “Shop Small” to local businesses, as well as 60 reusable bags to the public that read the same, around Austin Street.

The first nine people that followed @shopforesthills on Twitter and tweeted #shopsmall won a $25 gift card courtesy of American Express. All the gift cards were gone within two hours, according to chamber president Leslie Brown, who emphasized what a small business needs to survive.

“Owners need to be savvy, have a very solid business plan, and remember location, location,” she said. “Since many people shop online, businesses also need to participate more in social media.”

Business partners Marie Sinanian and Rena Monogenis of Stoa Jewelry at 71-60 Austin Street have been a mainstay for 45 years, and sell custom jewelry and art from local artists. Monogenis touted personalization as a key to success.

“A small shop owner maintains a neighborhood’s upkeep, has more rapport with customers, and understands their needs, unlike a chain,” she said.

La Boulangerie, a French bakery café at 109-01 72nd Road, opened in July 2011. Owner Francois Danielo and co-owner Nadia DeJesus offer food in a French countryside-themed ambiance.

“Our products are freshly prepared on site, which you cannot really find in too many other places citywide,” said Danielo.

In April of this year, Forest Hills welcomed Mr. Vino’s Cucina at 71-03 Austin Street. The gourmet shop offers imported goods from Spain and Italy.

“Mr. Vino's is not just another cheese shop, but a store that carries over 150 different types of cheese and meat products, and over 125 craft beers that nobody in the neighborhood carries,” said owner Roberto Vintimiglia.

To survive, small businesses may need to expand. This holds true for Odradeks, a coffee and wine bar at 82-60 Austin Street.

“Odradeks keeps experimenting with what it can offer to the community,” said patron Deborah Emin, who also coordinates the popular REZ Reading Series at the shop.

Referring to Austin Street, Brown said that many entrepreneurs underestimate the initial difficulty of getting a new small businesses off the ground.

“Some open without realizing all the costs and pitfalls. Laytner’s will soon close, and rumor has it that they couldn’t come to an agreement over the rent,” said Brown, adding that Brownies & Cream recently closed its doors. “The owner had high hopes, but would have had to sell a lot of brownies to meet that rent.”

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Pat M
December 05, 2013
Thanks again for your terrific writing and letting us know what happens in our neighborhood. I so look forward to your writing Michael.