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Small Businesses Are in Danger in A Changing Brooklyn

Many mom and pop shops in Brooklyn could close because of lack of local support.

Late for an appointment, I ran hurriedly passed neighbors on my way to Dulce Dry Cleaners at 774 Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights.

“Hola mamita! I need this shirt pressed and the button sewn on and I need it back today,” I said gasping for breath.

“Judy you’re killing me. It’s Saturday! I have so much work and it’s late,” said Dulce M. Azcona, owner of Dulce Dry Cleaners in Crown Heights, as she took the shirt from me, instinctively understanding my plight. Azcona managed a smile, told me to come back before closing, then went back to her work. Having been her customer for years, I felt fully confident my clothing would soon be ready and undoubtedly look great. Dulce Dry Cleaners is one of many small businesses in Brooklyn.

“In a free market economy large chain stores place smaller stores in the position of having to remain competitive. Not all small businesses can survive this competition.” Michael D. LaFaive, in his article, Giant Chain Stores vs. Mom and Pop Stores further says, “local mom and pop operations simply do not have the resources to provide their customers with the greatest array of product choices.”

Though family owned small businesses, often called mom and pop stores, may not have the vast resources of the big box store, they offer our community several necessary benefits. In the future of shopping, there is room for both large and small establishments. But most importantly, Brooklynites must make sure small businesses not only survive, but thrive in our great borough. Supporting “Moms and Pops”, like Dulce, is important family business.

Azcona, originally from the Dominican Republic, learned the cleaning business from her brother who first owed a business in Bushwick. Like many immigrants, Azcona’s family came to the United States looking for better opportunities. Azcona says the cleaning business is hard work especially for a woman. Yet, she is up before dawn and in her shop until late at night providing value for her customers.

“I don’t usually do reviews but really loved Mrs. Dulce. Super friendly, accessible, and engaging. Also, she saved my favorite pants that were goners,” Yelp user Dara B. states. “Not sure how she did it, but stoked to have someone nearby that knows how to do such good tailoring. My suits came back looking great, and there wasn’t that weird smell you sometimes get at a dry cleaners.”

Mom and pop operations are known for building strong relationships with, not only their customers, but with their customer’s family. Many small business owners know the names of their customers’ pets and the causes of their clients’ pet peeves too.

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, many small business owners had a black and white composition notebook at the front counter next to the cash register. If a loyal customer was short on cash, he received “store credit.” The proficient proprietor used the book to write down the customer’s name, amount owed, and payment due date. Large stores may focus on discounts and distribution, but small business owners, go the extra mile to build trust and loyalty – and it works. Word of mouth referrals are the small retailer’s most successful promotional activity.

Brooklynites have significant purchasing power. Click To Tweet

Small shop keepers speak the customer’s language, make shoppers feel special, and often share recommendations based on specific personal needs. They reinvest in the community where they do business and some small mom and pop businesses have grown into large successful companies. Nike began as Blue Ribbon Sports, a small distributing outfit, operating out of a car’s trunk. Whole Foods, started out as a small natural food store, known as Safer Way Natural Food in Austin, Texas. And Ben & Jerry’s sold their ice cream at a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont.

Marketers say a product is anything offered in the marketplace that satisfies needs. Well, these skillful entrepreneurs, started out small and grew their businesses not only by satisfying customers’ needs, but by exceeding expectations time and again. And speaking of expectations, we expect Brooklyn’s economy to continue its robust growth in the near future. Small businesses have been a vital part of the borough’s revitalization.

According to the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Assessment of the Brooklyn Economy, small businesses account for a high share of employment in Brooklyn –nearly 40% of the jobs. Small firms are also a significant source of innovation and patent activity. They develop more patents per employee than larger businesses. However, while many small businesses were profitable and optimistic in 2016, a significant majority faced financial challenges, experienced funding gaps and relied on personal finances, finds the 2016 Small Business Credit Survey.

So what can we do, you ask? Support small businesses in Brooklyn – that’s the bottom line.

Brooklynites have significant purchasing power and Brooklyn has a small business to meet just about every need.

Some of our personal favorites include: B Cake NY in Prospect Heights (702 Washington Avenue) serves up speciality custom cakes and goodies for every occasion. Brooklyn Charm in Williamsburg (145 Bedford Avenue) an interactive jewelry store providing onsite gemstones, materials, and jewelry making classes. 3 Black Cats Café in Brownsville (3 Belmont Avenue) a cafe with purpose supplying a comfortable, community-oriented setting with good food. Budin in Greenpoint (114 Greenpoint Avenue) is a Nordic style coffee shop with craft beer and wine bar. Propel Bikes in Vinegar Hill (134 Flushing Avenue) an electric bike shop, featuring cargo, folding, and mountain bikes. Animal Fair Media in Windsor Terrace (153 Prospect Park, SW) saves disenfranchised and helpless animals and endangered wildlife. The Wei in Downtown Brooklyn (30 Dekalb Avenue) is a fast-casual eatery that brings authentic Chinese food to Brooklyn. The Rose Garden in Park Slope (346 7th Avenue) is a full service florist creating designs for everyday gifts. Modern Love Brooklyn in Williamsburg (317 Union Avenue) is a romantic vegan restaurant with interesting and skillfully made food.

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