You can’t miss the signs. They’re plastered on walls and shop windows all over North Brooklyn with various messages on the same theme: ‘Shop Local,’ ‘Save Our Storefronts,’ ‘Show Your Love for Local Small Business.’
Local businesses tell Greenpointers that in 2020, the community has rallied around them like never before. Neighbors have not only kept them afloat financially, but also supported them in intangible ways through thoughtful little acts in the darkest times.
Now, with just a few days left of the holiday shopping season, a range of ‘Shop Local’ poster campaigns have gone up to remind North Brooklyners how important they are to their neighborhood businesses.
One of the campaigns is being run by the North Brooklyn Chamber, the Greenpoint YMCA and the North Brooklyn Small Business Owners Group. The ‘Shop Local. Eat Local. Spend Local.’ campaign started on Thanksgiving and goes through to New Year’s Day.
It’s helping small local businesses spread the word after a tough year with “signs all over the place,” Greenpoint Toys owner Herman Hernandez said.
“What I’m happy about this season is that everyone is putting their best foot forward to shop local, and there’s a lot of owners I speak to saying the same thing. People are being amazing by doing that.”
It’s been a difficult year for many Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick businesses, with some forced to shut down and many more, especially restaurants, looking at an uncertain future.
One member of the campaign is Stuart Cinema and Cafe, which has in the past been a hub for artists and a community center. The theater hasn’t been able to show movies since March 16, chief executive officer Emelyn Stuart said.
Instead, the business has had to pivot to focus on CinemaSafe private events and sales through the cafe, offering homemade food items like coquito, peppermint hot chocolate, Maria’s Famous Empanadas and a spicy Latin burger for only $5 (delivery available).
“Our community residents have been instrumental in keeping our business alive,” Stuart said.
When North Brooklyn business owners say this, they really mean it.
There’s been a local outpouring of not only financial, but also emotional, support for business owners who have had hard years.
Owner of garden store Tend Greenpoint Joe Ferrari said the shop was just about to hit its two year anniversary when the pandemic struck. They were doing OK at first, but when his parents fell ill with COVID-19 he couldn’t focus on much else.
“I kept an eye on the shop and we pivoted to a pick-up model. We’d never had e-commerce before so it was bumpy.”
Ferrari lost his dad to the virus in mid-April. Tend Greenpoint closed for a few weeks, but Ferrari said his fellow Greenpointers helped the store make it to fall. “We received so many cards, notes, and even baked goods from neighbors. We felt the love,” he said.
Now Tend Greenpoint is open for shopping seven-days-a-week and has launched shipping, too. Ferrari said the store is packed with locally made ceramics — even the custom candles are poured into Greenpoint-made terracotta vessels.
“The support of the neighborhood is imperative to our survival much like so many of our favorite Greenpoint businesses,” he said. “We like to remind people to take care of themselves, take care of Greenpoint, and take care of their plants!”
More than 150 small, North Brooklyn businesses have signed up for the ‘Shop Local. Eat Local. Spend Local.’ campaign. Organizers said they started it to stress the importance and benefits of shopping locally, especially during the holiday season.
Separately, a casual conversation among neighbors led to the “Love Greenpoint, Buy Local” signs that have appeared throughout the neighborhood. Local residents Katie Naplatarski (mother of recently elected District Leader Kristina Naplatarski), Elissa Iberti, and Janie Pool enlisted Jenna Dosch (our Greenpointers Markets Events Director) to design a poster and they went to work posting them up. “This is our community and it is great to be part of helping it to keep strong. Manhattan and Franklin are like the main arteries and we need to keep them alive so our community keeps thriving and our lives stay vibrant,” said Katie Naplatarski.
“Our mission is to keep North Brooklyn alive and thriving,” North Brooklyn Small Business Owners Co-Founder Eva Konopka said.
Konopka is co-owner of family business Princess Manor Catering Hall on Nassau Ave. in Greenpoint. The business, which has been in the family since 1989, is now closed for indoor dining until further notice on orders of the governor.
Konopka said she saw the decline of businesses in Greenpoint and Williamsburg during the pandemic and “wanted to make sure we don’t go backwards in time to how Greenpoint used to look in the 90s.”
Earlier this year, she connected with Greenpoint businesswoman Francoise Olivas after seeing her on Greenpointers. Together they founded the North Brooklyn Small Business Owners group. “So many of our small businesses support other small businesses,” Olivas said.
To see the stores participating in the campaign, head to the North Brooklyn Chamber website.