“We were planning our annual meeting, when everything came to a screeching halt,” Paul Samulski remembers of his March 2020 plans with the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, of which he is president. At the time, with all the uncertainty and feelings of temporality, no one knew when the pandemic would end and how soon life would return to regular life. A year deep, all that uncertainty may seem worlds away as we’ve continually adjusted to a new normal.
Sadly, the pandemic’s changes have been bad news for small businesses, a fact that deeply worried the NB Chamber, whose entire mission is supporting hyperlocal businesses in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. The pandemic is depressing already, and seeing a string of for-rent signs at recently beloved businesses just feels like another blow.
The solution? Along with the Greenpoint YMCA and a cohort of small business owners at North Brooklyn Biz, NB Chamber launched a Love Local campaign, a new effort to support and sustain the businesses that have made it this far, and even opened, during the pandemic.
“There are still a bunch of businesses, hanging on the fence, and so many won’t come back,” Samulski said “We want to help salvage them. The whole life of the neighborhood comes from these small shops. The neighborhood is going to be down before it’s up. We’re trying to help it not get any lower than it is right now.”
Love Local supports small stores by passing out vintage-style pins to shops that they can share with customers. The pins, designed by the Young Jerks, can now be found at many businesses in Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, raising awareness of the importance of spending money in the community. While very few cents of every dollar spent on a big box site like Amazon gets invested into the neighborhood, 68 cents of every dollar spent at small shops stay here.
“We are really concerned that the neighborhood is going to lose its vibe,” said Elaine Brodsky, chairperson for NB Chamber. She urges neighbors to pause their late night online shopping habits, and perhaps walk around the neighborhood to see what they can source locally. “You cannot keep shopping on Amazon and think your neighborhood is going to survive, because it’s not,” Brodsky said.
The Love Local campaign will continue throughout 2021, and over 180 businesses have signed up to participate. It’s free advertising and support that NB Chamber is happy to provide, at absolutely no cost. Businesses looking to participate and get added to the Love Local directory can email email@example.com or reach out via Instagram.
“We really care. We want our neighborhood back. it’s going to take some time, but we want to do something positive,” Brodsky said.
I love this initiative. As the owner of a local business who has endured over two decades of uncertainty, I would also like to see legislation that would provide rent stabilization and lower property taxes for commercial tenants. The city also needs to ease up on fining, inspections, and DOB violations or at least reform its regulatory agencies. There’s too much inconsistency and corruption in this city. Not for the faint of heart. When they ask, I tell other entrepreneurs that if they can make it work elsewhere, they’re better off not starting a biz in NYC due to the outrageous overhead. I’m not sure how many buttons this would cost, but it would be worth it to examine what businesses actually need to survive in the long term. Schumer, are you listening? I’ll find you at the next Flatbush Frolic.
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