By Matthew Monks
Much of that diversity is thanks to Goldstein & Foley, one of the largest real estate companies in the neighborhood.Over the past 80 years, the firm has collected 20 properties along the 2 1/2 mile street, junior partner Kevin Foley said from his office at 28-23 Steinway St.When they're filling a space, they look for merchants that will contribute to the area's flavor.”We want the independents. We want that vitality that they bring,” he said.If you're interested in a cookie-cutter shopping experience, hop the R train and head east to the Queens Center Mall. But if you want to take a shopping trip around the world without leaving the borough, head down to Steinway.His tenants include Primavera, which specializes in woven goods from Mexico; Crafted Imported Gifts, a provider of Taiwanese statues and knick-knacks; In Georgio, a Greek-American hair salon; And Yogi Lala, owned by a father-son team from India that designs a unique brand of original urban jewelry. Their owners come from places like Bangladesh, Puerto Rica, Thailand, Mexico, Greece and Kenya – all seeking out the American dream.And Astoria, with a population that is 50 percent foreign born, provides the perfect customer base for a diverse mix of stores.”For somebody who's operating a business, it's more doable (here),” he said. “It's not cheap. No business is cheap.”While Goldstein & Foley rents space to a handful of big chains – Subway and Electronics Boutique to name a couple – Foley looks for distinctive merchants when a space opens up.The street “needs a diverse mix of stores that will keep people coming here,” he said. He wants the stores “to be the type that are connected to the local community.”Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.