Showcases Growing Small Business
Freshly made Belgian waffles, whipped cream and fresh strawberries mixed with artisanal food and a festive, almost giddy atmosphere at the Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City last Tuesday, Feb. 11.
The food-and-business incubator was celebrating its third birthday, and roughly 30 clients offered samples of their products to about 300 revelers. Everything from the exotic (Brazilian manioc puffs) to the healthy (meatless patties) to the completely unexpected (sassy, handmade dog treats) was on display at this event, which was sponsored by Coffeed, Fairway, SquareWine & Spirits, TD Bank and The Fortune Society.
“The Entrepreneur Space has been an economic catalyst for Queens for three years, providing small businesses with the location, training and opportunity to grow,” stated Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “I am very happy that this incubator is going strong and creating jobs and I congratulate Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC). Here’s to a bright future.”
There was extra excitement in the air due to the presence of MariePaule Vermersch, who came to Queens from Belgium at age 18 to introduce her family’s waffles to the United States during the 1964 World’s Fair. She happily discussed the wonders of the transcendent fair, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with attendees and she offered some of the secrets of her doughy treat.
Vermersch also cut a three-layer waffle cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries during a program featuring Borough President Katz, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein, Kathrine Gregory from Mi Kitchen es Su Kitchen and various QEDC board members.
The night’s other special guests were graduates of The Fortune Society’s Culinary Arts Program, which trains former inmates at the ESpace so they can get food-handler credentials and hands-on foodpreparation experience before entering the workforce.
Located at 36-46 37th St., the ESpace officially opened on Jan. 19, 2011. This 12,500-sq.-ft., NYC Economic Development Corporation-sponsored hub features a fully equipped commercial kitchen, offices and classrooms that entrepreneurs can rent at belowmarket rates as they build their businesses. To improve outcomes, the QEDC also offers a wide array of business counseling, technical assistance and financial classes to clients on site. Currently, the E-Space has over 165 clients, including bakers, an employment firm and an insurance company.
“The Entrepreneur Space has fostered business growth throughout Queens since its inception, nurturing the local food industry and creating jobs for New York City residents,” said NYC Economic Development Corporation Executive Vice President Eric Gertler. “This incubator has been an economic engine for the borough of Queens and for New York City as a whole for the past three years, and it will continue to support small businesses in the future.”
“For three years now, the Entrepreneur Space has successfully provided budding business owners with the opportunity to grow,” said Van Bramer. “I congratulate the ESpace on hitting another milestone. I look forward to watching more of our borough’s small businesses take advantage of this one of a kind space as they continue to develop an exciting mix of food products right here in Queens.”
“The Entrepreneur Space has proven to be a valuable resource to the many small businesses in Western Queens,” stated Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “After three years, the incubator program is still going strong helping many small businesses succeed by creating good paying jobs for our community. I would like to commend Seth Bornstein and the Queens Economic Development Corporation for having the vision to create a program that has become a great economic engine for both the borough of Queens and the city of New York.”
“Queens’ unique diversity is reflected in our great restaurants, which offer delicious foods from all over the world,” stated State Sen. Michael Gianaris. “Entrepreneur Space deserves our thanks for doing so much to develop our local culinary scene, aid small businesses, and create jobs. Anytime job creation and great food go together, it’s a win-win, and I join the people of western Queens in wishing the Entrepreneur Space a happy third birthday.”
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, chair of the Assembly Tourism, Parks and Arts Committee, added, “This birthday party is a salute to the best-tasting entrepreneurial program in New York. Not only is this QEDC project a boon to business creation in Queens, it also gives the opportunity for creative culinary businesses to develop and grow.”