BY JESSICA MILITELLO
For years, Glendale residents and business owners have been troubled by the number of vacant storefronts lining the neighborhood’s main shopping strip, Myrtle Avenue. An effort is now underway to reverse the trend.
On Aug. 15, local business owners and elected officials gathered at the Flower Power Coffee Shop on Myrtle Avenue to begin the process of resurrecting the dormant Glendale Chamber of Commerce to champion business growth in the area.
Organizing the meeting were Dorothy Stepnowska, Flower Power’s owner, and Angelica Harris, a writer and speaker who runs the Excalibur Mentoring Program, also in Glendale. Assemblyman Mike Miller, state Senator Joe Addabbo and representatives from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan’s office and Councilman Robert Holden’s office were also present, as was Ted Renz, executive director of the nearby Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District in Ridgewood.
Harris, who has her nonprofit in the area and has lived in the Glendale community for over 25 years, has personally witnessed businesses closing down in the community and feels passionate about working together to revive the neighborhood.
“I’ve seen so many businesses that have drowned and closed,” Harris said. “And they hurt the view of our community. We need to come together and work as a community to help each other.”
The Glendale Chamber of Commerce has teetered back and forth from active to dormant over the course of its existence, with a return to dormancy in the last several years. However, a new group of businesses owners have started to come together in the hopes of working with each other and the Glendale community to revitalize the area.
Miller offered his expertise in encouraging the new group as well as providing advice on what to do next.
“You’re going to be a great group of people working together to make sure that you can bring what you need to this community,” Miller said. “The Chamber can do so many things. You can also apply for grants to bring into the community and we can help unify the community as a coalition of people together.”
Addabbo made a point of mentioning that the chamber would be helpful to businesses fighting myriad violations that city agencies have enforced against small businesses in recent years, including those specifically focused on store signs and a lack of proper illumination.
The senator explained that often the owners didn’t know the signs were illegal until they faced hefty fines that, in some instances, threatened the survival of the business.
“I filled in our City Council member, Bob Holden,” said Addabbo, “and we’re working together with the Department of Buildings to resolve the issue because these businesses were being hurt and teetering on closing.”
The group has tentative plans to reconvene on Sept. 16. In the meantime, they plan on working hard to recruit more businesses in order to truly revive the Chamber in order for it to reach its full potential.
“I see the empty stores and feel there has to be something we can do [about it],” said Stepnowska. “This neighborhood is beautiful and that’s the way we want to keep it.”