The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) celebrated citywide businesses with more than 100 years of service last month, two of which are based in Queens: Long Island City’s Sussman-Automatic Corp. and Jamaica’s Bellitte Bicycles.
“Small businesses are the economic engine of New York City, and each of you, in your own way have contributed to building better neighborhoods,” SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop said at the Feb. 27 event. “It’s our priority to get businesses the support and resources they need to thrive and grow so that we can celebrate their centennial anniversaries like the businesses we celebrated today.”
Bishop said it’s important to celebrate these businesses for their work, as many others don’t make it past five years.
All five Chambers of Commerce and the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District nominated two historic businesses within their boroughs, which amounts to 10 businesses. They all received Mayoral certificates of recognition, honoring their legacy and longevity.
But they didn’t just receive recognition — the SBS will also provide free advertising on the digital LinkNYC kiosks across the city as well as a social media campaign throughout the month of May.
NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism and marketing agency, is providing a one-year complimentary membership to each centennial business.
“The old saying goes, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Regis Wu, financial controller at Sussman-Automatic Corp., said. “Sussman-Automatic ‘made it here’ for over 100 years. That alone has to mean a lot. And most certainly, the stuff we sell, we made it here.”
Sussman-Automatic, which operates under the brand “mr.steam” and is located on 4320 34th Street, began manufacturing steam irons for the garment industry 103 years ago. But as the garment industry in New York City began to dwindle, so did their business. But in 1960, Sussman-Automatic had what Wu called a “eureka moment” and reinvented their business to become one of the leading manufacturers of steam generators for steam rooms.
“Fast forward 60 years, we are still making it right here in New York City,” Wu said.
Bellitte Bicycles, located on 169-20 Jamaica Ave., is a 102-year-old Queens staple and the oldest bike store in the United States. The family business was created by Sicilian immigrant Salvatore “Sam” Bellitte and is now run by his grandson, Sal Bellitte.
Like Sussman-Automatic, Bellitte Bicycles also weathered tough times. During WWII, they found it difficult to offer new bikes due to wartime rationing, but Sal’s sons made it possible anyway. Then, the 1970’s fitness craze and oil crisis brought the “bicycle golden age.” In 2020, the store maintains its original charm and exemplary customer service.
Jennifer Furioli, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, said Bellitte Bicycles is “the true definition of a small business and has been a go to for bicycle enthusiasts throughout NYC’s great history.”
“The charm and customer service that existed in 1918 when Bellitte’s first opened still exists today when you visit the shop,” Furioli said. “We are proud to nominate Bellitte Bikes for recognition for over 100 years of business in Downtown Jamaica and the contributions the shop has made to our community and the City of New York.”
The SBS also recognized 122-year-old Sahadi and 100-year-old Deno’s Wonder Wheel in Coney Island in Brooklyn; 105-year-old Teitel Brothers and 101-year-old Mario’s Restaurant in the Bronx; 106-year-old Russ & Daughters and 111-year-old Eneslow Shoes & Orthotics in Manhattan; and 142-year-old Holtermann’s Bakery and 109-year-old Supreme Chocolatier in Staten Island.
Bishop encourages businesses to reach out to SBS for assistance, as they strive to provide free services for the small businesses in the city, many of whom have been struggling for some time now.
“The mayor announced a couple of new initiatives that we have been advocating for,” Bishop said. “We’re looking at ways to reduce expenses and we’re reducing the regulatory burden.”
Bishop said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has reduced fines more than 40 percent, and will reduce it by 50 percent by the end of this term.
For more information about SBS services, visit nyc.gov/sbs or call 311.