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Year in Review: Queens’ top business stories of 2021

Chick-fil-A will open a new location in Jackson Heights in February. (Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A)

Queens businesses experienced ups and downs in the midst of COVID-19. During the course of the year, some of our top stories included reports about the city providing funding and programs to help out small and Black-owned businesses across the borough and several chains opening their doors for business.

Check out the top five business stories we reported on in 2021.

City launches new small business economic support programs as part of COVID recovery

Councilman Robert Holden is among the Queens elected officials touting the city’s new small business relief programs. (Courtesy of Holden’s office)

In the effort to make more resources available to small businesses recovering from COVID-19, the mayor announced $135 million in funding would go directly to the Department of Small Business Services.

According to SBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris, the program would focus on low- to moderate-income businesses in hardest-hit communities and would also aim to help businesses in the arts, entertainment, recreation and food services.

“As the city continues on its journey to recovery, it is critical that we make small businesses the central focus of our relief efforts,” Doris said. “SBS will continue to strive for an inclusive recovery, ensuring all small businesses have the resources they need to get back on their feet.”

Lidl grocery store to open in Astoria, its first location in Queens

Rendering of new Lidl store opening in Astoria on April 7 (Photo courtesy of Lidl)

In April, Lidl discount grocery store opened its first Queens location in Astoria.

The German-based grocer opened its new outpost at 19-30 37th St. According to the company, it operates about 11,200 stores in 32 countries and is known for its low prices and high-quality products.

The Astoria Lidl features an easy-to-shop layout with a fresh bakery, organic and gluten-free options, fresh fruits and vegetables, U.S.-sourced products and unique European specialty items.

“With the recent economic downturn hitting Queens especially hard, we are thrilled about the opening of Lidl discount grocery in Astoria and are excited that the store will offer good-paying jobs that start at $17 an hour,” Richards said. “Lidl is known around the world for its low prices and its diverse, healthy and high-quality food offerings, so it is most fitting for the company to open its first New York City store right here in the ‘World’s Borough.’ The arrival of Lidl in Queens is truly great news for the wallets and the taste buds of our borough’s hard-working residents.”

City launches campaign to support Black-owned businesses impacted by COVID

City launches new initiative supporting Black-owned businesses that were impacted during the economic tailspin brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo by Todd Maisel)

Back in February, the city rolled out the Shop Your City: BE NYC initiative to generate attention and support for Black businesses, which constitute 3.5 percent of all businesses in the five boroughs.

Southeast Queens elected officials applauded the program, which launched during Black History Month. According to studies, Black businesses were and are severely impacted by COVID-19 and are twice as likely to shut down, having a 41 percent decrease in business activity between February and April 2020 alone.

During its creation, BE NYC was the first-of-its-kind program in a major American city to help address the racial wealth gap, actively working to address the needs of struggling Black business owners during the pandemic and beyond.

Chick-fil-A to open first standalone location in Elmhurst

Chick-fil-A will open a new location in Elmhurst in February. (Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A)

Popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A, known for its crispy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, opened a new location in Elmhurst.

At the time, the site at 4027 82nd St. became the first stand-alone location in Queens, joining another location inside the Queens Center Mall food court.

The store is operated by Aman Mekonen, an Ethiopian-born franchisee raised in Stamford, Connecticut. Makonen and his family moved to Flushing after living in New York City for the past 15 years.

Prior to this venture, Mekonen earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State, a master’s degree from Fordham University and had previous experience in the U.S. Army, UBS, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Greystone & Co.

“I’m elated to have the opportunity to offer Chick-fil-A’s delicious food and signature hospitality to the diverse community of Jackson Heights,” Mekonen said. “I look forward to building future leaders by providing opportunities and helping to remove the roadblocks that people may encounter in their lives. I want my restaurant to be a place where all feel welcomed, respected and honorably served.”

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