On the thoroughfare that is Myrtle Avenue, there’s a mixture of cars and pedestrians that seemingly encompass every inch of space. Along the iconic avenue are mostly small businesses that are a testament to the resilience of Ridgewood and the surrounding area.
Although long-lasting and capable, the small businesses along Myrtle Avenue need a helping hand and through the efforts of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District and local legislators, these small businesses have the chance to voice their needs to the city.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, alongside Executive Director of Myrtle Avenue BID Ted Renz, welcomed the New York City Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim to participate in a walk-through tour of the businesses encompassing Myrtle Avenue and adhere to the needs of local business owners, on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
The SBS is a city-operated agency aimed at promoting the economic growth of New Yorkers through job resources, business information seminars and financial advisories.
As part of their first stop on the tour, Rajkumar sat down with Kim and a grouping of business owners outside of Gory’s Place, on 54-58 Myrtle Ave., to discuss the issues impacting their establishments.
A few of the issues brought to the attention of the SBS commissioner were property taxes, theft, littering and high liability insurance rates in the area. Albert Guindi, the owner of the Liberty Department Stores II location, at 54-30 Myrtle Ave., said the city is tone-deaf regarding the issues of keeping a small business alive.
“They have a budget, they want to meet the budget, but unfortunately they keep raising the taxes. But you know, it’s not sustainable,” Guindi said. “I have four boys. I don’t bring any of them. I don’t even teach any of them the business because I don’t see the future anymore.”
The assemblywoman’s walk-through also stopped by the E & J Cards & Gifts store, located at 56-22 Myrtle Ave., where the store co-owner, Valarie Wornian, had the chance to speak with the SBS commissioner and Rajkumar on the troubles facing the shop. In December, the store reaches 51 years old.
The commissioner asked about the business as a whole and any challenges the store may be facing. Wornian said the lessening of retail stores on the avenue has damped foot traffic and pilferage remains an ongoing issue.
“Pilferage is really difficult right now. It was only very, very bad in the ’80s when they would come through the roof because there’s nothing on top of us, but once we put in security cameras, now my husband can be watching me all the time at home now, you know, and the gates, then it stopped,” Wornian said. “Now, they walk in, they take it and they just leave. And you stop them and they say ‘no I’m taking it and I’ll be back.’”
Rajkumar, enticed by the plethora of items at the store, made a purchase, and in turn, motivated some members from the SBS with the commissioner to also spend their money.
“One thing that strikes me is just that the last business owner, she owned it for 50 years and you can just see what a treasure the shop is,” Rajkumar told QNS.
Rajkumar also acknowledged that many of the issues spoken of could be directed to the Department of Transportation, particularly the lack of parking in the area and other unsafe traffic concerns. Rajkumar says the key to getting issues addressed is persistence.
“You have to build the right collaboration between the people. Keep things moving,” Rajkumar added.
Renz continued leading the tour, stopping by Clemens Triangle and moving to Kids City, located at 54-32 Myrtle Ave. David Cummings, the manager at the decades-long establishment, which sells clothing items, shoes, accessories and other garments, greeted the tour group with a call for the city to help promote small businesses.
“Mom and Pop stores need more [help],” Cummings said.
Kim acknowledged the concerns of small business owners and reaffirmed their impact on the economic climate in the city. The overall message, he said, is that the SBS is here to help.