A Celebration of One Hundred Businesses of the Month
Your input is needed! Today we celebrate 100 Businesses of the Month — help us to select the next. Tell us which independent store you love in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo: click here to nominate your favorite. Want to help support small businesses? Share this post with friends.
In November 2014, we started our popular Business of the Month program with the goal of calling attention to the small, independent businesses that form the backbone of our community and in so many ways enrich life in our neighborhoods. The program was motivated by our sense of alarm over the closing of numerous longstanding “mom and pop” shops in the area. We aimed to highlight and celebrate the unique stories, products, and services of beloved local stores, and use our reach to promote patronage and support to help ensure their survival and success. To select places for recognition, we asked our members for nominations, and the response has been tremendous. We’ve received hundreds of submissions, many of which have included moving descriptions of the nominees and their significance. We’ve honored a sizable portion of those businesses and, this month, we named our one hundredth, McNulty’s Tea and Coffee.
Challenges to independent, small businesses have, if anything, multiplied since the launching of our program. Having already endured for years competition from chains, displacement threats from new development, skyrocketing rents, and waves of economic recession, they have more recently also had to grapple with the impacts of a global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and inflationary conditions. Many nominated businesses have closed before we had a chance to write about them. So have about 15% of our Businesses of the Month. Still, that means that about 85% of them have persevered. To honor all hundred, we have prepared a video that celebrates their contributions and their connection to our neighborhoods.
We recognize that this video can only hint at the many stories one could tell about our Businesses of the Month and the people behind them. You can always read more about them here. We thought, however, that we would give you some sense of the overall picture they paint. On average, these stores have been in business for almost four decades. The oldest, Russian and Turkish Baths, dates back to 1892. The majority of them are operated by families. Thirteen of them have been handed down across generations. A number of them, like Music Inn and Li-Lac Chocolates, have been taken over by employees.
As one might expect, businesses that provide essential, everyday services like delis (Sam’s Deli), hardware stores (M & D Shapiro Hardware), and cleaners (Good Earth Cleaners) have developed loyal followings among local residents, for whom the owners of such stores have become a steady, neighborly presence. Many families have shopped at local, independent drugstores (NYC Pharmacy, Whitney Chemists) or shoe repair stores (Yakub Shoe Repair, Elite Shoe Repair) for decades, developing a personal rapport with the store owners and their families — rapport that is reflected both in the service that these customers receive and in the support that these businesses enjoy from their customers.
Several beloved establishments nurture our communities by facilitating social connections among strangers. Cafés (Café Panino Mucho Giusto, Newsbar Café), which many come to regard as extensions of their neighborhood, famously play that role. But so do businesses that cater to more specialized pursuits, like Chess Forum, ground zero for aficionados of the game, and Love Child, which provides holistic support for expecting parents.
Some Businesses of the Month stand out as a reflection of their neighborhood and of their past. Several, like Theatre 80 and Sullivan Street Tea & Spice, operate in spaces especially rich in history. Others, like bookstores (Dashwood Books, Namaste Bookshop), often focus on niche interests prevalent among folks in the area. Certain restaurants, like La Bonbonniere and Bus Stop Café, appeal so broadly that they capture a cross-section of the local population. Other places emerged instead to cater to diasporic communities (Dual Specialty Store, Casa Adela) and only subsequently expanded their customer base.
A few establishments help us track decades worth of social changes, such as shifts in fashion and cultural currents (Astor Place Hairstylists, Random Accessories) and the gradual embrace of health food, veganism, organic diets, and low waste lifestyles (Eva’s Kitchen, Divya’s Kitchen, Live Live & Organic, Caravan of Dreams, LoveWild Design). Others stick with determination to a set formula that seems to appeal broadly across space and time (Ray’s Candy Store, Mamoun’s).
Forty-two percent of all Businesses of the Month were started by immigrants and about as many are owned by them. Their countries of origin include Italy, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Slovakia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Uganda, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. The cultural background of these storekeepers has frequently shaped their businesses. In some instances, however, it has transformed their shops into transporting experiences to faraway lands (Myers of Keswick, Makari Japanese Antiques, Tea & Sympathy, The March Hare).
At other establishments, run as they are by proprietors with an affinity for products from bygone times, the sense of transportation experienced by customers is of a more temporal nature (Cobblestones, Madame Matovu)
As diverse as our Businesses of the Month have been, their owners have all had two attributes in common: a passion for their product and entrepreneurial tenacity. Some have found ways to remain affordable without compromising quality, even as costs keep rising (Paradis To Go, Stevedan Stationers, Feast On Us, NoHo Juice bar). Others have relied on the caliber of their craftsmanship (Carmine Street Guitars, Lori McLean, Village Tannery, Greenwich Letterpress), the clarity of their vision (Elephant & Castle, Berber Street Food), or their single-minded focus (videogamesnewyork, Jane’s Exchange).
As we celebrate the past hundred businesses of the month, we encourage you to continue supporting and patronizing them, and to send us new nominations so that we might get started honoring the next hundred.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
Here is a map of all our Businesses of the Month: