Shop Homecrest, a recently published online directory of Homecrest small businesses, was discussed at the March 16th meeting of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, held at the Carmine Carro Community Center.
Created by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Services, Shop Homecrest is a website that lists all of the small businesses on Homecrest’s foremost commercial corridor – Avenue U, between Gerritsen Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Avenue U is one of five Brooklyn corridors that the Chamber is currently working with. Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie is another one.
The website was launched on December 19, 2022 and includes the directory and some history on the community.
The directory lists 470 small businesses of all kinds, along with their addresses. The point of the initiative is to encourage residents to shop locally, rather than relying on chain stores and Amazon.
“We are a small business economy,” Chamber CEO Randy Peers said. “We are still, for the most part, a mom-and-pop, small business economy. Much of our commercial corridors, like Avenue U, for example, serve local residents.”
Before Shop Homecrest was launched, the Chamber conducted a survey of the businesses and residents, called a Commercial District Needs Assessment (CDNA). CDNAs give the staff a better understanding of a corridor and what it wants for its future. It was run by Program Manager Gabriel Cirio, who also attended the meeting.
The results showed what Homecrest residents already knew — the businesses are primarily Eastern European, Asian and Orthodox Jewish. The most prevalent type of business on the corridor is beauty and nail salons/barbers, followed by specialty food businesses, doctors/dentists, full-service restaurants and bodegas.
The CDNA also found that Homecrest has about an 11.6% vacancy rate, which is higher than Canarsie’s 9% but lower than the overall city rate.
Peers said this diverse mix of business types is good for a commercial corridor.
“You want a healthy retail mix,” he said. “If you have an over-prevalence of 99¢ stores, variety stores, convenience stores and now the vape shops and all these other things, that’s not a healthy corridor. If you start to trend that way, then you know the corridor is on a downswing.”
Now that the CDNA is complete, the community can try for one of two things: a merchants association or a Business Improvement District (BID).
BIDs begin with a CDNA. Then, the majority of the property owners have to vote in favor of the BID. However, efforts to form BIDs often get killed at this step, since property owners become subject to additional fees once a BID is formed. Sometimes, the landlords pass these fees off onto their commercial tenants, but other times the property owners just shoot down the BID altogether.
A merchants association is easier to set up, since it only requires about five or six dedicated business owners to form a board. Like a civic association, legal and corporate registration needs to be submitted, but once that’s done, the association can start working. It can do joint marketing for businesses, beautify the corridor, hold events and more.
Peers recommended the community try to set up a merchants association for the Avenue U corridor.
Department of Buildings Community Engagement Liaison Vladimir Edouard also spoke at the meeting. He talked about the department’s Small Business Support Team, which is offering business owners assistance with getting storefront and bathroom signs.
All businesses with single-occupant bathrooms are legally required to have a sign clearly denoting that the bathroom is singular and open to all genders. Additionally, there are certain construction codes and zones that affect stores’ abilities to hang signs over their doors, so Edouard’s office is helping owners navigate that. Anyone who needs this kind of assistance can look on the department’s website and search for signs.