Don’t Look Now: 116th Street Looking Good
Small businesses are getting more assistance from the City. After a successful pilot program, the Small Business Storefront Improvement Program has been launched to give even more business owners who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy the opportunity to repair their storefronts.
In May, the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) announced a pilot program supported by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and a grant from Citi Community
Development to help repair and revitalize storefronts to create a unified image for Beach 116th Street. Several stores were given large grants to improve their storefronts. Now, that program is being expanded to help Sandy-impacted stores citywide.
“As businesses reopen their doors after Hurricane Sandy, this program will help make improvements to their storefronts, repair damages, and create a cohesive feel to impacted commercial corridors across the City,” Robert Steel, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development said in a press release. “By improving their storefronts, businesses impacted by Sandy can send out the message that they’re back, and attract customers and new businesses to their neighborhood.”
Under the Small Business Storefront Improvement Program, business owners will be provided with grants of up to $20,000 to cover the construction costs of storefront improvements. Some projects may be eligible to receive additional funding. The repairs may include new signage and awnings, display window repair/re-glazing, masonry work and brick pointing, exterior lighting installation, cornice repair, exterior painting, door replacement/repair, and more. Storeowners with approved projects will meet with program architects to develop and finalize the repair plan to ensure that the project falls within the budget and maintains the character of the neighborhood.
As part of the pilot program, 19 stores on Beach 116th Street have taken advantage of the offer and have started or finished repairing their storefronts. SBS awarded more than $300K over the last three months for the repair of stores on the busy commercial block. Among those participating are Paper Panda, Rocapulco Cab Service, Paninico Café, Curran’s Superior Meats, Mirkin’s Vision, The Original Ciro’s Pizza, Four Sister Laundromat, Joseph O’Grady Plumbing & Heating, Harbor Wine & Spirits, Carvel, The Gift Is Love, Beach 116st Deli Grocery, Cuisine by Claudette, Rocco’s Unisex Barber Shop, Rockapup, Blue Bungalow and Station Wine & Liquor.
“We have received an outstanding response to the Storefront Improvement pilot program on Beach 116th street in the Rockaways, and construction is already underway along the commercial corridor,” Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services said. “The City has been helping small businesses with loans, grants, technical assistance, and more, and the Small Business Storefront Improvement Program is one more way the City is helping small businesses and commercial corridors come back even stronger after Hurricane Sandy.”
Station Wine & Liquor is one of the stores that has undergone obvious improvements with the help of the program.
“It really gave me the incentive to fix up my store,” Station Wine & Liquor owner Tom Hughes said. “They gave me $20,000 and I put in $15,000 of my own. I probably wouldn’t have done this if I hadn’t gotten the push from the whole street doing this.”
With the funds, Hughes was able to completely redo the outside of the building by painting it, getting a new awning and a new display window, among other changes. The Rockaway Artists Alliance, which occupies the space above the liquor store, also got a grant to give the building a complete, unified look.
Hughes says he would “definitely recommend” that other businesses jump on board and take advantage of the grant. He’d especially like to see businesses on Beach 129th Street get on board. “I would say they should jump on it now,” Hughes said.
Hughes explained that the process to apply was very simple. He met with an architect who made suggestions, but says that businesses don’t have to go along with everything the architect suggests. A business owner only has to have their plan approved to receive the grant. Hughes says that once he got the proposals for contracts, he was given 85 percent of the grant money. Once the restoration is complete, the Department of Small Business gives the other 15 percent.
Local businesses are also being helped by the grant in other ways. Hughes says that he and other owners on Beach 116th Street used local contractors for almost 100 percent of the work that they had done. For instance, many businesses used signs and awnings created by ADP USA Inc., which is also located on Beach 116th Street.
Sandy-impacted businesses can apply for the Small Business Storefront Improvement Program at www.nyc.gov or by calling 311. Owners will receive funding after developing an approved architectural design for their store, which must be implemented to their properties. The application deadline is November 1st.
In addition to the Storefront Improvement Program, the Department of Small Business is offering special workshops to business owners in partnership with Capital One Bank. The workshops are free to Sandy-impacted businesses and will take place on Tuesdays between September 10th and October 1st from 6-8 p.m. at the Capital One branch at 116-01 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The four workshops will cover topics such as financing, marketing, social media and recovery planning and disaster preparedness. Walk-ins are welcome, or people may sign up at www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness under the “business courses” tab.