“Big store chains like Rite Aid and Walgreens are coming to Bed-Stuy,” said Safiya Hassan, owner of N-Diya Beauty Boutique and Spa on Nostrand Ave.
But her voice lacked enthusiasm. In fact, Hassan said she and her friend Josie Ultarte-Almonte, owner of the Little Red Boutique on Lewis Ave, have been thinking a lot about Bed-Stuy’s changing business landscape.
They admit, as small business owners, they appreciate seeing the neighborhood grow and develop. But they also are noticing a disturbing trend: A lot of the longtime neighborhood businesses are closing.
“A lot of small businesses already are falling to the wayside. Soon there will be nothing special about this community, as far as maintaining the vibrancy and authenticity,” said Hassan.
And they felt it was time to do something about it:
“Me and Josie one day were in the gym, and we were talking about the longevity of the different small businesses and how we need to get more community support,” said Hassan. “We were trying to think of the best ways to get people to be enthusiastic about shopping local and maintain what’s unique about Bed-Stuy.”
Ultarte-Almonte added, “I was fascinated by how the Brownstoners do their house tour. And I felt like, my God, we need to put together a store tour—like what Shops of Lewis Avenue (SOLA) does,-- except instead of just Lewis Avenue, include all of the different avenues of Bed-Stuy.”
The duo decided to launch “I Shop Bed-Stuy,” a shopping campaign, in conjunction with 12 Bed-Stuy small business, that encourages residents to shop local during the holidays. The campaign runs from November 23 – December 25, beginning on Black Friday, and participating stores will offer special discounts on gift items. Each store also has agreed to gift wrap each item. And for others where items cannot be gift-wrapped, such as food items, they will offer gift certificates.
“So the whole point is to entice people to shop for the holidays and spend their money here. Don’t go out; keep the money in the community. It’s extremely important to keep these businesses vibrant,” said Ultarte-Almonte.
Participating stores include:
- Breukelen Cellars, 504 Nostrand Avenue
- Little Red Boutique, 374 Lewis Avenue
- Bed-Vyne Wines, 370 Tompkins Avenue
- N-Diya Beauty Boutique and Spa, 449 Nostrand Avenue
- Ms. Dahlia’s Café, 449 Nostrand Avenue
- SuperFrench Vintage, 519 Halsey Street
- Johntines Boutique, 332 Malcolm X Boulevard
- House of Art, 408 Marcus Garvey Boulevard
- Brooklyn Swirl, 445 Marcus Garvey Boulevard
- Hibiscus Spa, 557 Halsey Street
- Pipsqueak Children’s Shoppe, 1124 Bedford Avenue
- Brooklyn Baby Cakes, 506 Nostrand Avenue
Hassan and Ultarte-Almonte are working on turning I Shop Bed-Stuy into a non-profit organization that will feature shopping and community outreach campaigns year round.
“We have a lot planned,” said Hassan. “We’ll do a book campaign for the children; we plan to work with some of the local shelters and also more campaigns to encourage people to shop local.
“We live in this community too. If you support us, we will support you.”