Shop owners along Bay Ridge’s Third Avenue are coming together to promote their commercial district that’s struggled amid the pandemic by launching events to help increase foot traffic.
“A lot of us have started to come together to try to make Third Avenue a more vibrant shopping and dining district,” said Danielle Febles-King, owner of the Ridge Kids, a children’s clothing and toy store.
The merchants have taken to their social media pages to dispatch information about their fellow storefronts, providing free advertising designed to make the corridor a more bustling place for commerce after months of Brooklynites huddling indoors and largely shopping online.
“A great thing we have all been doing easily, is we have all been sharing everyone else’s social media posts. We’ve all been sharing it on our stories,” said Louis Coluccio Jr. of ALC, an Italian grocer near 86th Street. “Everyone. From restaurants like Cebu, to shops like Classic Impressions.”
In October, the group of businesses worked together to launch the “3rd on 3rd” event, where nearly 20 mom-and-pop shops along the avenue signed on to donate a portion of the day’s proceeds to breast cancer research — raising more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer foundation.
“That was the first event, a lot of us were tagging each other and trying to promote it and make sure the customer knew we were giving a percentage back for cancer research,” Febles-King said.
Realizing the need to lift each other up, the merchants organized a winter stroll in December, where many business owners put tables outside their storefronts with various activities like letters to Santa or a book signing, which led stores to see a 50-to-60 percent increase in sales that day.
“They came up with the idea in trying to get people excited to shop locally as much as possible, especially during the holiday season,” said Febles- King. “We had a Santa mailbox in front of our store and created a letter to Santa to fill out.”
The entrepreneurs also said they saw a steady flow of customers over the holiday season, which Coluccio partially credits to their collective action, as well as a general awareness among Brooklynites of the virtues of shopping locally.
“I definitely feel like customers are appreciating more and more what is going on,” Coluccio said. “You can see it in their tone on social media and when they come in. I think they realized we are all in this together.”
The jump in sales provided a much-needed lifeline to the many of Third Avenue’s businesses, and have led the merchants to plan several more events in the coming months.
Currently, the group is working on creating a small outdoor market outside of a neighborhood restaurant, Cebu, where the avenue’s sellers, artists, designers, and entertainers can all showcase their wares.
“Third Avenue has all these great things,” Coluccio said. “So we are trying to bring everybody out.”
On top of promotions and events, the business owners have also been pooling resources and sharing their extras to help others cut down costs when many are struggling financially.
“We are trying to figure out ways to not spend money on extra stuff,” Coluccio said. “I’ll give it to you and then she’ll give me stuff, and it works out great and feels nice, too.”
City Councilmember Justin Brannan commended Third Avenue businesses for sticking together during the pandemic, saying he knows how hard it is to stay afloat as the husband of Art Room NYC owner, Leigh Holliday Brannan, who closed her Third Avenue brick and mortar to move online last year.
“As the husband of a small business owner, I know running a small business isn’t easy during normal times. During COVID, it’s been damn near impossible,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper. “Bay Ridge has always been a small town in a big city that rallies and picks people up when they fall down. This is no different.”
He called on his fellow consumers to support their local mom-and-pops and vowed as the area’s city councilman to ensure the businesses have a fruitful future post-pandemic.
“COVID has renewed this community’s appreciation for our local mom & pop businesses, and we know that it is on us as customers to make sure they survive,” Brannan said. “This past year has been incredibly challenging, but with the vaccine here, I am confident that post-pandemic, our small businesses will bounce back stronger than ever and I will do everything in my power — as a customer and as an elected official — to make sure that happens.”
A grateful Coluccio described the partnership between the Third Avenue businesses as a light of hope during the darkest days of the pandemic.
“It makes the difference between wanting to come to work every day and not,” Coluccio said. “Knowing your neighbors have your back and are in it together.”