Umbrella organization

Melinda Morris, owner of the Seventh Avenue stationery shop Lion in the Sun, shows off one of the new umbrellas that will be at the ready at participating stores.
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

This could be the start of something big — or hundreds of stolen umbrellas.

More than 30 local business owners cheered the launch of the Park Slope Civic Council’s “Buy in Brooklyn” initiative at the Community Bookstore on Tuesday night, an effort that includes the usual slogans, logos and pamphlets — plus the distribution of 400 yellow umbrellas that storeowners can give their customers on rainy days.

The customers are then supposed to return the “Buy in Brooklyn” logo–emblazoned bumbershoots to a participating store once the weather clears up.

Good luck with that.

“The umbrellas are just a gimmick to get attention to the ‘Buy in Brooklyn’ campaign,” said Civic Council President Ken Freeman. “But the larger goal is to get people to make just a few more of their purchases in the local area.”

Freeman estimated that every dollar spent in Park Slope is spent two more times in the neighborhood.

It was fitting that the kick-off event was at Community Bookstore, which appeared to be on its last page just six months ago until it was adopted by its customers.

“My store is the living embodiment of how we can all look out for each other,” said owner Catherine Bohne. “I asked for help and now the store is doing amazingly well. But we can do more. The best way to ensure the health of my store is to ensure the health of all the surrounding stores.”

The first event of the “Buy in Brooklyn” campaign will be an extended hours shopping night on Dec. 13. Local merchants are being asked to stay open late and offer “a fun winter treat” like eggnog, Bohne said.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Park Slope) said he wasn’t surprised that so many communities are talking about ways to save their so-called “Mom and Pop” stores. Council hearings on such topics, he said, are always packed.

“People realize that for a neighborhood to be a neighborhood, we have to protect the local merchants,” he said.

And those umbrellas? As the businessowners left the kick-off on Tuesday night, they were given the umbrellas and an instruction sheet that reminded them what the whole thing was about.

“The point is … reinforcing the idea that local merchants look after the neighborhood,” the sheet said. “Everyone is betting that people can’t share. They’re betting that people will grab an umbrella and keep it to themselves — but Park Slope is better than that!”

And if the neighborhood isn’t better than petty larceny, the Civic Council is savvy enough to consider the bottom line: “What’s someone going to do by hanging onto an umbrella and using it?” the instructions asked. “Advertise ‘Buy in Brooklyn!’”

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