The US Small Business Administration estimates that 80% of all new businesses fails within the first five years of their existence. But this past weekend, Blue Chus Shoe Repair and Sales founder Christian Ramos invited his customers to come celebrate the 10th anniversary of his store by having a wine and cheese reception and enjoy music and each other's company. While it is not unusual for businesses to celebrate milestones, it is the rare community-minded business that goes all out to thank his customers.
Christian, who emigrated to the US from Guayaquil, Ecuador, first opened his store exclusively as a shoe repair store in the Kingsbridge Heights community. At a time when independent shoe stores were fading away to big box stores, Christian listened to his customers and ventured into the shoe sales business, specializing in dress shoes exclusively for men and women. Christian admits that he was "Very nervous" about expanding his business, but for the last several years, it has paid off, despite the Great Recession starting in 2008. And Christian has done moderately well given his location, which has had double digit unemployment since the 2000 census.
Christian spoke to his family, friends, and customers during the reception, thanking them for their support and for creating "...a family away from home." His parents also thanked everyone for supporting Blue Chus and expressed their gratitude and pride in Christian's success.
Christian's dedication to his customers does not stop at the entrance of his business. He also serves as the Vice President of the Kingsbridge Road Merchant's Association (KBMA) and has been involved in trying to rally his business associates to do more for the community. Working with KBMA president Nancy Fernandez of Divino Pharmacy a few stores down, they put together a number of events to raise the morale and improve business throughout the corridor, including planning for the 3rd Annual "Unity in the Community Festival" scheduled for Saturday, June 21st.
The reception included over two dozen varieties of cheese and over a dozen bottles of various wines, again, not a typical celebration of your small businessman. But Christian feels that it is well worth it. He expressed that his customers can choose to go anywhere else, but they keep coming back to him. Even when he was supposed to be closed for business, some of his customers came to make a purchase or inquire about his service. As a true businessman, Christian stopped whatever he was doing to take care of his customers. This being National Small Business Week as per the US Small Business Administration, Bronx On The Go salutes Blue Chus as the ideal Bronx business.