On May 16th, some members of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants Associations (KBMA) received partial financial assistance from the NYC Small Business Services (SBS) as a way to cover their expenses resulting from the collapse of a parapet wall last year.
Christian Ramos, the owner of Blue Chus and Vice President of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants' Association, explained that SBS provided checks of one thousand dollars each to four owners whose businesses were disrupted. The association had reached out to the agency on the behalf of these businesses and facilitated meetings between them and the city to help them recoup some of their losses.
When the parapet roof collapsed along 2618 Jerome Avenue, businesses were not allowed back into their storefronts for almost ninety days. In addition to the loss of business, the owners also had to make additional repairs to their stores, including replacing their storefront awnings. The thousand dollars presented to the merchants by SBS is a reimbursement for the new awnings or lost inventory.
"We worked with Ms. Bernadette Nation [of SBS] to see how we can help the merchants and work together. Most merchants don't know about the services the city has to offer in case of disruptions such as this" explained Christian. "We helped the businesses to go through the process and qualify for the grants." Christian notes that they were not able to help some of the businesses because, "...they couldn't provide tax receipts for the previous year, or show that they had a bank account. The city wants to know these things before they can provide assistance. Only those merchants that did received the funding."
In addition to acting as a liaison to the city, the association provides many other services to its members. "For example, we work with the Legal Aid Society to provide pro-bono business advice to our members," says Christian. "We also help them to get information about small business loans from the Small Business Administration at Lehman College so that they can keep their business, especially in this time when the economy hasn't been so good for us."
When asked why he became involved with the merchant association, Christian stated, "The reason is service, serving my community and my fellow merchants. I've been in business for ten years, but a few years ago, I said to myself that it was time to do something for the area. There are a lot of programs that business owners don't know, and I wanted to help them understand what was out there."
Christian's final advice to his fellow merchants about business disruption was, "Never forget that we are here to help along with the city agencies. Don't feel scared about speaking up, but do the right thing. Keep your paperwork handy, including your tax records, because if you are not running your business the right way, you won't be able to get assistance when you need it."
Stay in touch with the Kingsbridge Road Merchants' Association by visiting their Facebook Page.