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Manhattan has 5th Avenue, Brooklyn has Smith Street and now Queens has...30th Avenue? Not quite, but Astoria's strip of small businesses is seeing some action, and The New York Times ventured up on the N train to survey the change in storefronts.
The story begins by painting a bleak picture of retail in Queens, especially noting that the borough has the highest store vacancy rate in the city. However, the area remains a favorite for those who wish to plant the seeds of their American Dream and start up a small business. No massive H&Ms will be making a home on 30th avenue anytime soon, as it's the spot for the mom-and-pops everyone laments the lack of.
Astoria is nothing if not phoenix-like. From the ashes of a depression or a recession, it rises again to support small business, and another resurgence is occurring now:
In Astoria, about 30 mom-and-pop stores along 30th Avenue have gone out of business in the past two years in what has been of the most unforgiving financial times for a strip that has experienced booms and busts ever since Greeks and Italians arrived at the turn of the last century and opened butcher shops and salumerias that sold pancetta, orzo and racks of lamb.
Croatians followed, and then Czechs and other Eastern Europeans who favored travel agencies and hair salons. More recently, Brazilians opened restaurants and Arabs started jewelry stores. Now, in a reckless gamble or an act of faith, a fresh crop of business owners is trying to make it on the avenue.
The new arrivals include eyeglass shop Vision Essential, which carries stock from Prada and Versace. It sits inside of a space that used to be a carpet store for 30 years. Will it survive? At least the owner of the former carpet store is optimistic: "Own your business still good; better than work for somebody else.”
· A Small-Business Barometer in Astoria [NYT]