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Third Avenue gets commercial boost - Merchants embrace Brooklyn Shops initiative to increase sales

The merchandise inside might be of the best quality, but without the proper packaging of the storefront, sales could suffer. Thus is the rationale behind the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s (BCC) latest Brooklyn Shops initiative – this time along the Third Avenue commercial corridor of Bay Ridge. In partnership with Berkeley College and a $50,000 allocation from State Senator Marty Golden, the initiative was kicked off last week at the Scooby Doo Pet Shop, 7401 Third Avenue. “Brooklyn Shops is the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce neighborhood retail development program designed to give a shot in the arm to commercial shopping districts that have experienced some degree of decline through things like high vacancies, graffiti and crime issues,” said Rick Russo, the BCC vice president for economic development and strategic partnerships. “While those issues aren’t prevalent on Third Avenue, the merchants of the Bay Ridge Civic Association did approach the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for marketing assistance through the program,” he added. BCC interim Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Membership and marketing Rosalie Rance said the Scooby Doo Pet Shop was a good store to kick off the initiative in that the storefront, while in a good location, doesn’t speak to the great merchandise inside. That’s where Robert L. Woods, chair of the Fashion, Marketing, and Management Department at Berkeley College and professor of the visual merchandising class, come in. Woods and his students will give the shop and others a marketing makeover. The private college has seven locations in New York and New Jersey. While there is no Brooklyn location, the school is a member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and has a large number of students from the Bay Ridge area, according to BCC and school officials. “The students understand the whole process of visual merchandising – the psychology of customers, of color and of design, so this will be a hands-on experience. I’m so excited to bring them out here and get started,” said Woods, who was also on hand at the initiative’s kick-off event. Rance said the idea is for the students to meet with customers and study neighborhood demographics and then come back to the shop owner with three or four options for the store makeover. The owner will then choose one that fits in with their vision and makes them comfortable, she said. Rance said the $50,000 should pay for a makeover for several shops on the strip with the goal of doing the study in February and re-launching the makeovers in March. The Third Avenue corridor in Bay Ridge is an ideal strip to work on because it already has anchor stores and a thriving commercial strip, she said. Rance said a store like Scooby Doo Pet Shop, which is having problems with graffiti yet has a good high-end product inside, could benefit from working with the college with the goal of increasing traffic into the store. The initiative also has the strong endorsement from Scooby Doo Pet Shop owner Mike Alshabasy and store manager Mike Leonardos. “This makeover will help business and after it is completed, business will be a lot better than it is right now,” said Leonardos. Robert Howe, president of the Third Avenue Merchants Association, said the program assists store owners who may lack the marketing expertise that Berkeley College and the BCC can bring. “It’s also an opportunity for the store owner who is busy doing the day-to-day work to take a step back and understand how a better form of merchandising can improve their business, improve the look of their store and improve the look of the surrounding area,” said Howe. Golden said what makes the initiative even more important is with the economy taking a downturn it is crucial that the Third Avenue corridor remain a viable retail strip to keep the local employment and vibrancy of Bay Ridge intact. “As a former small business owner and founder of the 5th Avenue Board of Trade, I am so proud to have allocated $50,000 to the Brooklyn Shops Program,” said Golden. “We all know that small businesses are the economic engine of our city and we must ensure that they have a strong environment to grow and prosper. Together, with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, we are going to make Brooklyn’s business community stronger than ever,” he added.

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