Price directs ebb, flow of Queens business scene

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In observing the past 15 years of business with a focus on Queens, we discover how true a cliché this can be. I believe that whenever we look back with an emphasis on business it is price that usually enters as the primary topic of discussion.

We can question how much the price of a house was just 15 years ago as opposed to something as insignificant as an ice-cream cone. Let's keep in mind that 15 years is not such a long time ago. Our former beloved President Ronald Reagan was actually still president during the first three weeks of that year. So let's have some fun as we turn back the clock 15 rotations around the sun.

First let's look at prices. Depending on its location in Queens, an average house would draw a high of $215,000 and a low of $90,000. I can hear the rumbling in the background of "Why didn't I buy then?" So what do we have today?

Once again with location in mind, figure the high to now be $850,000 with an approximate low of $340,000. A 1989 ice-cream cone was less than a buck but can now set you back more than two. I won't even bring up the cost of a gallon of gas (but I did, didn't I?).

But remember, as some things change, some stay the same. It's amazing how airlines are still in business. A low season economy-class ticket from New York to various points in Europe costs around $350. Those same tickets 15 years ago were the same or in some cases even higher. How do they do it? They go in and out of chapter 11, that's how.

And cruises have followed a similar course. You can actually get an all-inclusive cruise for two for under $1,800. But the real casualties in the travel industry have been the neighborhood mom-and-pop businesses.

Working on commission, these agencies' revenue has sharply declined as their overhead suddenly rose, leading many to close up shop.

Then there is one of my favorites, the Chinese restaurant. Come to downtown Flushing and you can still get a great filling lunch for just $3. Now that's amazing. And how could we ever overlook the home computer? In 1989 not only were they expensive but they also were not the most user friendly. Remember DOS?

But as the clock ticked by, in entered Mr. Bill Gates and company with the implementation of Microsoft Windows. It started with the program of 3.1 and progressed to Windows 95 and up. Home computers that used to cost in excess of $2,500 can now be purchased for as little as $499.

Making the home computer user friendly and affordable has led to the Internet boom, with a move into the retail market and the birth of e-mail, which has had a negative impact on the U.S. Postal System.

Also very interesting is the different ways we do business. Just 15 years ago very few homes, if any, and many offices did not have fax machines, which we take for granted today. Nowadays people order their lunches from fax machines.

And 15 years ago you could escape to some privacy as an outside salesperson, but you can forget that today with the cell phone explosion. You're reachable even in the public lavatory.

But perhaps the most positive development is the wonderful ethnic flavor in all the communities of Queens brought about by business. These are the either enhanced businesses brought on by Korean nail parlors to the Chinese fruit markets. And many markets have only changed hands from one ethnic group to another.

Venturing into the 20th century, we saw fruit markets dominated by Italians. In entering the 21st century we now see these same markets managed by the Chinese.

But something we did not have in 1989 was Mr. Steve Blank as the publisher of the TimesLedger Newspapers. It was that year that he decided to purchase what has developed into the finest community publication in Queens and beyond.

It is this year that Mr. Blank is celebrating his 15th anniversary as its owner. This has been quite a positive and refreshing change for those seeking professional quality news coverage in our great borough. Congratulations, Steve, and many, many more.

Joe Palumbo is the fund manager for The Palco Group Inc., an investment company, and can be reached at palcogroup@aol.com or 718-461-8317.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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