May 19, 2009
Starting to turn the corner: Boro’s small biz owners say customers are coming backBy Jeff Wilkins and Jotham SederstromNYDailyNews.com

There really is light at the end of the tunnel for some struggling Brooklyn merchants.

Drawing shoppers with big discounts and new strategies, storeowners from Flatbush to Park Slope and down to Sunset Park said business is starting to pick up, ever-so-slowly.

Other merchants said that while they were still hurting, merely hanging on was reason to celebrate.

“After a disappointing holiday season, things have flattened out, which is actually encouraging, because it means the slide has stopped,” said Jose Alvarez, owner of the Park Slope shoe store, Good Footing Adventure. “I’m more optimistic now than I was seven months or a year ago.”

Merchants like Alvarez said customers were shopping with a purpose – buying everything from shoes for job interviews to summer clothes.

Shopowners also reported that customers were more willing to splurge, springing for a latte instead of a regular coffee at a Bedford-Stuyvesant cafe, or buying jewelry with money from an income tax return.

“Around February, March, it got better,” said Albert Mason, owner of Old Land Jewelry on Fulton St. “People actually had money in their hands from their income tax returns, and they wanted to spend it. That helped.”

Although many merchants interviewed by Brooklyn News said business was still down, the ray of light described by some owners jibes with what borough merchants have recently told Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum.

“What I hear from them is that they’re holding on, and given what’s going on, we consider that a good thing,” said Hum, who last week spoke with legislators in Washington, D.C., on behalf of chamber members, and was told to expect further recovery later this fall.

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