In celebration of Black History Month, the Nassau Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority held its first-ever Baldwin Renaissance business crawl last Saturday to support and raise awareness of minority- and women-owned businesses in Baldwin.
The event focused on attracting potential customers to eight businesses, all located in Baldwin’s downtown, along Merrick Road and Grand Avenue, including Star Cuts Barbershop, Coal House Grill, Northside Activity Center, Pot O’ Paint Art Gallery, Studio 91 Natural Hair Salon, Sweet and Savory Café, the Brat Shack Party Store and Toddlewood Studio.
“The overall goal is to strengthen the local economy by supporting businesses in that community,” said Kimberly Malone, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and chairwoman of its recently formed Economic Development Committee.
“Our local chapter has been doing service projects in the Nassau community for over 50 years,” Malone said, “and in particular, the [creation] of the Economic Development Committee was so that we could focus on financial literacy, minority- and women-owned businesses and the like within the Nassau community.”
The committee targeted central Baldwin for its crawl because of the influx of new businesses there in recent years. “We saw where there were a number of businesses. Specifically in Baldwin, they were all in one localized area, so we thought that that was an ideal area to target our efforts,” Malone said.
The all-day event attracted hundreds of customers. A number of participating businesses offered special pricing deals, seminars and open houses to let local people know about the services they offer.
“The Deltas came in today, and it’s been nonstop from 10 o’clock this morning,” said Charisse Harris, a Baldwin resident and the manager of Sweet and Savory Café on Merrick Road. “It’s amazing, really amazing.”
“I hope that it’s going to affect business very well,” Harris added. “It’s bringing awareness to the community, and I think that’s a great thing. I think this needs to happen at least once a year, or maybe quarterly.”
Nancy Manigat, a Queens resident and a member of the Nassau Alumnae Chapter, came to the Studio 91 Hair Salon to help support the local businesses with her daughter. “We just ran over here; I get my hair done here,” Manigat said. “I just wanted to come and show my support because they’re wonderful . . . We’re going to have lunch across the street at Coal House Grill, and we’re going to go to the seminar” at Pot O’ Paint.
Manigat explained how important it is to hold community-minded events like these. “I think a lot of times we don’t even know what’s in our own community,” she said, “so events like this highlight it and give us a chance to give back and support our own community.”
The sorority has already received numerous calls from other neighborhood businesses requesting that they be included in the next business crawl.
“We’ve had our fliers passed out in the community,” Malone said. “We’ve been announcing it in local churches and newsletters and PTA [meetings] and organizations.” She emphasized the importance of not only the short-term benefits of increased foot traffic, but also the continued success that the increased exposure could bring in attracting other potential customers. “It’s one thing for us to come out and support the local businesses, but it’s another thing if we helped spread the word to the community,” she said.
“I think it’s a great event,” said Patrick Francis, owner of the Coal House Grill. “Just with the awareness that it’s bringing to restaurants and businesses in the neighborhood, I think that’s really impactful …From the minute we opened this morning, it’s been very, very busy, and we can, of course, attribute that to regular traffic, plus the increased traffic that the [crawl] brought to the neighborhood.”
More than just the immediate short-term business that the event attracted, Francis said he hoped the increase in customer awareness would translate into lasting benefits for the business corridor and the larger Baldwin community.
“I think that the impact is far-reaching, because just the sheer volume [of customers] that they brought in this morning, you can really see the difference,” he said.