Small-business boosters tour Caribbean shops in Brooklyn


Bishop, Eugene and Russo on their tour of shops in East Flatbush (Photos by Graison Dangor)

You could see the surprise of the Caribbean restaurant staff when the crowd came in all at once. Luckily for them, it wasn’t a massive lunch rush, but a group of city economic-development officials with news reporters in tow.

The besuited man introducing the group was Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the city’s Small Business Services (SBS), who set forth with the group yesterday on a tour of more than a half dozen Caribbean small businesses in Brooklyn to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month and Caribbean Heritage Month. The group assembled at the corner of Linden Boulevard and Nostrand Avenue, then made their way along East Flatbush’s commercial corridor.

The tour visited Caribbean restaurants along Church and Nostrand Avenues, where menu items included jerk chicken, rotis, stews, and curries at restaurants including Kreyol Flavor, Trini Breakfast Shed and Exquisite Express.

The goal at each stop, Bishop explained, was to let the owner know about ways SBS could help them through Chamber On the Go, which sends local Chamber of Commerce staff to assess their business and connect them with city resources for legal services, business courses, advice on getting loans, and guidelines for passing city inspections.


A worker in a shop in East Flatbush greeted the entourage of city officials

The tour was a chance for Bishop–along with City Council Member Mathieu Eugene and Rick Russo, the acting president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce–to build relationships between city government and immigrant-owned businesses. “It is very important that we show them support,” said the council member.

Bishop, who grew up in East Flatbush and was born in Grenada, said it was also important to challenge “the national narrative around immigrants,” he said. “Our economy is driven by immigrants,” he said. Of the city’s 230,000 businesses, he said, 52% are owned by foreign-born New Yorkers.

The tour may have even helped create another business. After dropping off a pamphlet-filled Chamber On the Go tote bag at one of the restaurants on the tour, Bishop said, they met a nurse who had just finished her shift. It turns out she wants to open her own business. “She was just like, ‘It has to be God!’,” he said. “This is what it’s all about.”–Graison Dangor/East Flatbush