By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Brooklyn has become the fastest growing borough in New York City’s pandemic recovery.
“People just love the live, work and play vibe that we’ve got going here,” said Randy Peers, the president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
Peers noted that in order to understand the COVID-19 recovery, one would have to look at what he calls the “rebranding” of Brooklyn that began in the 1970s when crime gave the borough a dark reputation.
“We were the fourth largest manufacturing center in the country after World War II,” he said. “Then, like most industrial cities, we went in decline. Heavy manufacturing left, people left, they left to the suburbs.”
The key to Brooklyn’s transformation into a creative hub, Peers told WCBS 880, was the conversion of old industrial space into residential buildings.
“I like to say this a lot, but mixed-use matters and it gives that sense of a true sort of holistic community. And I think that’s part of the rebranding story.”
A recent Partnership for New York City survey found only 8% of office workers have returned full-time. Remote and hybrid work have accelerated business growth in Brooklyn.
“I mean, if you’re working from home, you’re more likely to shop locally,” said Peers.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce said technology is the borough’s fastest growing industry with the highest paying jobs.
“People don’t realize this, but we rival San Francisco in terms of new tech startups. But it’s what I call little tech. It’s not big tech.”
“We’ve got Newlab out at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we’ve got NYU Tandon Future Labs. We’ve actually tried to cultivate tech through these wonderful incubators,” said the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce leader.
Another incubator that has helped launch numerous startups during the pandemic is the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Park. Their business experts guided Brooklyn Tea, new environmentally conscious companies, e-commerce brands and more with skills and managerial training. Its PowerUP! program awarded a total of $41,000 in seed capital to eight finalists last year.
While business is booming in Brooklyn, Peers emphasized on the Small Business Spotlight that the outer boroughs need Manhattan to thrive because it’s the city’s economic engine.
“I will say we need Manhattan to bounce back. We need office workers to come back if we’re going to have a full recovery for New York City as a whole.”
Peers said there are three factors still holding back the city’s recovery: back rents from the COVID-19 shutdown need to be resolved; labor shortages in key sectors such as childcare are keeping some people out of the workforce; and people are cutting back on their spending due to high inflation.
See more on New York City’s recovery, the post-pandemic economy taking shape, and the neighborhoods in Brooklyn where businesses are booming on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As the saying goes, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” But, whoever heard of a bagel company from Connecticut making it in New York City?
“People started asking like, ‘Hey, I’m going back to New York. Can I grab an extra dozen so I can bring it to my family?’ And I would say, ‘Well, wait a second, like you live in New York, there’s bagels there.’ And they were like, ‘No, but yours are better. You need to come to New York,'” recalled founder Adam Goldberg on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
Goldberg started the business in December 2020 in his Westport home. Within several months, he sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of bagels and moved into a commercial kitchen in Connecticut and partnered with New York restaurants, including Danny Meyer’s Daily Provisions, where he makes bagels by order for pickup only.
“We borrowed some kitchens in New York and started cooking there. And, you know, it kind of took off,” he said.
Popupbagels does not have a storefront, but they have pickup locations in Westport, Redding, Greenwich, Manhattan and the Hamptons.
“It’s like a bagel shop that’s so exclusive, you can’t get into it,” Goldberg said.
He told WCBS 880 that its rapid growth has solely been a result of organic marketing.
“Our whole marketing budget is spent on Instagram, which is amazing, because it’s essentially free. And then it’s really just word-of-mouth.”
Goldberg said he surveyed his customers to find out why they believed Popupbagels stood above its competition and discovered it is because his bagels are more like traditional New York bagels from the 1980s than what you will find in a Manhattan deli today.
“The average bagel in New York right now is over 150 grams where our bagels (are) about 105 to 110 grams. So, you don’t eat it and then feel like you need to take a nap; you kind of eat it, and you basically feel like you want a second one,” he said.
Popupbagels serves different flavor cream cheeses from local restaurants and runs various promotions to bring in more customers. It also has a subscription service.
“I grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, and we always, every weekend, went to Livingston Bagel (and) bought a dozen bagels,” said Goldberg “(We) would come home, throw them on the middle of the table, and as a family, we would eat bagels.”
That family tradition inspired his subscription model, where for $38, you can get a dozen bagels every week. Popupbagels now has 450 subscribers across Connecticut.
See how Popupbagels has grown from Goldberg’s home kitchen in Fairfield County to New York City on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.
Executive Produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.
Flushing, NY — Colin Cosell’s voice can be heard bellowing through Citi Field when the New York Mets play home games. He’s part of the team’s game day operations, providing a boost to the fan experience and entertaining those who come out to watch baseball.
Cosell, who grew up watching his grandfather Howard Cosell eloquently provide the word pictures to some of the greatest sporting events in history, is living out his dream as the Mets public address announcer. He gave NY2C’s On The Call a behind-the-scenes look at his job from the control room at Citi Field.
Carousso Enterprises executive produces NY2C’s On The Call.
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As business travel begins to pick up, agencies are discovering new post-pandemic expectations.
“This ‘bleisure’ theme is definitely coming back,” said Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
“Bleisure” is a portmanteau of “business” and “leisure,” which grew in popularity as people enjoyed working remotely from scenic getaways and vacation hotspots.
“We’ve seen companies want to have culture and community and focus on their core values. And they’re doing it with offsite meetings. They’re doing it with retreats.”
Valerie Wilson Travel noticed the owners of small and medium-sized businesses were among the first to fly again.
“(Small business owners) were the first ones to get back on the road, because they wanted to see their customer. They wanted to look them in the eye, shake their hand, thank them for their business,” said Wilson-Buttigieg.
The Manhattan-based firm employs a team of industry specialists working day and night to cater to corporate clients.
“We have employees that work on different accounts or different businesses like leisure, corporate, cruises, safaris,” she said. “And then we have independent contractors who run their own business under our umbrella. And as an independent contractor, they certainly could work 24/7, but we do also utilize a 24/7 service.”
VWT’s corporate and individual clients turn to its advisors for more personalized service, which is at the roots of the business.
“Knowing that time is the most precious commodity, whether you travel for business or vacation, you want it to be the experience you’re planning,” Wilson-Buttigieg said. “And no differently than having a professional help you on a will or sell a home or do your taxes, the role of the advisor has been elevated.”
Her mother Valerie Wilson started the company in 1981 after she could not find a travel consultant who would give her trip across Europe the individual attention she desired. Wilson returned home and launched Valerie Wilson Travel.
“We’re in the business of serving and we love the travel industry,” said Wilson-Buttigieg.
Valerie Wilson Travel was acquired by another family-owned business, Frosch International Travel, in April 2021 because the Wilson family did not want to lay off any employees during the height of COVID when its business was down as much as 95%.
“We were so excited to bring these two powerhouse brands together, but with the goal of saving as many employees, jobs and benefits during this very challenging period, because we knew travel would eventually rebound and we’re going to need them,” the second-generation president said.
Research suggests 60% of family-owned businesses fail to transition to the second-generation, while third-generation businesses fail nearly 90% of the time. For VWT, the bond between sister co-presidents – Wilson-Buttigieg and Kimberly Wilson Wetty – leading the second-generation appears strong.
“We try to text each other as sisters and we email each other as colleagues,” said Wilson-Buttigieg.
See more on this thriving family-owned business and the changes in travel on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.
Executive Produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.
Cooperstown, NY — It’s been a long journey from Brooklyn to Queens to Cooperstown for Gil Hodges, the legendary Major League manager who led the 1969 “Miracle Mets” to its first championship in franchise history following seven consecutive losing seasons to begin the club’s existence.
On Sunday, Hodges will be posthumously inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in the presence of his 96 year old widow Joan, members of the Mets organization and his former players.
“He was the difference in the Met organization, changing from the laughable Mets, the losing ball club for the first seven years,” said former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool. “He joins the ball club in 1968 and right from day one, we knew we were going to learn how to play the game the right way.”
Kranepool was Hodges’ teammate on the Mets from 1962-63 before he played for the retired Marine when he took over as skipper.
“He was a very strict disciplinarian,” the original Met told NY2C/Carousso Enterprises. “The way he figured it, the ball club that made the fewest mental mistakes is going to win some ballgames.”
“There was a persona that Gil brought with him and that was one of strength of leadership and of success,” said Howie Rose, the radio voice of the Mets on WCBS 880.
“I’m pretty close to ’69 team and all the guys said there wouldn’t have been a world championship without him,” said Jay Horwitz who has spent 42 years in the Mets communications department, including his current role leading alumni relations.
“There’s no way we’d be talking about the 1969 Mets if not for Gil Hodges,” then-Mets left fielder Cleon Jones told Rachel Luscher in Cooperstown.
“53 years later and people still talk about that team,” said Mets 1969 champion outfielder Art Shamsky. “Now with Gil Hodges, our manager, going into the Hall of Fame, it just brings more memories about that year and it’s one of the few teams in the history of the game that people still talk about all these years later.”
Hodges was the manager of the Mets until 1971. He died before the start of the 1972 season. His legendary managerial career succeeded a superb 18-year playing career.
The eight-time all-star won two World Series championships as a first baseman and outfielder, including Brooklyn’s only ring in 1955, driving in both runs in a 2-0 Dodgers victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7. Hodges played on another Dodgers championship team in 1959 after the team moved to Los Angeles.
Hodges’ induction into baseball immortality comes 50 years after he died and 35 rounds of votes for enshrinement.
“It shouldn’t have took (sic) so long, but I’m glad he finally got in,” said Kranepool.
Hodges’ legacy extends beyond the field at Shea Stadium. Families of the ’69 Mets and even members of his hometown Petersburg, IN made the trip to Cooperstown to celebrate the late skipper.
“He was his favorite manager. He gave him the motivation to keep going as a player,” said J’nelle Agee, daughter of the late Mets all-star center fielder Tommie Agee. “My dad got hit in the head when he was in spring training, and then, he lost his confidence and Gil Hodges gave him the confidence to keep being leadoff batter.”
“Our town has followed Gil through his entire career and it’s just so meaningful because so many people behind the scenes have worked for years to advocate for his election to the Hall of Fame,” said former Petersburg Mayor Jon Craig.
“We’ve pushed for this for so long and it’s overdue and we are just so happy to be here to celebrate him and his family,” Agee said.
Watch Rachel Luscher’s reporting on Gil Hodges’ induction into the Hall of Fame above. Carousso Enterprises executive produces NY2C’s On The Call, including its Hall of Fame coverage.