To better acquaint himself with issues specifically facing small business owners, state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan), a candidate for public advocate, took a brief walking tour of downtown Flushing last week, where he reached the conclusion that “people are working like crazy and they don’t feel they have a partner.”
The tour was centered on Union Street and began at Im Jewelry, whose owner Ikhwan Rim explained prior to Squadron’s arrival that the candidate was coming “to see the small businesses and how we’re doing and find out our needs, what is needed in New York City for the small business person, especially minorities.”
Rim, who also owns a restaurant, said the restaurant was not doing as well as his jewelry business. Even there, he said, business was “very good, but not like before.”
He explained to Squadron that the main problem facing businessmen such as himself is “too much regulation,” admitting that there are “so many regulations we don’t know.” He also said that many small business owners, particularly those in Flushing, “need language access,” since the owners of “a lot of mom-and-pop stores have been here 20 years and they still can’t speak English well. We need a lot of different things.”
Squadron suggested to Rim that “you don’t have lobbyists to contact City Hall. They forget about you. The bureaucracy is out of control. That’s where the public advocate comes in.”
Squadron admitted that “the public advocate can’t solve all the problems,” advising Rim that there is a “need to focus on the areas no one else focuses on.”
As the walk continued, Squadron said, “Our immigrants sometimes feel they don’t have a partner. That’s why I’m out here.”
Down the street from Im Jewelry is Roll Zip, a small restaurant owned by fellow Korean David Lee, who said a typical day for him runs from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m., six or seven days a week. His father is the restaurant’s chef.
Business is “getting better but still hard,” Lee said.
When Squadron asked him what he would like to see happen to improve business, Lee said to make the street brighter, adding that parking in the area is also a problem.
According to Rim, matters are about to get worse. The municipal parking lot across the street was sold and construction to turn it into a mixed-use development is expected soon. Once that begins, shoppers will have to park three or four blocks away, he said.
Rim explained that he and the other merchants help support each other. When, for instance, any garment is in need of alterations, they visit the local tailor. When anyone wants to purchase jewelry, they shop at Rim’s store. And, of course, they all eat at the local restaurants.
Squadron came to realize that “a lot of these communities are working together. Too often, in the city, we see them as individual businesses.” So, concluded Squadron, “if a chain store comes in, the whole circle stops.”