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Wheeling and dealing: Pro-business group deploys roving consulting van

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is now offering house calls for small businesses.

The business booster group and the Council are rolling out a new van that will drop in on companies around the borough and offer consultations owners would otherwise have to leave their stores to get. A Crown Heights business owner said the new mobile services would help save him the inconvenience of an office visit.

“I have to decide where best to spend my time,” said Fred Powell, who has owned Barbara’s Flower Shop on Bergen Street for 43 years. “Going down to an office, or serving my customers.”

The business-mobile can help small business owners apply for credit, grapple with city regulations, and recruit new workers, among other things. Housed in a white minivan donated by AllCar Rent-a-Car, “Chamber on the Go” is adorned with Chamber of Commerce decals and staffed by chamber employees.

Powell said he could use help with his marketing, another specialty of the enterprise whisperers.

“After 43 years, a lot of my old customers have left the neighborhood for one reason or another,” he said. “I have to kind of reinvent myself.”

The idea for the mobile unit came from Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant), who helped secure $400,000 in taxpayer money from the Council for a citywide small business street team. Brooklyn will be the test service area for the program. The freshman councilman said he was amazed to learn about the range of services the city had to offer small businesses, but when he went out in his district to talk to proprietors he found that they were having trouble accessing them.

“This program is about meeting the direct needs of what the people on the ground told me,” he said.

The first commercial strip treated by the business-mobile will be Nostrand Avenue, near where Powell’s flower shop is located. Chamber president Carlo Scissura said his office would target areas that do not have businesses improvement districts and are struggling.

“We’re going to start by helping the businesses with the greatest needs and most limited time,” he said.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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