Walking around the neighborhoods of Belmont and Fordham in the Bronx, Sergeant Gonzalo Duran could not help but notice many empty or soon to be empty store fronts. Neon colored signs scream “Going out of business”, becoming overwhelming once you realize you are passing multiple on a single block. “Some of these places have been opened since I was a kid.” explained Sergeant Duran. Any other business that is already closed has been boarded up or torn down for new ‘luxury’ housing.
The reasons for businesses closing can be blamed on many factors from too much leniency given to developers, to those in power welcoming gentrification, or a poor overall economy. While often forgotten, local business networks can play a big role in the success or failure of small local owned businesses. This thinking is being embraced by Joseph Ronda and Sergeant Duran when they came up with starting a chamber of commerce.
“I noticed that smaller businesses do not have the opportunity to afford the membership being offered by other chambers and if they do, how does it benefit them?” asked Sergeant Duran, going on to say, “They still have to pay to go to the events hosted by the chamber, events that are meant to bring businesses together while forming a yearly plan to make the business owners have more success. But these turn into social gatherings of the same people with little planning. Add the membership fee along with paying to attend events…it might actually hurt your business.” After six months of preparation and tests, the Bronx Veteran Chamber of Commerce is up and running. But don’t let the name fool you, they are ready to serve all Bronx businesses.
“We already serve Veterans and want to focus on helping them in their businesses but we also realize that local problems require local solutions.” said Ronda. In a few months, the Bronx Veteran Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a Domestic Violence Awareness event as well as several recreational Veteran golfing lessons, and poker charity events. Additionally, several local businesses have joined such as Confetti Party Place and Today’s Pixels Photography. Making this chamber even more special is its connections to national partners, with Veterans at Sea (located in Arizona) and Woody Things (located in Connecticut) jumping on board as well.
The purpose of the Bronx Veteran Chamber of Commerce is to serve as a network of local and national businesses whose goal is to further the interests of those who join. While members will still have to pay a membership fee, it will be a lower price than any other chambers have offered and include packaged services to promote the business as well as provide opportunities to network and collaborate with each other.
For more information on the Bronx Veteran Chamber of Commerce, please call (516) 515-0240, email Ceo@devildogusainc.org or visit the website.
Photo courtesy of James Washington-Ward