Northeast Times

Advocate for the Avenue

— Changes along the Bustleton Av­en­ue cor­ridor in Castor Gar­dens spur a new busi­ness group.

Sandi King, with the De­part­ment of Com­merce, speaks with buisi­ness own­er Liu Tihn Chang about what his store needs to thrive safely, Fri­day, May 4, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Start­Frag­ment

In many ways, the 6600 through 7000 blocks of Bustleton Ave. look like a re­tail shop­ping cor­ridor straight out of the mid-to-late 20th cen­tury.

There are gro­cery stores, res­taur­ants, Re­altors, hair salons, in­sur­ance brokers, baker­ies, a meat store, a phar­macy and a fur­niture store along the av­en­ue among dozens of store­fronts.

But the cor­ridor is more con­tem­por­ary, too. Chinese-lan­guage speak­ers and their fam­il­ies own about half of the busi­nesses, while many oth­ers have ties to the Por­tuguese-, Ar­ab­ic- and Span­ish-speak­ing com­munit­ies, as well as oth­er South­east Asi­an cul­tures.

Eng­lish also is spoken there.

“ZIP code 19149 is like a glob­al na­tion,” said Samuel Chueh, a busi­ness ser­vice man­ager for the city’s Com­merce De­part­ment.

The pop­u­la­tion of the area echoes the demo­graph­ics of the com­mer­cial cor­ridor. The Com­merce De­part­ment is try­ing to make the av­en­ue a true com­munity by fa­cil­it­at­ing a Bustleton Av­en­ue Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation. The good news is, most of the mer­chants already seem to agree on sev­er­al key points.

They want bet­ter se­cur­ity, clean­li­ness and park­ing along the av­en­ue, ac­cord­ing to Sandi King, an­oth­er Com­merce De­part­ment busi­ness ser­vices man­ager.

King re­vealed those col­lect­ive pri­or­it­ies dur­ing the new as­so­ci­ation’s first or­gan­iz­a­tion­al meet­ing on May 1 at North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary. In the weeks lead­ing up to the meet­ing, she and Chueh cir­cu­lated sur­veys to each of about 40 busi­nesses. More than 30 com­pleted sur­veys were re­turned to the city of­fi­cials.

More than a dozen busi­nesses were rep­res­en­ted at the in­aug­ur­al meet­ing. Mean­while, City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.), 2nd Po­lice Dis­trict Of­ficer Mark Mroz, san­it­a­tion en­force­ment of­ficer Michelle Mc­Mil­lian and Chris Hess, a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia’s Small Busi­ness Cen­ter, high­lighted pub­lic re­sources avail­able to the mer­chants.

“In or­der to im­pact safety and se­cur­ity in the com­munity, we have to come to­geth­er,” said Curtis Gregory, dir­ect­or of the Com­merce De­part­ment’s Of­fice of Busi­ness Ser­vices. “At the end of the day, all this in­form­a­tion is good for the people here, but it has to be spread to the (rest of the) com­munity.”

Clean­li­ness, or the lack there­of, was a mo­tiv­at­ing factor for the new busi­ness as­so­ci­ation.

“The trig­ger was we re­ceived a lot of com­plaints (from mer­chants) that they re­ceived vi­ol­a­tions from the Streets De­part­ment, but they say they clean their side­walks every day,” Chueh said.

Com­merce of­fi­cials figured that bet­ter com­mu­nic­a­tion might solve the linger­ing san­it­a­tion prob­lem, along with oth­er loc­al con­cerns.

Mc­Mil­lian re­por­ted that she is one of about five san­it­a­tion of­ficers in the area, but she does not is­sue vi­ol­a­tions ar­bit­rar­ily. Lit­ter in­fests side­walks and drive­ways. Trash bins of­ten are left un­con­tained and un­se­cured. Some trash from busi­nesses even winds up on nearby res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties, Mc­Mil­lian said.

“There’s a big lit­ter con­di­tion right now up here,” she said.

Busi­nesses should know how to sort and mark their trash and re­cyc­lables for pickup. They should know what days and times trash should be placed at the curb and when it should not. A clean ap­pear­ance can only help busi­nesses suc­ceed.

“We’re here not just to write tick­ets, but to edu­cate you to help you im­prove your busi­ness,” Mc­Mil­lian said.

Mroz said that net­work­ing can help mer­chants im­prove an­oth­er area of con­cern, safety and se­cur­ity. As the com­munity-re­la­tions of­ficer in the 2nd dis­trict, Mroz is avail­able to ad­vise busi­nesses on im­prov­ing se­cur­ity. For ex­ample, mer­chants should avoid car­ry­ing large bundles of cash in pub­lic. The dis­trict of­fers es­cort ser­vices to mer­chants who must trans­port large sums to the bank.

Also, Mroz ad­ded, mer­chants are en­cour­aged to look out for sus­pi­cious activ­ity on the block or in­volving neigh­bor­ing stores.

The po­lice de­part­ment has trans­lat­ors avail­able to help those who don’t speak Eng­lish.

Some pro­spect­ive busi­ness as­so­ci­ation mem­bers ac­know­ledged that many mer­chants may be re­luct­ant to par­ti­cip­ate be­cause of cul­tur­al factors.

“It may be the com­pet­i­tion,” said Timothy Tam, a math pro­fess­or at Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia and board mem­ber of a loc­al church, Chinese Chris­ti­an Her­ald Cru­sade. “It is Chinese char­ac­ter, maybe they don’t ex­press them­selves openly too much if they don’t see im­me­di­ate be­ne­fit.”

Oth­ers see the pos­sible be­ne­fits.

“Every­body to­geth­er would work bet­ter for safety and se­cur­ity,” said Alex Lee, an agent for Pan­phil Re­alty. “Safety is very im­port­ant.”

Tam en­vi­sions more long-term be­ne­fits like the pro­mo­tion of a con­sol­id­ated busi­ness dis­trict. Ac­cord­ing to the 2010 census, there were more than 8,000 people of Chinese eth­ni­city liv­ing in the 19149, 19111 and 19152 ZIP codes, Tam said. By com­par­is­on, there were few­er than 5,000 liv­ing in the Chin­atown vi­cin­ity down­town.

“They have good busi­ness in Chin­atown, why not do it here?” Tam said.

The area also could use more Chinese pro­fes­sion­als so that res­id­ents needn’t travel to Chin­atown or New York for cer­tain ser­vices and Bustleton Av­en­ue could be­come more of a des­tin­a­tion.

“Like Chin­atown and oth­er busi­ness dis­tricts, you don’t go to a place for one thing, you go for a lot of er­rands,” Tam said.

With sup­port from the pub­lic sec­tor, an as­so­ci­ation could have an im­pact in the short-term, but par­ti­cip­a­tion from the mer­chants has to be there. They must be will­ing to vo­lun­teer their time and put aside skep­ti­cism.

The next meet­ing is planned for Tues­day, June 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. at North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary, 2228 Cottman Ave. All are in­vited and en­cour­aged to at­tend. For in­form­a­tion, vis­it phila.gov/busi­ness or call 215-683-2100.

“We have to build trust by de­liv­er­ing what we say we can do,” King said. “And we can’t prom­ise things we can’t de­liv­er.” ••

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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