A small business barometer for the times: Astoria, Queens

The New York Times has a very interesting article focused on Astoria, Queens in New York, and the small businesses that make up the neighborhood. It’s a compelling read because this current recession has wound up ending businesses in Astoria – like a fish market – that managed to survive the Great Depression and the 1970s fiscal crisis.

While that may sound incredibly gloomy, there’s also plenty of hope. An eyeglasses shop opened in a spot where rolls of carpets where once stacked. Three doors from the fish market, a Louisiana-style restaurant is planning to open soon, while across the street, a shuttered lounge has resurfaced as a Latin restaurant.

The eight blocks of 30th Avenue in Astoria act as a microcosm of how small businesses are faring as the economy tries to rebound. And the conclusion is that while things are not great, there are still many people out there with an entrepreneurial spirit and reminders that the economy isn’t completely defeated.

New York City’s small businesses, places with 100 workers or less, are the city’s backbone, accounting for 98 percent of its roughly 233,000 companies, according to the state’s Department of Labor.

Even at the height of the recession in 2008, small businesses provided nearly half of all private-sector jobs available in the city, more than they did in 1990, a study to be released by the Center for an Urban Future, a research institute, found.

“Small businesses are the only ones that have been taking chances,” said Jonathan Bowles, the center’s director.

Things, of course, are still difficult. In Astoria, about 30 mom-and-pop stores along 30th Avenue have gone out of business in the past two years. But there’s reason to believe small businesses and the economy are on the recovery. People – even in Astoria – are still taking chances and doing what they can to keep their businesses going.

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