Show of merchant pride

Licensed Optician Aurora Susi (above) stands next to the display case at Metro Optics, at 25 Westchester Square, one of the businesses that is enthusiastically putting its money where its mouth is in supporting the Square’s new merchants and professionals association. Photo by Victor Chu

After a drought of inactivity among merchants and professionals in Westchester Square left the area devoid of leadership and essential city services, the newly reconstituted group is coming together urging holiday shoppers to support those stores that support the community.

This holiday season, merchants on the square who contribute to the growth and development of the Westchester Square area will be sporting square-shaped decals in their windows and doorways stating that they are proud members of the Association for Merchants & Business Professionals for 2008.

While the leaders of the Association for Merchants & Business Professionals for Westchester Square consider all the businesses in and around the square as part of the association, only those who contribute dues that go for things like extra sidewalk cleanup and holiday lights will receive the decals.

“I am not saying that we should boycott any business on the square,” said AMBWS president John Bonizio at a recent meeting of merchants and the community. “I am merely saying that we should pay extra special attention to recognize those businesses that contribute to making this community a great place to live and do business.”

AMBWS vice-president Joe Regina said that when the merchants association was reactivated after a long period of stagnation there was a new, aggressive vision for what Westchester Square could and should offer as both a commercial and residential hub.

“With the backup and support of Councilman Jimmy Vacca, the tenacity of John Bonizio, the Bronx Business Alliance, and Small Business Administration programs, we plan down the road to create a Business Improvement District which will increase economic activity and take care of required services,” Regina said. “This effort will not only benefit the merchants of Westchester Square, and the local residents, but also those in the Morris Park, Throggs Neck, and Pelham Bay communities.”

Regina said that all of the different community and business associations nearby are starting to come to the conclusion that the all of the nearby neighborhoods will sink or swim together.

“Everyone is now looking at the big picture, and not just their small cubby hole of the Bronx,” Regina said. “It is like a cancer was growing on the area, but when we shine a beam of light on the area it will destroy the cancer like chemotherapy, and radiate out and benefit everyone as we form partnerships with merchants in Morris Park, Pelham Bay, and Throggs Neck.”

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