EAST VILLAGE — Small businesses in the East Village are banding together in an effort to survive.
Following the closure of shops including the Jill Anderson boutique and umbrella and candy store Ame Ame, business owners recently formed the East Village Independent Merchants Association to share ideas and strategize.
"From a community character and quality-of-life standpoint, we believe in a diversity of businesses and services in the East Village," said Sara Romanoski, managing director of the East Village Community Coalition, who started the new business group. "It really makes the neighborhood ideal."
The merchants association's first meeting last week drew more than 40 small business owners, who discussed common issues they encounter, including negotiating credit card fees, marketing their products and rising rents.
In addition to holding regular meetings, the merchants association will promote the neighborhood's businesses and hold workshops on web development, accounting and credit cards, Romanoski said.
"This will help them access information or know where to turn to get answers they need rather than waste time researching questions that their neighbors are too," Romanoski said.
The group has not yet determined the fee for members.
One of the early businesses to sign on was Ruff Club, an Avenue A social club for dogs and their owners, founded by Danny Frost and his wife Alexia Simon Frost.
Danny Frost said he joined the merchants association to reduce the sense of isolation — both emotionally and economically — that can come with running a small business.
"So many of our independent merchants are just out there on their own," said Frost, 30, who has kept his day job as a lawyer while his wife runs Ruff Club.
Frost hopes the merchants in the association will be able to join together to have more negotiating and buying power for services all businesses need, such as trash collection. Large corporations or franchises instantly get those benefits, Frost said.
"We are trying to level the playing field to make it easier to compete and survive," he said.