Why Small businesses? / by Justine Simonson

Ah the mom and pop shop. It’s an institution near and dear to Co Lab’s heart. As native New Yorkers, we know a thing or two about ‘em, what makes a great one, what they can do for a neighborhood, and why they deserve a cheerleader.

A small family business kept a roof over our producer Justine's head and even put through college. Her father was he 4th generation to own and operate Simonson Funeral Home in Queens, right on the corner of Hillside Ave. and Lefferts Blvd. Although her father retired, her Uncle John Sommese is still at the helm, proudly serving the community more than 180 years after the first William Simonson opened shop.

Our Director of Photography, Marcus, is a first generation German-American who grew up in "Germantown" (AKA Yorkville) on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The neighborhood was decidedly a German enclave in years gone by. Schaller & Webber butchers and Heidleberg restaurant are still around today, thanks to the foresight of the owners who bought their buildings. But the neighborhood now hosts more national chains than mom & pop operations. 

We all know the words… if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. But it's harder and harder every day for small businesses to stay afloat in New York City. Commercial rents have gone up, and up and up. If that weren't enough pressure to keep the lights on and the doors open, as many as 30% of New York’s small business owners have been extorted for cash by their landlords.

So we here at Co Lab think the small businesses that are making it are nothing less than tiny miracles. And want to celebrate them. As two people who travel A LOT for work and leisure, we appreciate the local operations that make cities unique. Why travel to a new place only to visit the same chain stores you can find in any mall back home? 

We invite you to take an adventure with us as we bring you some of the best and brightest this small world has to offer. We're kicking things off in Berlin, Germany. But don't worry, we've still got love for New York City and can't wait to film season two in the Big Apple.