Merchant Spotlight: Food for the Soul: Soul Snacks Open in the Westchester Square

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The recent opening of Soul Snacks has brought a new, soulful flavor to the WS business district. This tiny, but mighty café, located at 2702B East Tremont Avenue features an array of soul food offerings such as pulled oxtail and pulled chicken sliders, fried fish and fried shrimp wraps, and other flavor-filled selections.

The café’s décor showcases a menagerie of images with owner Ralph Rolle alongside top musicians including Usher, Steven van Zandt, Sting, Chaka Khan, Bono, and Elton John among others. A large TV screen displays dance scenes from the 1970s show, Soul Train delivering a nostalgic ambiance, and an acrylic-top drum serves as a table.  

Rolle, a Bronx native who began baking as a young boy, first tested his culinary skills by making and distributing cookies to his classmates at school. “I was shy as a boy, so I would bake cookies and give them to the girls. Sharing what I made was a way for me to make friends and keep baking,” he said. Blending his love for baking with his love for music, Rolle played as a professional drummer for renowned musical artists Nile Rogers and Prince while baking his way into the hearts of celebrities and fans alike. 

Stop by Soul Snacks for a taste (and sound) of soul.

Ready for Back to School Season? Shop at the BID for Uniforms, School Supplies and More

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While it may not always be the most wonderful time of the year for children who are headed back to school, WSBID merchants are fully stocked with all the essential back to school clothing, shoes and supplies to fill any student’s backpack. 

Need sneakers, jeans and other athletic apparel? Stop by Snipes on 25 Westchester Square where a variety of athletic brands of footwear, athletic and casual wear are available. Mr. Sports on 72 Westchester Square also offers sports gear and other athletic wear options. Uniforms are abundant at Flynn & O’Hara Uniforms, Inc. at 136 Westchester Square and they are always ready to meet the uniform needs of the WS district and greater community.

Don’t forget about a having children or other family members take their yearly eye exam before school begins. WSBID offers iCare (2742 East Tremont Avenue), Metro Optics (25 Westchester Square) and Piscano Eye (2590 Frisby Avenue) as options for eye care health and back to school eye exams.

With the fall comes the need to be prepared for flu season. Walgreens, located at 55 Westchester Square, and Rite Aid located at 2748 E. Tremont, Falak Pharmacy 2730 E. Tremont, Simelson Square Pharmacy 52 Westchester Square, not only offers one stop shopping for back to school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, and markers, it serves as a convenient location to receive a flu shot. Protect yourself and your children this fall and winter. Get a flu shot at Walgreens, Rite Aid, Simelson Square Pharmacy, and Falak Pharmacy.

No back to school year is complete without a haircut. WSBID’s barbers and beauty salons offer the style and service suited for the perfect back to school look. Visit any of these and other businesses to be back to school ready.

Back to School Community Events

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NYC Council Member of Bronx District 13, Mark Gjonaj attended the WSBID Back to School event on August 23, and assisted in handing out backpacks to many schoolchildren in the community. The fun-filled event, a collaboration with the NYPD, provided free backpacks and other school supplies to needy families. A face painter was on hand, bringing smiles to many, and the bounce house was filled with the laughter of children. In all, hundreds of backpacks, goodies, and useful information and services was made available to the WS community.

Another successful back-to-school health and wellness event took place on August 17 at the Lehman High School Athletic Field where backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed to children attending the event. This event focused on health and wellness and offered free blood pressure screenings, giveaways and information on where to obtain a variety of health services.  

MTA to Work on the Pelham 6 Line Beginning August 30

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Track renewal work will begin on Friday, August 30, along the Pelham Bay 6 line north of the Westchester Square/East Tremont Avenue station. Installation of track panels along the mainline track will take place within two consecutive weekends: 

  • 1st Weekend: Friday, August 30 - Monday, September 2 (Labor Day)

  • 2nd Weekend: Friday, September 27 - Sunday, September 29

Preparation and staging for renewal work will take place on Fridays from 6 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Track removal and installation will take place on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. - 9 p.m. 

Street cranes will be placed near the elevated train structure to lift and lower track panels and other materials in these locations:

  • East Tremont Avenue between Westchester Avenue and Fink Avenue (potential street closure: Westbound lane closed Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. - 9 p.m.)

  • Blondell Avenue between Westchester Avenue and Fink Avenue (potential street closure on Fridays between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 5 a.m. - 9 p.m.)

Traffic Diversions will also be effect during this renewal period and include:

  • East Tremont: 

  • Eastbound traffic will be reduced to one (1) lane curb side between Westchester Avenue and Fink Avenue.

    1. Westbound traffic will be diverted onto the eastbound lane “Against the Normal Direction of Traffic” between Westchester Avenue and Fink Avenue.

  • Westchester Avenue:

  • Southbound traffic will run “Against the Normal Direction of Traffic” between Waters Place and East Tremont Avenue.

    1. Northbound traffic will run normal curbside between Waters Place and East Tremont Avenue.

Parking will not be permitted on Westchester Avenue between East Tremont Avenue and Waters Place to allow for traffic diversion and to maintain one lane open in each direction. Flaggers and traffic devices will be used to insure public safety.

Keeping Your Business and Home Cool This Summer

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The heat is officially on and as these hot summer months continue, it’s important to understand the best ways to maintain cool temperatures in homes and businesses while saving money and energy. Con Edison offers the following tips for the homes/businesses:

    •       Turn off air conditioners, lights and other appliances when not at home and use a timer to turn on air conditioners about a half-hour before arriving home;

            •           Make sure air conditioner filters are clean so the units will run at peak efficiency;

            •           Set thermostats to the highest comfortable temperature. Each degree lower increases cooling costs by 6 percent;

            •           For those with a room air-conditioning unit, close off the rooms not being used; for those with central air, block the vents in un-used or vacant rooms;

            •           To reduce heat and moisture in apartments or home, run appliances such as ovens, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers in the early morning or late at night when it’s generally cooler outside. Use a microwave to cook, or barbecue outside, if possible;

            •           Keep shades, blinds and curtains closed. About 40 percent of unwanted heat comes through windows. Simply drawing blinds and curtains, which act as a layer of insulation, can reduce heat in your apartment or home;

            •           Try using fans instead of air conditioners, but be sure to leave windows open for ventilation. Fans use as little as one-tenth the energy as air conditioners.

            •           Set computers to go to “sleep” after 20 minutes of inactivity.

Business and homeowners can stay up to date on any power outages by visiting the Con Edison website and signing up for text notifications. Learn more here

Small business owners may also improve their business’s energy efficiency through Con Edison programs exclusive to small and local businesses. Learn more here

Merchant Spotlight: Champion Insurance

For over 20 years, Champion Insurance has been meeting the insurance protection needs and coverage of Westchester Square residents, the Bronx community and the Tri-state area. Located at 1418 Williamsbridge Road, Champion Insurance has become a leader in the insurance industry. By engaging with and understanding multiple markets, Champion holds a lengthy history of helping clients access the homeowner, renter, auto and business coverage policy that is most suitable and affordable for them.

One of the unique features of Champion Insurance is the personalized and friendly service clients receive from highly knowledgeable and experienced staff who work closely with clients to carefully evaluate their needs. This thorough process allows Champion to create a policy tailored to the specific requirements of each client.

In addition to offering home and auto insurance coverage and policies, Champion specializes in helping identify the business insurance policy needs for commercial businesses both great and small. They partner with businesses to ensure that each business owner receives coverage appropriate to the present and future needs of their individual business, allowing commercial business owners to focus on building and growing their businesses.

Need insurance? Stop by Champion Insurance located at 1418 Williamsbridge Road to get all of your insurance questions answered. 

Movie Night @ the Square: Ralph Breaks the Internet

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On Saturday, July 13, Westchester Square was filled with families, friends and community members who came together on a beautiful summer evening to enjoy the movie, “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” The free, public outdoor experience was the second in a series of four movie nights taking place at the Square.

Sponsored by Councilman Mark Gjonaj, the NYC Department of Transportation, and NYC Weekend Walks, all who attended were treated to popcorn as they watched Ralph and his friend Vanellope travel into the World Wide Web.

Join us for the next outdoor movie event, which is scheduled to take place on September 14, from 5 -9 p.m. at the Square where we will feature the Disney movie COCO.

New Speed Traffic Restrictions Take Effect July 11

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New York City’s Department of Transportation speed camera program was expanded on July 11. The program will involve installation of 40 cameras each month through the end of the year. This will allow the city to reach its goal of installing 750 speed cameras in school zones throughout all five boroughs.

 Expansion of the program also includes the time in which speed cameras will be operational for vehicles to be tracked. Enforcement times will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and fines of $50 will be issued to violators who go past the speed camera 10 miles above the posted 25 miles per hour.

Speed cameras have reduced the number of collisions since the program was implemented in 2014 to 140 school zones throughout the city. Be safe and drive carefully this summer.

NYC Department of Sanitation’s Establishes DonateNYC Food Portal for Businesses and Nonprofits

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DonateNYC is the Department of Sanitation’s newest approach to reducing the amount of edible food sent to the landfill by businesses and nonprofits. The program’s goal is to assist in the process of donating local food that would otherwise be disposed to organization that can use or redistribute the food. The food donation portal is designed for any business, nonprofit or community group only and is not for use by individual residents.

Donors (businesses or other qualifying agencies) use the portal to post any quantity of safe, edible food and specify the food type, shelf life, packaging and delivery requirements. Donors must include timeframes for pickup or delivery. The portal allows for the coordination of delivery to the closest recipient organization using the platform’s calendar.

Automated tax receipts are available to donors and all of the donors activities are tracked in the portal’s dashboard. In addition, the name of the business making the donation remains anonymous until the donation is accepted by the recipient organization. The recipient’s location is not shared with the donor unless the recipient chooses to share it with the donor.

Westchester Square restaurants and businesses can now easily participate in the donation program. Learn more about Donate NYC Here

FATHER’S DAY IS A CELEBRATION OF FATHERS EVERYWHERE. THIS FATHER’S DAY, WSBID RECOGNIZES JOHN BONIZIO, FATHER OF WSBID.

John Bonizio, an owner of Metro Optics, is the Founder of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District. A Bronx native born 4 blocks from where he works at Metro Optics on 25 Westchester Square, Bonizio grew up in Morris Park and it didn’t take long for him to make his way into the optical industry.

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At 14 years of age, Bonizio found his first summer job at an optical store on Unionport Road & East Tremont Avenue. By the time he finished high school, Bonizio had become the master bench-man who made glasses by hand at the optical store. He went on to complete a degree in optometric dispensing at New York Technical College. As a young person growing up in NYC, Bonizio spent most of his weekends at a nightclub in New Rochelle. It was there that he met and became friends with Michael Ungaro, owner of Metro Optics in Parkchester. Bonizio was the club’s bartender, Ungaro the DJ.

One day, they came to realize that they had attended the same college and received the same optical degree. The two became business partners and in 1992, Bonizio began to operate the Metro Optics store in Westchester Square.

Throughout the 1990s, Bonizio witnessed the deterioration of the Westchester Square neighborhood, its decline in safety and the closure of storefronts and businesses. As Merchant Association President, Bonizio knew the action was needed to improve the district in which he was invested as a business owner. Through partnerships with local merchants and elected officials in The Westchester Square district, Bonizio was able to advance his goal of establishing a business improvement district. It took 5 years of hard work, perseverance, and a lengthy legislative process, but Bonizio finally established the Westchester Square Business Improvement District and became its Board Chair in 2012.

Bonizio’s leadership has resulted in successfully negotiating a renovation for the Westchester Square district and he takes pride in a thriving BID. “Westchester Square has a rich history and I’m grateful I was able to help in the revitalization of an area in the Bronx that is historically important,” stated Bonizio.

Today Bonizio works to establish other Bronx BID’s and has been instrumental in establishing the Morris Park and Throggs Neck BID’s. “I hope to see these nearby BIDs, all driving commerce, culture, and community,” said Bonizio.

Merchant of the Month: Metro Optics

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For over 40 years, Metro Optics has been nestled in the Westchester Square community serving the eye care and eyewear needs of thousands of customers and clients in and outside of the Bronx. This Westchester Square community staple is one of five vision stores in the Metro Optics franchise. The first Metro Optics store was founded in 1978 on Metropolitan Avenue in Parkchester (hence the name “Metro Optics”) by licensed optician, Michael Ungaro. Metro Optics in Westchester Square was opened ten years later (1988) followed by the Hunts Point/Southern Blvd. district store in 2008. A fourth store opened in the Throggs Neck Shopping Center in 2014, and just in time for its 40th Anniversary, Metro Optics acquired a fifth store, Central Eyes Optical, in Hartsdale, NY in 2018. Metro Optics founder, Michael Ungaro, met John Bonizio - a former optician and current Chief Operating Officer of Westchester Square Metro Optics - in the late 1970s. It was through their friendship, as well as Bonizio’s industry experience and business savvy, the expansion of Metro Optics began with the store located at 25 Westchester Square.

Metro Optics Group thrives on its commitment to the community and the partnerships it has established with local merchants and small businesses, and it is this promise to serve the community that makes Metro Optics distinctly unique from its competitors. Participation in community events, health fairs, and other activities that raise awareness of and advocate for eye care and eye health is a top priority for Metro Optics according to its Marketing and Community Relations Manager, Sara Bonizio.

The company is equally devoted to each of its employees. “We are very much a family and we have many long-term employees who have stayed with us. We are not only invested in our company, but fully invested in the career growth of all those within our company; this is a personal issue for me,” stated Bonizio, who first took an interest in the vision business at 10 years of age when her father brought her to work with him on “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Her participation in the business under various roles throughout the years has allowed her to effectively lead all aspects of communications and marketing, and manage community relations for Metro Optics.

Their vision for the future? “The Bronx is our home. We work here, live here, have grown up here, we love it here, and the Bronx is important to us as the foundation of the business,” stated Bonizio. “With that said, our operating philosophy may eventually lead us to expand further past our existing geographic locations, which would benefit the business and our employees.”

Sasha Ortiz Awarded Certificate of Completion for Citizen’s Police Academy

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On May 22, New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill presented certificates of completion to participants of the Citizens Police Academy, a 10-week program that allows civilian New Yorkers to gain a better understanding of the skills and abilities that police officers bring to community partnerships. Among the participants of the program was Sasha Ortiz, Executive Assistant at WSBID. The program is available in all New York City precincts and Ortiz represented the 45th Precinct, the precinct to which WSBID is assigned and collaborates closely on a variety of public/merchant/district safety issues.

The Citizens Police Academy is an accelerated civilian training program, established to provide members of the community with a background and understanding of NYPD policies and activities. The Academy training seeks to improve police/community relations through educating the public about police work. Since its inception in 1993, the program has trained thousands of New Yorkers in the same concepts and content taught to NYPD recruits.

During a special ceremony that took place at 1 Police Plaza, NYC Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill presented Ortiz with a certificate of completion. “This was a great opportunity for me and through this course, I was able to learn what community citizens can do to assist and work together with police officers,” stated Ortiz.

In Case You Missed It: Recap of May Events

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Business Bootcamp: The last in a series of three business boot camps, Financials 101: Necessary Information to Succeed, was held on May 3, and covered topics such as:

• The importance of financial literacy for business owners

• Understanding Profit and Loss reports and statements

• The significance of preparing business balance sheets and cash flow statements

Merchants of WSBID gained a plethora of information from the full three-part series and have requested that more of these business boot camps be scheduled in the new fiscal year.

Fashion and Movie Night at the Square: On Saturday, May 4, there was a great turnout of community members and residents who came to watch fashion hit the Square as models sashayed in the latest styles of urban fashion. The evening’s activities also featured an outdoor showing of the epic Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens” in celebration of May the Fourth Be With You day on May 4.

Newsworthy Coverage: News1 2 The Bronx came to the Square to feature the many Mother’s Day gift choices available to local residents from which to select in honor of mom. From flowers, to pampering, and a special brunch at the many WSBID restaurants, the options abounded on this news feature (link to News 12 story).

Merchant Spotlight: Crown Trophy

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Greg Perry is celebrating 30 years as the owner of Crown Trophy located at 2554 East Tremont Avenue. Crown Trophy is a franchise organization that has expanded to 140 stores throughout the United States and Perry’s store is part of the original 8. Perry focuses on providing customers with awards of excellence such as certificates, crystal and acrylic plaques, and medals and trophies. His business services schools, churches and individuals in general. Throughout his three decades in business, Perry prides himself on being dependable, reliable, satisfying the customer’s needs. “We create what we call ‘the feel good experience’ and this experience comes about because we MRI; for each customer to Motivate Recognize, and Inspire,” said Perry. He believes being of service is key to customer fulfillment and by providing excellence to customers, they become clients.

Perry has overcome a multitude of personal loss and tragedy to fully establish his business, gain the trust of customers and convert them to clients by providing superior quality products. “I never allowed the obstacles I faced to prevent me from achieving success,” he stated. Perry became involved in the trophy business due to his past work with the Police Athletic League (PAL), which he took on as a side job in the 1980s. Grasping the importance and significance of standing by his word as a businessman when other vendors could not provide timely or quality service, Perry realized he needed to deliver quality goods to his customers that arrived on time. Adhering to this philosophy has made him one of the most credible and entrusted trophy/awards businesses.

His longevity in the trophy business is also due to his strong belief in being supportive of others and bringing out the greatness in them. Perry is most gratified by bringing joy to people’s lives. “Gratitude is important, and a simple Thank You though an award or certificate helps others grow.”  

New Businesses Springing Up at the Square

Don’t be fooled by its name. The Grass Barbershop is a new family friendly, full service hair salon with a hipster vibe that extends its services to men, women and children. Located at 125 Westchester Square, The Grass Barbershop is a place where women can have their tresses cut and colored, and receive a manicure and pedicure. Barber services are available to men and kids are welcome, too. A makeup artist will be on site soon for those who need to have their makeup professionally applied for an event or special occasion and don’t wish to travel far for makeup application services.

Jahlour Wash and Fold is the newest suds business to hit the Square. Their brand new machines and dryers allow for ease of washing and drying quickly and efficiently. Don’t have the time to wash and dry your clothes? Don’t worry. Jahlour Wash and Fold offers laundry cleaning services to help you manage your laundry duty. Visit Jahlour Wash and Fold located at 2591 St. Raymond Avenue. 

Need to establish a new business in the district or advertise a business vacancy? Westchester BID will provide assistance and advice to guide you through the process of identifying and securing the proper business for your vacant location. Contact WSBID at 718-597-4629 for additional information.

This Mother’s Day, Pamper Your Mom at the Square

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12 and what better way to treat Mom than taking advantage of the many businesses the Square has to offer to help her prepare for and enjoy her special day. Help mom get pampered and beautified by bringing her to one of several hair salons and nail service businesses in the district. She’ll be mani pedi ready for sure. Need to buy her an aromatic gift? Esmeralda’s Flower Shop will gladly create a beautiful floral piece that will warm her heart and take her breath away. Breakfast, brunch or dinner anyone? Take mom to one of the distinct restaurants in the district for a memorable and savory experience. Westchester Square BID and its many businesses offers an array options for locals to make Mother’s Day a wonderful one for mom. Gift certificates are available at many of our retail stores. Shop local and celebrate Mother’s Day at the Square. Click here to view.

April Business Bootcamp Recap: Legal Foundations for Small Businesses

In case you missed it, the Business Bootcamp held on April 10, overflowed with a wealth of legal information and advice for small businesses. Facilitated by Jamel Oeser-Sweat, Managing Attorney of Oeser-Sweat, P.C., small business owners were treated to a session regarding business entities (LLC, DBA, Corporation, Non-profit, etc.); internal agreements; intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, etc.); employees vs. independent contractors; contracts and collections; small business trends; breakups; and dissolutions. Attendees actively participated and found the information to be highly beneficial to their businesses.  

Free Mandatory Compliance Training for Sexual Harassment; All Businesses Required to Participate

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The NYC Commission on Human Rights has mandated all businesses/employers with 15 or more employees to conduct an annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees each calendar year. All employers must have trained each of their employees by December 31, 2109.

To meet the mandate, free compliance training on Sexual Harassment Regulations is being offered by the Bronx Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, May 22, from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Hutchinson Metro Center. All Westchester Square BID merchants are invited. RSVP is required. Learn more and register by emailing events@bronxchamber.org

Ensuring Security of the Westchester Square BID: Anthony Garcia

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For over two years, Anthony Garcia has been responsible for safeguarding the Westchester Square BID and making sure the area remains safe for businesses, customers and the general public. Security is a key component to maintaining public safety at the Westchester Square BID and Garcia (“Anthony” as many merchants refer to him) spends his days communicating with the merchants and business, surveying the district, and reporting suspicious activities. His work in the district has allowed owners to have a greater sense of protection as they conduct business and they have come to rely upon him during those times they needed assistance. “The most rewarding part of this job is being able to help the community and I am proud to represent the BID in this position”. Anthony recently assisted an individual in need of services and contacted Bronx Works. BronxWorks helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being.  This is only one of the programs Anthony has partnered with to help the community.

Westchester Square BID will continue to ensure that the district is clean and safe for the businesses and merchants, community members and the general public. Thanks to Anthony, we can all feel a bit safer.   

Earth Day at the Square

Join us for Earth Day, Saturday, April 27 from 12pm-3pm, as WSBID hosts a variety of earth-friendly activities in which kids, adults, and families can partake and enjoy. The event is in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and Weekend Walks as a five-borough initiative.  Earth Day is celebrated in more than 193 countries and we, as a community, will work together that day to embrace nature, promote environmental awareness and support the protection of our planet. 

One of our Earth Day activities will involve beautification of the Square. Students and volunteers have willingly offered their time and green thumbs to plant fresh flowers in the large planters all throughout the Square. This activity will rejuvenate our business district and add a touch of flora to the streets of our community. Additional volunteers are still needed and welcome to participate in this activity.

Recycling awareness is an essential aspect of Earth Day and WSBID is proud to offer a unique Earth Day recycling activity for kids and families that incorporates an educational component. Through this activity, kids and families will learn why recycling is important and how it impacts the planet. Families will also learn how reducing, reusing and recycling helps improve their community and preserve our planet.

Spend Earth Day with us at the Square and take part in the fun, learning, and beautifying of our business district.  Volunteers are still needed for the activities of this day. Help to make your community beautiful and protect the planet by offering your time for this important event. To volunteer please click here