Several times a month, Epicenter-NYC highlights different small businesses across the five boroughs. From dog toys to tamales to candles to plantain sandwiches — each business owner has embodied the diverse, creative and hustler mindset that defines New York City. We caught up with a few to ask them what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Here’s what they had to say:
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
OlaRonke Akinmowo, The Free Black Women’s Library
What she’s thankful for: “The library has a storefront now, it didn’t when we last spoke. It’s been open for a couple of months so we’ve been having different events here. I am thankful to finally have a space to work out of and have all our books in. We have over 5,000 books in our collection. A lot of things have been going well — I was just featured on the Drew Barrymore Show and she donated $10,000 and 15 computers to the library. So now we offer internet and workshops. We provide these computers for people who need to fill out job applications or find resources. I’m grateful to have a space the community can come to.”
How people can help: “We have merchandise that people can buy. We also have a Patreon that people can donate to. People can commit to making a small financial contribution to the library like once a month and that’s really helpful because with the storefront, we have to cover rent, electricity and insurance. We still need to do some renovations, so people can donate financially to the Patreon and go find me. People can also come and trade books with us, we trade books every weekend — books written by Black women and Black non-bianary authors. People can donate books, we have a wishlist which books that we need, as well as a wishlist what we need for the shop.”
John Garcia, Evelia’s Tamales
What he’s thankful for: My family and I are thankful that we were finally able to open Evelia’s Tamales this year. After two years battling with city permits and everything we were finally able to open. We were surprised because we didn’t realize how big and loyal our customers were, it wasn’t until we kept receiving visits from people like Senator Jessica Ramos and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and from the media attention from companies like yours at Epicenter, Eater at the New York Times and New York Magazine. We didn’t think Evelia’s Tamales was as big as it is, we always thought we were just a little cart on Roosevelt Avenue.
How people can help: Now that winter and all the festivities are happening, we invite everyone to order tamales for Thanksgiving and the holidays. We hope that people can come support by trying out our tamales. Once they do, they usually become loyal and frequent customers. Order for the holidays, you won’t regret it!
Prince Torre, Chick’n Rotonda
What he’s thankful for: I am thankful for our loyal customer service and their support since our opening last year. I am thankful to God. I am most thankful for my family and good health. I’m also thankful for the business because it gives us experience and it keeps us busy. I’m also so proud and thankful for my wife. She always has my back and is my go to. She helps with all the financial things at Chick’n Rotonda. It’s not easy to juggle the house, kids and this other stuff, so I am so proud of her.”
How people can help: Right now we are doing okay. The construction on the expansion of our restaurant hasn’t opened yet. It’s catching up to us but we are doing our best to keep the business alive. If everything goes well, I am hoping around December or January. I am hopeful to open in December. We do need some funding right now just to make up for the summer money that is lost because it’s not easy. We are paying two rents but the other place is not open yet. The best way to support us is for people to order from us.
Myo Thway, Burmese Bites
What he’s thankful for: I’m thankful for the opportunities I have here, especially because this was our first year in Queens Center Mall. That was a big thing for us, it was our dream. There is still a lot we want to do but we are getting there. Things are not like the way I predicted, business is not how I envisioned it previously, because of Covid and the recession. It’s been a little challenging for me, but I am trying to introduce my food — Burmese food — to the public and so that’s a very exciting thing for me to do because 99% of mall comers don’t know Burmese food or where Burma is. Some of them haven’t thought about a country called Burma. But we are improving every week and every month, we are making it slowly but surely.
Osei Blackett, Picky Eaters
What he’s thankful for: I’m thankful for friends and family who’ve helped me with a new restaurant that I am opening, Ariapita. It’s a new Trinidadian restaurant with a lot of Trinidadian home foods and Trinidadian cocktails, located on 1197 Flatbush Ave. I’m so thankful that this year I was able to open my new restaurant.
How people can help: People can help by promoting my restaurant, as well as coming to eat.
This week many will be taking advantage of the Black Friday deals and Thanksgiving specials, but don’t forget about small business Saturday — here are the rest of the small businesses we’ve profiled this year that you can support this weekend:
Treats & Desserts: