South Bronx Businesses Battle Back

New ventures are sprouting and community support remains strong as the local economy takes on post-pandemic challenges.

Small businesses, long the backbone of the South Bronx economy, find themselves facing tough new challenges in the pandemic’s wake. But community loyalty is helping to keep doors open and a host of microbusinesses launched during COVID are bringing new energy to the scene.

The pandemic took a terrible toll on the Bronx, which suffered the highest death toll of any borough, even while supplying the highest share of essential workers. But most businesses remained open to serve their communities, and they benefited from relaxed enforcement of regulations, pauses or readjustments of rent, and government relief funds to families that often were spent in local stores and eateries.

Edokia Bookstore

2505 Third Ave.

We wanted the bookstore to be that outlet that can bring a lot of people in but also produce talent that this neighborhood has to offer.

Francois Wilson

Founder & Owner


197 Brook Ave.

We mix women empowerment with nutrition.

Rosa Caban


While no figures are available on the number of businesses that failed, a city study found that spending in the Third Avenue business district actually grew between 2019 and 2021 – by 59% – and traffic grew 14%.

Today though, as many small business owners struggle with post-COVID burnout, they find themselves facing back taxes and rents, renewed government scrutiny, a rise in crime, and inflation, even as customers have less spare cash to spend.

“We’re in a fragile state. But there are signs of recovery,” reports Michael Brady, longtime CEO of the Third Avenue BID and now senior vice president at the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

Enhari suit factory

315 E. 149th St.

The people are still staying home, they’re working from home.

Jimmy (Jamal) Aziz



638 E. 169th St.

We try to keep people fresh. And not only that—they come to us for advice.



Meanwhile, hundreds of residents who found themselves jobless when the city shut down used their time at home to develop hobbies and passions into microbusinesses that didn’t need expensive storefronts to operate. In 2021, applications for new business permits in the Bronx jumped 66% above 2019 levels, according to a federal census report.

The transformation of the Port Morris waterfront has spawned a cluster of upscale small businesses that cater to the changed demographics, but that are unabashedly Bronx creations that offer new trendy options to all Bronxites. 

Inflation is today’s biggest challenge to small businesses, even as federal subsidies to families have expired, along with rent pauses.

Exit 18

728 E 136th Street

I really wanted to do something that helped my people, that felt like home.

Jordan, AKA Joe Green

Chief Executive

Mottley Kitchen

402 E. 140th St.

I feel like the Muslim community in the South Bronx is big — and somehow they appreciate the halal meat better.

Saad Fatih


As some aging legacy owners conclude that it’s just not worth the fight anymore and lack offspring who wish to take over the business, a score of younger entrepreneurs is cropping up. After starting businesses in their living rooms, many have found needed space and a supportive community in shared workplaces.

As the borough and city planners study what’s next, particularly in the wake of businesses fleeing downtown Manhattan, efforts to support business districts in the outlying boroughs are becoming a focus of greater city and state interest.

Customers and business owners offer a variety of suggestions for what’s needed for the Boogie Down to recover and thrive – safer and cleaner streets, more parking and open spaces, activities for young people, healthier food choices, lower inflation, access to financing, and a better use of government services and dollars.

While it’s not clear when and how those wishes and needs will be met, what is clear is that small business remains king in the South Bronx, the core of its identity.

Villano Pizza

226 Willis Ave.

We’re going to test out our luck, as they say.

Martin Villano Marcelo


Cruz Bike Shop

422 E 138th St.

There are a lot of bike rules now. Everything is getting stricter.

Emanuel Gonzalez


“It is the Mom and Pop stores that make this community,” said Lourdes Zapata, president and CEO of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. “While Dunkin Donuts does fill a need, it can never meet the cultural needs of the community.”



Dashiell Allen
Andrew Anchetta
Judith Marks 
Sunny Nagpaul
Emily Swanson
Christine Zeiger


Dashiell Allen
Judith Marks
Sunny Nagpaul
Emily Swanson
ET Rodriguez


Dashiell Allen
Naoufal Anhari
Amanda Braitman
Yasmine Dass
Gerard Edic
Deidre Foley
Amaya McDonald
Jajuan Morris-Guity
Ashley Reed
Gretchen Smail

Web Producer

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Social Media Manager

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