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All In It Together: Benefits of Working As A Community

Published in the Fishtown Spirit on Wednesday, May 7, 2014

By Max Pulcini


In order to gain a better understanding of the business climate in the Fishtown area and identify the different challenges and opportunities presented before the neighborhood’s small business owners, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU), New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) and Fishtown Area Business Association (FABA) teamed up to develop a survey aimed at determining potential solutions to make the community and its emerging corridors a better place to do business.

On Wed., April 30, results compiled from 93 completed online surveys were presented to over 30 business owners at 03 World on 1339 Frankford Ave. Michael Driscoll, Vice President of Business Development at PFCU, hosted the networking event and presented the findings. The results were mostly positive and showed that many local businesses have experienced growth— 90 percent of those surveyed described stability or growth in their business and 87 percent described growth in revenues.

Mike Mclane and his wife Nicole own Pacific Yoga on 2518 Cedar St. The couple opened their studio on June 7, 2013, so they are quickly approaching their first full year in business. Mike came to the networking event to meet other business owners, share his own experiences and see what other types of businesses are out in the neighborhood.

"It’s been fun [owning a business in Fishtown] and we’ve been welcomed in by the people—everyone from those who have been here their whole lives to the new people just moving in," Mclane said. "Business growth has been better than expected, usually the first year you expect it to be kind of harsh but it went better than anticipated."

"The good news is there is a feeling that things are trending positive and that revenues are going to be up in next year," Driscoll said during the presentation. "However, there is still some concern over government regulation and zoning issues, which is to be expected in an emerging area."

Other issues voiced by business owners in the survey include concerns about the perceived safety and reputation of the neighborhood (especially on Kensington Avenue), business financing options and increased rent due to property taxes reassessment under Philadelphia’s Actual Value Initiative.

"If you’re a tenant and your lease is coming up soon, expect an increase in your rent because, a) your landlord can get it because we are a new, cool area, and b) because of the tax reassessment by the city," Driscoll said. "While much of the city is under appeal, the majority of property values in this area are going up. I know in talking to some of the business owners here tonight that that’s a probability."

Other stats brought up during the presentation included the number of businesses who cooperate with NKCDC and FABA. NKCDC typically aids local businesses in clarifying city business rules and procedures and with storefront grants while FABA helps businesses network with each other. Of the businesses surveyed, 53 percent interacted with NKCDC and 41 percent were FABA members.

One business owner, Sarah Grey, acknowledged how her membership to FABA helped her to connect to other local businesses, who Grey then partnered up with—a move that increased revenue for everyone.

"FABA has been great for me in terms of referrals. I’ve found places like Pinnacle Performance Partners who have just been great referral partners— I write websites, they design and code; they will do graphic designs on resumes and books that I edit—it’s just been a wonderful partnership," Grey, whose copywriting and editing business is called Grey Editing, said. "And because FABA works with so many small businesses, it’s allowed me to meet the Fishtown business community. I’ve done business with so many of the people in this room and it’s a really nice feeling. And because I know these people and have been in their businesses, I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of everything in a way and it’s exciting!"

Another interesting statistic was whom business owners are most likely to consult when making financial decisions for their business. The survey showed that most—27 percent— business owners consult friends and family. Meanwhile, only 8 percent consulted a bank or credit union. Nearly 68 percent said that they are at least somewhat satisfied with the products and services that banks and credit unions provide to small business owners.

"You don’t have to take out a loan with us; you don’t have to open an account with us. Whether you take our advice or end up going with us, just know that we are in your community— what we are trying to get out tonight is we are a resource, use us however we can help you," said Driscoll of PFCU.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for general discussion and networking. Mclane explained his thoughts on how the Fishtown business corridors could be destined to be the Brooklyn of Philadelphia—a marketable, commercial and cultural high point of the City of Brotherly Love.

"[Brooklyn] constantly, constantly has events going on—concerts, runs, block parties and all kinds of stuff," he said. "From a business standpoint, all these events are backed by small, local businesses— it brings people in and makes people want to be part of a community. I’m a big community guy; I like to be involved; I like to be invested; and I like bringing people together. I just think that this neighborhood has so much potential that if we can come together we can be a landmark area in Philadelphia."

While Fishtown probably won’t become the second coming of Williamsburg overnight, the survey’s results all imply a positive trend in business development in the community—a trend that has little sign of slowing down. "We’ve been seeing development happening really quickly around here—there are a bunch of new projects popping along the corridor," Joanna Winchester, Economic Development Specialist at NKCDC, said. "I think folks can expect to see a lot of really exciting things coming up this summer. I’ve been hearing about a bunch of businesses that are opening up this summer on East Girard and Frankford Ave, so I hope people keep an eye out and visit them as they open their doors."

Visit www.pfcu.com or stop in their Fishtown branch at 2136 E. Dauphin Street.

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