Although Ramón Perez was only at his first meeting of the Wayne Avenue Merchant Association, he was already planning to recruit other business owners.
“(The customers) can see that we can actually promote the neighborhood,” said Perez, the owner of Wayne Supermarket. “It’s not just about getting profit.”
He joined about six other business owners on Friday at the Happy Hollow Recreation Center to discuss ways to be clean, green and safe.
There hasn’t been a business association for years on this battered stretch of Wayne. Allison Weiss, who started the group in October, felt it was necessary to help turn things around.
“Everything just seems so neglected,” she said. “It’s good to get everyone together to work for the common goal.”
The group has started with monthly street cleanings from Berkley to School House Lane. The business owners are also promoting safety by posting signs, provided by the 39th Police District, that give tips on how to avoid being a victim of theft.
The introduction of the city’s Storefront Improvement Program is another way businesses could help improve Wayne Avenue.
Though the program has been available for many years, it only became an option for this corridor last month. Now the city is offering reimbursement to businesses that make their store fronts more attractive to shoppers, said NazAarah Sabree, business services manager for the Office of Business Services.
Owners of commercial buildings and business may be reimbursed up to 50 percent of the total costs of facade improvements. Single businesses can get a maximum of $8,000 and multiple-address or corner properties can get as much as $12,000, she said.
Typical improvements include exterior painting, signage and awnings, and exterior facade lighting.
Businesses have to go through the application process through the Office of Business Services before beginning construction. Otherwise, projects will not be considered.
Edward Howard, who manages Walt’s Barber Shop, is considering applying to the program and thinks it will be beneficial to the many businesses in the area.
Howard was among just three business representatives who attended the association’s first meetings last fall. Since then he has worked to stay active in the group. He took a cue from his uncle, Walter Parrish, who owned the barber shop. Parrish was part of an organized business district in the past, but he grew dissatisfied with the way it was being handled.
“I don’t want to see that happen to this one,” Howard said. “It’s needed.”