A Stroll Around Bensonhurst: Part 2

As I mentioned in my last blog post about Bensonhurst, it is a very large area. It takes hours and hours to really traverse every street within its confines thoroughly enough to capture the fine details that give it its Italian character. There are so many photos for our readers and social media followers that I am releasing them in separate posts over time. For now, here are some photos that reflect what still remains, what has changed, and what is in the process of changing.

Unfortunately, for the fair share of businesses and organizations that are still operating to service the Italian American community in Bensonhurst, there are some that are leaving as many have over the years.

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A Walk Around Bensonhurst: Part 1

I recently decided to take a walk around Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Bensonhurst is still the largest Italian Enclave in the United States. Although much has changed in the neighborhood due to the natural cyclicality of metropolises, there is still a lot that visually remains and quite a few Italian families still living there.

If you aren’t familiar with Bensonhurst, then you should know that it is massive in size. Bensonhurst-proper includes the area bounded by 86th Street, 14th Avenue, 60th Street, McDonald Avenue, Avenue P, and Bay Parkway.

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A map of Bensonhurst. Courtesy of : Google Maps

 

Bensonhurst derives its name from Egbert Benson (1789–1866). His lands were sold by his children and grandchildren to James D. Lynch, a New York real estate developer. Lynch bought the old farmlands of the Benson family in the mid-1880s, and by 1888, began selling private lots in an area with the slogan : “Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea” which is really now the Bath Beach neighborhood that often gets referred to as Bensonhurst but is distinctly its own neighborhood.

Italians have been in Bensonhurst since the early 20th century. Prior to Italians, there were large Jewish and German communities living within the neighborhood. The newest waves of Italian immigrants into the United States generally occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s and many of those new arrivals wound up in Bensonhurst-mostly Sicilian.

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An example of the co-existence between the newly arrived Italians and the Jewish businesses along 15th and 78th in Bensonhurst. Photo courtesy of: NYC Municipal Archives-Tax Photos 1940

Provided the massive amount of land to cover, traversing the streets of Bensonhurst to efficiently photo-document the neighborhood requires several days. I have thus broken my walks throughout the neighborhood into separate posts that I will be releasing over the next couple of months.

In this particular instance, I noticed a barbershop along 17th Avenue and New Utrecht that has actually been there for over 40 years. I must have driven by hundreds of times and never noticed it. On foot, the details of a neighborhood really stand out so much more.  Salvatore, the proprietor and barber, told me that he wishes to retire and is selling his business. The photograph showing the window of his barbershop has the phone number if anyone is interested (everything in the shop is included).

 

 

 

The small portion of Bensonhurst that I am showcasing in this post also had a lot of wonderful visual indications of the vibrant Italian community that once claimed this part of Brooklyn as the largest concentration of Italians outside of Italy. Please share this post and let your friends and family know about our site (and social media pages: ItalianEnclaves on Facebook and Instagram).

By: Raymond Guarini

 

Growing Up Italian Podcast: Features Italian Enclaves (Link in Story to Listen)

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To listen, click link at the bottom of the article.

Sabino and I met in Williamsburg at the famed Carmines Pizzeria and Restaurant on Graham Avenue for the Italian American Baseball Foundation’s Annual Gala in December.

I was vaguely familiar with the Growing Up Italian podcast and more familiar with the Instagram account. I found myself following Growing Up Italian earlier last year (2018) and being amused at many of their posts. I was fascinated by the fact that they were mostly first generation Italians representing the millennial Italian American population in North America; a rarely represented group.

The podcast was an amazing time and being with Sabino and the rest of the folks from Growing Up Italian felt like hanging out with old friends and family. (LINK BELOW).

What Sabino is doing is incredibly important. He is linking the millennial generations to the older generations of Italians primarily through light-hearted and witty posts on social media. Such posts innocently poke fun at the nuances of growing up in an Italian household. Phrases are shared amongst other jovial, cultural references and we strongly recommend browsing through the comments sections of their posts.

It is truly important to pass along our traditions and solidify a future for Italian Americans by preserving things such as Saint societies, processions, feasts, culinary traditions and so on. After meeting Sabino and the squad at Growing Up Italian, I can gladly say that the future for Italian Americans is looking bright.

The technologically intelligent Growing Up Italian platform is a perfect vehicle for not only delivering things that are funny but also acts as a perfect stage to occasionally change the tone towards the more serious and important aspects of Italian culture in North America. We look forward to having more opportunities to chat with Sabino, Rocco et al at Growing Up Italian.

We can’t wait to see what else they have in their bright future.

Check out our interview in the following link:

Carlo Acutis’ Body Reported To Be Incorrupt: Another Step Closer To Sainthood

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In 2018 we made two posts about a young boy who was taken from this earth way too soon. His name is Carlo Acutis. To illuminate this boy’s importance for new readers and to remind our loyal followers, Carlo Acutis may become a Catholic Saint.
Carlo first received the Eucharist at the age of 7 and continued to receive it each day of his life until his untimely passing. Born in 1991 and having left this earth all too soon in 2006 at the age of 15, Carlo spent his young life in Italy dedicated to Jesus by collating on his website each Church-verified apparition of our Blessed Mother that occurred on this planet for over two millennia.
Since our last article, Carlo Acutis has been deemed Venerable by the Catholic Church and his cause has been under scrutiny by the Vatican to determine if he will eventually be Canonized.
The vice-postulator, Father Marcelo Tenorio, of the canonization cause of Venerable Carlo Acutis announced Wednesday that the boy’s body has been found to be incorrupt. Father Tenorio shared the news on social media. He revealed that he indeed saw the pictures but that he could not share them.
I am particularly intrigued by this young man because of his dedication to tabulating Madonna miracles. The correlation to The Italian Enclaves Historical Society’s mission to show the public every Italian Parish in America and their corresponding Saints’ processions solidifies our love and appreciation for Carlo’s work even further. We support his cause for Sainthood and we ask that you do as well by praying for him and sharing this article.

By: Raymond Guarini

Chicago: Italian National Parish Will Remain

We are very pleased to announce that the Saint Therese Chinese Church will remain! The church was once the Madonna Incoronata Church when the neighborhood was home to a thriving Italian community. Over the years, the church has changed parishioners but the Italians have continued to use the Church not only as a place of worship but also as the center of their annual feasts for Saint Rocco and La Madonna Incoronata.

Just recently, as discussed in one of our posts from earlier this month, the church was threatened with closure but due to a major wave of support both in Chicago and online, the church was able to raise hundreds of signatures via “Change.org” and far surpassed the expected number of signatures: 2,500.

On Saturday night, the diocese informed the parishioners that the church will remain. This is a huge victory for our friends in Chicago. Please share so this can act as an inspiration those whose parishes are facing similar fates.

By: Raymond Guarini

 

 

The San Sabino Society of Williamsburg: The New Venue For The Growing Up Italian Podcast

By: Raymond Guarini

One of the many incredible contacts that I made at the most recent event for the Italian American Baseball Foundation was Sabino Curcio of the social media phenomenon, Growing Up Italian. Sabino invited me to join his podcast as a guest. I graciously accepted. About a month after the IABF event, I met with Sabino at the San Sabino Society Club (206 Withers Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am grateful to have accepted this invitation as I was not only welcomed warmly by Sabino and the rest of the Growing Up Italian folks and made to feel appreciated for my work with Italian Enclaves but also because I learned a great deal about Saint Sabino and the innerworkings of the San Sabino Club, which mirrors many other Italian clubs in North America. 50610818_335995670337018_2000372209134075904_n

 

 


Started as a mutual aid society, the San Sabino Club was founded in Williamsburg in 1932. The purpose of the society, much like all Saint societies in the US since the late 1800’s, was to pick up where the government left off. Italian immigrants were often discriminated against and had a tough time upon arriving.

Society Purpose

After arriving in the U.S., Italian immigrants were frequently un-hirable, often taking low-wage jobs and having little disposable income to invest in things like health or life insurance. The society would help pay members’ medical bills and even support the families of deceased members, if necessary. I learned that one of the members was a funeral director and would often assist families of deceased members in funeral preparations with great generosity. The necessity for this was immense.
At the time, the United States Government did not have anything in place to help immigrants afford doctors or final expenses. The San Sabino society helped its members survive and gracefully provide for themselves in a country that provided little for immigrants at the time. The society worked on a quasi-barter system where favors were exchanged instead of money. A doctor could help people seeking medical help in exchange for something, an ironworker or laborer could offer their services in exchange for whatever they might need, and so on.

 


Membership
When a new member came up for review, every member got both a black and white ball. White balls were a yes vote for the new member to join and the black ball was a no vote. 50 members voted by placing either a white or black ball in the box. When all members submitted their vote, the box would be opened and the great reveal was made. The catch is that if a newly proposed member received three or more black balls in the voter box, the person would be denied. So out of 50 members, 48 had to vote in favor of the person for them to be approved to join. The other absolute must to get in is that your family had to be from Sanza.
As with any Saint society, there is a patron Saint that is venerated and often processed throughout the town or neighborhood in which the society’s club exists. San Sabino is the patron of Sanza. A town somewhat isolated in the mountains, Sanza is home to great devotions to Catholicism and its Saints by the town’s constituents.

When the mass migrations occurred from Italy to the US before and after the Great War, the Sanzese emigrated from Italy to the US in hopes of greater opportunity like everyone else. Such opportunity not only existed but was eventually realized by the members of the San Sabino society because of their devotion to one another and their commitment to perpetuating the veneration of their town’s patron, Saint Sabino. They were able to purchase their club’s building and quickly paid-off the mortgage.

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The original deed to the building that houses the San Sabino Society and the ashes for its Mortgage which was burned upon being paid off

The Saint
As quoted by Wikepedia:

“Saint Sabinus of Spoleto (died c. 300) was a Bishop in the Christian church who resisted the persecutions of Diocletian and was martyred.
According to legend, Venustian, governor of Etruria and Umbria, had Sabinus and his deacons arrested in Assisi. Diocletian’s order required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods or be put to death, with their estates seized for the state. Venustian mocked Sabinus’s faith, accusing him of leading the people to the worship of a dead man. When Sabinus said that Christ rose on the third day, Venustian invited him to do the same thing. He had Sabinus’s hands cut off.
The deacons were in great fear, but Sabinus encouraged them to hold to their faith, and they died after being torn apart by iron hooks. In prison after the martyrdom of his deacons, he was tended by a woman named Serena. While in prison, he healed a man born blind. Venustian heard of the cure and sought a cure for his own eyes from Sabinus. Sabinus healed the governor and converted him to Christianity. Venustian then sheltered Sabinus. Maximianus Herculius, hearing of this, ordered the tribune Lucius to address the matter. Lucius had Venustian, his wife, and his two sons beheaded at Assisi, and he had Sabinus beaten to death at Spoleto.”
Sabinus’s feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is December 7th.

Growing Up Italian
The fact that I was one of the first guests to air live from the San Sabino Club on the Growing Up Italian podcast was thrilling. I had a great time chatting with Sabino and the folks of Growing Up Italian. It felt like I was home in my living room speaking with cousins or life-long friends. I look forward to making another post with a link to the podcast later this month. Stay Tuned.

As always, sharing our work is encouraged and appreciated.

More Italian National Parishes To Close In Chicago: Sign The Petition To Prevent It!

By: Raymond Guarini

The hardest part about documenting Italian National churches in America is that so many have already closed and so many are in the process of being closed. There is also the fact that it’s hard to coordinate travels with the times that the churches are opened. Taking that into account, also add that there is no single place where one can find a list every Italian National Parish, yet. Italian Enclaves is proud to announce that as we transform into a nonprofit, one of our first orders of business will be to do just that; an online list and archive of photos pertaining to each Italian National Parish in America.

Which Churches Are Closing In Chicago?

In Chicago, the same eventuality of closure that has fallen upon many other Italian National Parishes in the United States is about to happen to Santa Lucia Church. Located at 3022 S Wells St, Chicago, IL 60616, Santa Lucia is one of the cornerstones of the Italian American community in the Armour Square neighborhood, a formerly dense Italian Enclave. The closure is not being limited to the Church, but the Santa Lucia Catholic School as well.

 

 

 

Our sources also inform us that the original church (the parishes were merged to Santa Lucia), Santa Maria Incoronata, which is now referred to as the St. Therese Chinese Church, is also due to be closed in the near-term. The church was opened in 1904.

 

 

 

 

 

These churches function not only as places of worship but also as cultural gems for the Italian Americans still living in these neighborhoods as well as those who have moved out but still return to take part in religious traditions such as processions for their Saints’ feast days. Below is a clip from a procession this past summer at the old Incoronata Church.

 

 

Similar Circumstances in New York

Not too long ago, we posted about the magnificent Feast of Saint Rocco, which is dutifully fulfilled each year by the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza and its president, Stephen LaRocca. The procession of Saint Rocco was always first carried-out from Saint Joachim and Anne which was on Catherine Street. When that church was tragically closed in the middle of the 20th century, the parishioners then matriculated to Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe) Church (5 Monroe St. New York, NY), which was the new center of the Italian immigrant community in the “Two-Bridges” or “Five Points” neighborhood now justifiably called Chinatown. Similar to what’s happening in Chicago, Saint Joseph was closed just a few years back, and the parishioners were forced to worship elsewhere. The statues in the San Giuseppe Church were translated to Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter Street and the processions now occur from Most Precious Blood, yet Mr. LaRocca tries to maintain as much authenticity in the procession as possible by processing the Saint Rocco statue passed Saint Joseph Church in a nod of respect and love for Saint Rocco and the former house of worship.

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Stephen LaRocca prepares the Saint Rocco Statue in Manhattan, New York

Countless Italian National Churches Closed 

Countless Italian churches have closed in America over the last eighty years. Just recently, Santa Rosalia in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn was also shuttered and marked for demolition. The same sadly happened to Holy Rosary Church in Staten Island (207 Sand Lane Staten Island, NY) which has just recently been demolished.

No new Italian National Parishes will ever open due to the patterns of immigration today vs. those of the 19th and 20th centuries. Therefore, it is essential to keep these churches opened and the best way to help our friends in Chicago is to sign their petition (Link Below) in an effort to appeal to the powers that be, the Dioceses in charge of these decisions.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND PASS IT ON 

https://www.change.org/p/cardinal-cupich-bishop-casey-superintendent-rigg-fr-jason-and-the-archdiocese-of-chgo-let-st-therese-chinese-catholic-church-and-school-stand-alone?recruiter=927924505&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=psf_combo_share_initial.pacific_email_copy_en_us_3.control.pacific_email_copy_en_gb_4.v1.pacific_email_copy_en_us_5.v1.pacific_post_sap_share_gmail_abi.gmail_abi.lightning_2primary_share_options_more.control

Special Thanks to Louie Phillips Jr.  for sharing information and photos with us.

 

 

Patrizia’s: An Italian Restaurant Chain With Unparalleled Growth

Patrizias logo

Introduction
At Italian Enclaves we like to shed light on Italian American success stories. We also have an agenda to support Italian American-owned businesses, hence the establishment of the #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses hashtag, which is becoming consistently more popular.
The success story that we are sharing today has to do with food, so we are even more excited. Patrizia’s is a family-owned business that is growing exponentially and if you haven’t been there yet, a visit is in order. Having humble origins in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, Patrizia’s started off as one location started by brothers, chefs and owners: Giacomo and Gennaro Alaio. Today, Patrizia’s has twelve locations.
What To Expect
I first discovered Patrizia’s several years ago when my wife suggested that we try the restaurant out of pure boredom with our usual venues, so we traveled to Patrizia’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We had a great experience. The vibe was great as the restaurant was totally packed. We were still comfortably accommodated outside. Since then, we try to visit one of Patrizia’s locations (amidst the many other restaurants that we visit) when we are in the mood for a great Italian meal that is not going to break our bank.
Patrizia’s wisely offers diners an option to eat for $50 a person (with a $10 upgrade for lobster and artichoke). This includes 7 Appetizers, Homemade Pasta, 2 Entrees, Dessert, Unlimited Domestic Beer, House Wine, Sangria & Soda. Yes, you read that right. It is essentially unlimited food and wine/soda for $50 per person. I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t take home a doggy bag. There is a link to the menu at the end of this article. Be warned, you will get hungry. The fare is not only portioned generously, it is delicious.

 

 


Patrizia’s Growth
The extraordinary part about the incredible growth that is occurring with this business is that it is completely organic growth. What that simply means is that the restaurant has only relied upon its own success to grow and has received no outside funding. With a background in private equity, this was astonishing to me. Most companies let alone restaurants, that have the growth that is being enjoyed by Patrizia’s, usually require immense capital infusions from private equity funds or small brokerage firms. Even then, the profitability and growth rates are incomparable. What’s more, Patrizia’s appears to be recession hedged. As they have proven unparalleled scalability during an economic boon, Patrizia’s also seems to be priced for perfection in the event of an economic downturn thanks to the $50 per-person price-point for the incredible quality and quantity of food being offered.
Darden Restaurants and Dine Equity are the largest chain restaurant owners in the U.S. by market share. This means for every dollar spent in chain restaurants, these guys see the most pennies on that dollar than any other chain restaurant in the U.S. Although Patrizia’s is not yet a national brand or chain, their 12 restaurants speak to an unusually better growth rate than the 5% annual growth rate that the entire industry has seen on average, since 2013. This eclipses Darden and Dine Equity. In fact, Patrizia’s has grown at over 20 times that of the chain restaurant industry. That is a staggering number considering this has occurred by sheer profitability and reinvestment while at this juncture, they are still family-owned and operated. That may change soon, however.
Conclusion
After several attempts over the last year to interact with Patrizia’s via Social Media to support their business, we were unsuccessful in getting a response. Growing so fast understandably keeps management busy. We finally heard back after erroneous share posts were made on Italian Enclaves Social Media accounts (that were shared from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s sitting councilman) which addressed a rumor that Patrizia’s was moving to the old location (85th Street and 3rd Avenue) of former Bay Ridge culinary phenomenon, Areo. Unfortunately for the folks in Bay Ridge, Matthew Maschi of Patrizia’s informed us that although no Bay Ridge location was in the works, the restaurant was opening a location in Hauppauge, Long Island (now opened).

This communication opened the door for me to take the opportunity to tell Matt how impressive Patrizia’s is as a family-owned business. He further informed me that the family is considering franchising. He also informed me that the business’ strategy is to open locations in family-oriented communities. This leads me to believe that if this family can replicate what they have done so far, we are going to be seeing and hearing a lot more about Patrizia’s.
By: Raymond Guarini
Other Sources:
IBIS World Business reports
http://www.patrizias.com/location/brooklyn/#menus/

The Survival Of Italian American Businesses

Introduction
When most people want to donate something, they go to the Salvation Army because Salvation Army has spent years branding themselves as the place to go if you want to donate something. There are thousands of charities out there. Some are arguably more charitable than the Salvation Army. So why do we go to the Salvation Army? Because no one sees any advertising from the other charities. It’s that simple.

Since I created Italian Enclaves, I noticed that there are thousands of Italian American-owned businesses in the United States. Some of these businesses have been opened for over one-hundred years. If a business has lasted over one-hundred years in The United States, we should all know about it just by default, yet we do not. When a hot tech company goes public, we all know its name whether we watch the financial news channels or not. There is a cultural disconnect where our media celebrates new fly-by-night companies and yet no one at all knows about third or fourth-generation businesses that have weathered a century of storms in some obscure town. In the context of Italian neighborhoods, I try to bridge that huge gap by shedding light on countless Italian-owned businesses to hopefully keep them going.

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A storefront for rent in the Bronx Little Italy. Notice the name of the former proprietor over the entrance.

Despite the massive number of Italian businesses that exist, I wouldn’t have known about many of them unless I traveled to the neighborhoods in which they are located. I wouldn’t have heard about them on Facebook or Instagram, I wouldn’t have seen them pop up in an e-mail or banner ad on a website, and I certainly wouldn’t have heard about them on social media pages and Italian-themed publications. Why? The answer is at least three-pronged: adaptability, popularity contests, and mentality.

Adaptability
PR, or public relations, is the cornerstone of any company’s advertising. As we know, advertising has been something that has changed dramatically within the last several years with the onset of social media taking over the way businesses engage one another and consumers. Essentially, businesses must stay relevant when it comes to remaining in-touch with consumers. This means that businesses must advertise in a way that is lockstep with technology such as using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Influencer Marketing, etc. Naturally, mom-and-pop businesses must also adapt to capitalize on the major growth opportunity that exists digitally in order to remain relevant to younger consumers. This evolution is simply not happening for most Italian American businesses. The result is that these businesses are closing at a rapid pace.
Technological illiteracy is certainly another chief reason why most Italian American businesses are unknown. Most old Italian businesses are run by the same people who have been running them for decades or their children. These people are set in their ways and unfortunately, being in technologically unsophisticated businesses, there’s a false assumption that technology is irrelevant to their success when the exact opposite is true.

Mentality
Not only are many Italian American business owners mostly averse to technology, they are averse to anyone trying to help them just because many of the people who own multi-decades old businesses are from an era when publicity wasn’t always a good thing and staying under the radar was in everyone’s best interest. Well, we respect privacy and we certainly respect old-fashioned ideals, but what Italian Enclaves tries to do is shed light on these businesses so that although they are unwilling or incapable of using technology and social media, we can still help them by threading them into our newsfeeds.
You would be surprised at how many businesses are unwilling to let me photograph their establishments and promote their business. As a matter of fact, in one particularly interesting instance, I went into a business in Downtown Brooklyn to photograph and promote the business. The owner scowled at me right when I walked in the door. My limited Italian conversation wasn’t enough to disarm this gentleman and he proceeded to serve me dirty looks and held the niceties. I even explained the concept of Italian Enclaves and translated to him that I was there to be a paying customer who would also like to promote his business. Nothing. Not a thank you nor a curiosity as to how I would accomplish this. I might as well have been any other customer and that’s fine because I do not seek special treatment for what I do. It’s a zero-paying job that I conduct for a greater good so it’s all good.
Nevertheless, something funny happened. I never wound up posting about this business, but I did share my concern for the businesses’ lack of warmth on another social media thread. Low and behold, I received an inbox message from a concerned relative who was outraged by my lack of support for this business. I explained everything to this relative as to how the business owner could improve and I even offered to return on another day to try their product again and give them another chance to be positively featured on Italian Enclaves. Nothing ensued. I generously offered more of my time and an opportunity to shed a favorable light on this business because hey, everyone has a bad day now and then! If that family member is reading this, I am still here, and I am more than happy to give them another shot because that is only fair.
Popularity Contests
Without naming the multitude of Italian-themed social media accounts one-by-one, we’ll just refer to them in aggregate as “Italian Social Media (ISM).” ISM has many faces. There are cooking and chef accounts, there are “lifestyle” accounts, comedy accounts, etc. Some Italian-owned businesses have done a wonderful job of remaining relevant by connecting to other ISM accounts through influencer marketing and by offering online shipping. Naturally, as “influencers” see other influencers posting about their favorite bakery, everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. This somewhat viralness positively affects the one or two businesses grabbing the attention such as Villabate in Bensonhurst, for example, and winds up hurting the competition. The argument can of course be made that this is a function of competition and survival of the fittest and for the most part that’s true; however, if the vast majority of social media followers falsely assume (because of what they’re told) that one business is the best and only show in town, then this notion of only shopping at that one business feeds on itself which winds up with that one business accumulating more followers, more likes, more hashtags, and eventually most of the business.
Being in the financial industry for fifteen years means that I have unwillingly watched a lot of CNBC and Fox Business. One would assume by just watching these media outlets that there are only twenty-or-so stocks in the entire equity market and the entire world’s economy revolves around those companies. Anyone who tunes in will agree that the companies we consistently hear about are: Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Tesla, Home Depot, and some other marquee names. Meanwhile, there are over 60,000 publicly traded companies out there. The analogy that I am making is that Social Media, like any media source, can be very deceiving when it comes to the way in which Italian American businesses are represented and presented.
Unlike the two main financial networks, there are many sources for information in the media and on social media regarding Italian American-themed news. Despite this fact, a similar phenomenon that occurs on CNBC and Fox News with regards to stocks is occurring with regards to Italian American businesses; only a few are mentioned.
Herd Mentality
The same way Apple and Facebook are constantly discussed on CNBC and Fox News, the same Italian-owned businesses are discussed on social media and online publications over-and-over. This is a function of a few things including favors but chiefly, the herd mentality is to blame. The herd mentality dictates that if everyone else does something or goes somewhere, then it is expected for us to do that same thing or go to that same place too.
So, in the context of stocks, if everyone is buying or selling Apple, then you should too. Apple may or may not pay CNBC or Fox Business a lot of money to keep their stock in the news. There’s a lot of fine print in layers of disclaimers when it comes to stock news. Nevertheless, even if Apple didn’t incentivize the talking heads to discuss their company, they’re still discussed ad nauseum and this leads to a very predictable outcome which is that more people wind up buying and selling Apple stock more than other stocks. This inherently gives traders of Apple stock and market makers of Apple stock a clear financial boon. You get the picture. The same functions occur in Italian-themed media outlets when it comes to Italian-owned businesses. We only hear about the “biggest” and the “best” and then everyone wonders why the other businesses in their neighborhood wind up closing which cascades into residents leaving and eventually an exodus from the neighborhood occurs except those one or two businesses that remain to absorb the market share in their respective industry.
Here’s an example, and there are many others. Circo’s is a phenomenal Sicilian Bakery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Circo’s has been around for decades. Bushwick, along Knickerbocker Avenue, was a Sicilian enclave until the 1970’s. A series of convoluted events occurred which pressured the Italians in that community to leave. Granted, as a community dwindles, regardless of the reason, businesses close. What determines which businesses stay or go would generally be left to a simple Darwinian concept: survival of the fittest. Such is the case with Circo’s. Circo’s has a massive social media presence. They’re on Facebook and Instagram. They’re constantly being reviewed on food blogs and there are even tons of YouTube videos that acknowledge Circo’s. To boot, Circo’s adopted an e-commerce model to couple with their brick and mortar location.
Clearly, Circo’s survived the storm that claimed every other business in “Italian Bushwick.” One would be remiss if they didn’t ask about the other Italian businesses that once thrived in this neighborhood, especially the bakeries. Their failure was not directly brought forth by Circo’s success but rather, indirectly. Maybe other factors can be considered, such as whether Circo’s owns its building. This could give them an edge because by owning their property they’ll maintain a hedge against inflationary trends in the area’s rental market. Whatever the case may be, there’s one simple fact, which is that Circo’s has gotten with the times by remaining relevant and therefore, Circo’s continues to exist.

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Circo’s on Hart Street and Knickerbocker Avenue, the heart of the former Italian Enclave in Bushwick

To apply the Circo’s case study to another Italian enclave, we will compare Circo’s to Villabate in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Unquestionably, they are both amazing Sicilian bakeries. Both bakeries, although competitive in the e-commerce shipping market, are mutually exclusive from one another by virtue of being located so far apart and are not necessarily in direct competition because people who live in a certain radius of Circo’s won’t go all the way to Bensonhurst for pastries and vice-versa.
Villabate sits lonely amongst Chinese storefronts on eighteenth avenue. Eighteenth avenue is Bushwick twenty years ago. Italians are leaving. Other ethnicities are moving in. Businesses are consolidating and closing their doors or relocating. Villabate, for each bakery that closes, gains more strength.

 

 

 


A huge part of Villabate’s success is its quality. However, there are tons of other bakeries in Bensonhurst that all have amazing pastry. For example, Cristoforo Colombo bakery, was a block away but could not survive. Why? There are always more than one factor, but in this case, the culprit we mentioned before rears its ugly head again, the herd mentality. That favorite social media influencer goes to XYZ all the time and so should you. Hence, when people discuss where they’re getting their holiday pastry online or in person, it becomes almost a status symbol to keep up with the other Italians who have the herd mentality. This results in long lines at Villabate and shorter lines, and eventually no lines, elsewhere.

 
Conclusion
In order to preserve our Italian neighborhoods, we must preserve the businesses that are the character of those neighborhoods. To accomplish this, we must patronize these businesses and promote them on social media even if they do not have social media accounts. Many do not, unfortunately. However, we can geotag these places and create hashtags for them. Of course, it would not hurt at all to encourage these businesses to go online somehow and create a web presence. In addition, if you would like to help, please use the #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses hashtag by inserting it along with photos and other posts that depict an Italian-owned business of any type.
Although we can never stop the hands of time and we certainly can not stop survival of the fittest from taking hold, there are ways we can prolong the existence of businesses that are so much a part of our families. Support these businesses. Support them on social media. Recommend them. Tag them. It is the only way we wind up with a level playing field and it is also the way we can preserve our Italian Enclaves in their totality.

By: Raymond Guarini

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