In Lawrence, business starts to bloom

Creating an association, filling vacant village storefronts

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The Cedarhurst Business Improvement District and the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association work to attract and support local businesses in their respective communities. In the next few months, the Village of Lawrence hopes to join the club by starting the Lawrence Business Association.

“It’s important for us to see if the village could be of any assistance,” said Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman. “We’re looking for a group that’s for the people and by the people. We have some businesses that have been here for years — they can help the newer people.”

Village Administrator Ron Goldman said that several new businesses are expected to open in Lawrence soon, and Edelman added that they would like to get the association up and running by the end of the business year’s first quarter. “It gives them a place to come together and discuss plans or any issues,” he said. “Right now they’re all working individually.”

Natalie Menasherov opened her second Ah-Sah-EE Café, at 349 Central Ave. in Lawrence, last month. The shop’s name is its main dish, açaí bowl, spelled phonetically. Acai bowl is a Brazilian dish made from the fruit of the açaí palm, which is frozen, mashed, topped with granola and banana and mixed with other fruits.

Menasherov opened the first Ah-Sah-EE Café in Long Beach a year and a half ago, after visiting family in California and having her first açaí bowl experience. “I had never seen anything like them in Nassau County,” she said. “I wanted to bring them to Long Island, so I thought, where is it the most like California?”

Menasherov, a Cedarhurst native, moved to Bellmore two years ago. After opening the café in Long Beach, she said, she heard from many people in the Five Towns who said they were hoping for a location more accessible to them, and she began looking into opening the Lawrence store.

She said she hoped the new location could “become a staple of the town,” but she noted that the process of opening a store was more arduous in Lawrence than in Long Beach. Goldman said he believed that an association acting as a conduit between business owners and the village would be beneficial. “Our building department aims to be as cooperative as possible,” he said, “to make sure our new businesses are opened judiciously and safely, but expeditiously as well.”

East of Lawrence is the Cedarhurst business district. Stores and restaurants line Central Avenue, but also stretch out along Cedarhurst Avenue and many of the village’s side streets.

Steven Schneider, president of the Cedarhurst BID, said he believed that a thriving business community in Lawrence could benefit both villages. “If Lawrence was stronger,” he said, “then we’d be helping each other. More retail traffic would be beneficial to both areas.”

Edelman said that the Lawrence association would have a minimal admittance fee (not yet determined), but Schneider said he would advise the village to look into creating its own business improvement district. While a business association relies on collecting dues, a business district allows the village to collect money based on an assessment of local businesses. Schneider recalled that the now-defunct Cedarhurst Business Association regularly had financial difficulties because of the challenge of collecting dues.

Edelman said that the fees a Lawrence association would charge would help ensure that local companies are invested in the organization. He described Lawrence as an attractive location for interested businesses. “We have a beautiful business district,” he said. “There are a tremendous amount of consumers, many of whom are pretty well-to-do and have a lot of spending money.”

Edelman estimated that there were roughly 15 vacant storefronts in the village in August, and noted that economic changes do not happen immediately. He urged residents to shop locally. “It enhances the community for everyone,” he said. “I don’t want to see empty stores in our village . . . [filling them] is good for consumers, it’s good for the business owners and the village. It’s good for everyone.”

Have an opinion about business in the Five Towns or Lawrence establishing the Lawrence Business Association? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.