Retailers look to odd combinations to stay open - KMSP-TV

Is it a video store or a bar?

Retailers look to odd combinations to stay open

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

The drinks upstairs sustain the 30,000 DVDs in the basement at Wendy Chamberlain's Videology in Williamsburg.

"We started to see that maybe we weren't going to last forever," Chamberlain said of her store, which used to offer only videos for rent.

The rare candies at Ame Ame (the new location of which we promised not to disclose) fit naturally with the store's expensive rain gear, if you ask owner Teresa Soroka.

"What's better on a gloomy day than going to the movies and having a good bag of candy?" Soroka asked.

And a Park Slope frame shop named Healthy Nibbles makes about as much sense as you'd imagine.

"At first they're like: 'Huh? How did it come about?'" Healthy Nibbles owner, Mary Gueye, said of her customers' reaction to the store's duality.

Finally, we met Jerry Ragusa of Williamsburg's Grande Monuments. His family's sold tombstones in the neighborhood for 68 years. In 2008, Ragusa added his cousin's homemade bread to his store's marble and granite because seemingly every Italian bakery nearby had moved elsewhere.

"Well, it's death," Ragusa said pointing to the tombstones, "and life," he said, gesturing to the homemade loaves. "We've got the bread right next to the Blessed Mother, so it's Jesus and his mother. You can't get better than that."

Economists would likely label these intersections of diversification and specialization as either pure madness or pure genius.

"The candy I bring together is for connoisseurs," Soroka said. Ame Ame ("Ame" means both "rain" and "candy" in Japanese) represents a dream fulfilled for Soroka.

The bar at Videology? A dream Chamberlain refuses to let go.

"I finally feel like maybe we know what we're doing," she said.

Barely a year ago, Chamberlain's video-rental store fought back against Netflix and the Internet by offering its patrons a second commodity: booze. Now, new customers drink into the morning's early hours, while old ones continue living in a simpler time.

Gueye likes to eat healthy, so in 2001 she added a cafe to her framing store and -- along with bunches of new customers --started eating lunch closer to the office."

"Well, the neighborhood needed it," she said. "And I needed to eat healthier too."

That relationship with the community they serve and a total lack of any corporate oversight allows the bravest moms and pops to act on wandering eyes, split personalities and dueling interests---adapting, creating or evolving to keep a range of different customers happy.

"The new people that are coming into the area -- they call themselves hipsters -- they happen to be very very nice people," Ragusa said.

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