As Hell’s Kitchen acknowledged National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day — the March 29 holiday celebrating the small-business proprietors who provide almost 70 percent of all new jobs across the country — the rich landscape of LGBTQIA+ business owners suggests that it may be time to expand the narrow definition of “Mom and Pop”.
Originally organized as a tribute to entrepreneurs Rick and Margie Segel, two proprietors who built a small hat shop outside of Boston into a 10,000 square-foot clothing empire, the holiday celebrates the long hours and hard work of small-business owners throughout the country, many of whom have weathered significant financial challenges over the course of the pandemic. Several local business owners posted in commemoration of the day, noting that while they are very proud to be business owners, the term “Mom and Pop” doesn’t necessarily apply to them.
Matt Fox and Enrique Crame III of beloved Fine and Dandy (445 W49th St bw 9/10th Ave), who launched the newest wing of their vintage and bespoke clothing business Fine and Dandy Throwback late last year, highlighted the special community of queer store owners throughout the neighborhood. Said Fox, “Hell’s Kitchen certainly has a high representation of gay people, so not surprisingly, there are a lot of gay businesses in the neighborhood. We know the Domus ladies well, and we always try to be there for each other. There is this really great community of small business owners that really support each other.”
Of the term “Mom and Pop business”, Fox added, “In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal, but we should probably be a little more inclusive in the world that we live in.”
Michael Quinn and John Soroka, co-owners of Delphinium Home (353 W47th St bw 8/9th Avenue) — a W42ST reader favorite and celebrating its 25th year in the neighborhood — agree that the Hell’s Kitchen small-business community greatly enriches the neighborhood. “God knows we’ve all been through the mill these past two years, but having a firm foothold in the HK neighborhood after 25 years has certainly served us well, even in the most challenging of times. We’re gay-owned, operated and have helped elevate everyone’s experience who comes in by providing a fun, colorful and gay presence in the neighborhood,” said Quinn.
Speaking of the welcoming neighborhood vibe that has influenced their store concept, Quinn said: “It’s kinda like ‘Queer Eye Retail’ where our sense of style, humor and innuendo all merge together for everyone gay or straight to enjoy. It’s an outward expression of our gay selves here at Delphinium Home! We’re all unique and the store is our way of expressing the best and colorful sides of ourselves — even if we cross the line for most retailers these days. We’re from Hell’s Kitchen and proud of it!”
Luisa Cerutti and Nicki Lindheimer of longtime neighborhood pick for unaffected living home decor, Domus (413 W44th St bw 9/10th Ave) also celebrated the holiday with a lighthearted note that we can “Cross-off the ‘pop’ in our case and stretch the ‘mom’ to mean our two kitties, and here we are: almost 20 years in Hell’s Kitchen!”
Said Cerutti: “In the village-atmosphere enclave of Hell’s Kitchen, where small stores are still dotting the quaint streets, it is a fitting representation of the diversity of the population that three of the most popular stores are LGBTQ owned. We (Luisa and Nicki) have owned Domus for almost 20 years and have been welcomed from the very start. We hope we have created a space where everyone feels welcome, and have established a connection with our customers. Our store is a way of life for us and is like our living room, where people interact with us and with each other. That’s why many of our customers have become our chosen family! This does not happen in a chain store.”
The tight-knit support of neighbors helped Domus through the pandemic, Cerutti added: “There have been serious financially difficult times in 2008 and, of course — the most difficult of all in 2020-2021. We are still open because the whole community rallied to keep our doors open, buying gift certificates for later use and ordering from our website. We have never felt treated differently than if we were a Mom and Pop store in the true sense and that’s a testament to this wonderful city and to the artistic community that lives in Hell’s Kitchen.”
Local leaders agree. State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “Hell’s Kitchen is a haven for the LGBTQ community in large part thanks to our queer-owned businesses. As we celebrate small businesses today, let’s be sure to also support the Mom and Mom and Pop and Pop businesses that make our community so special.”
Added City Council Member Erik Bottcher: “I’m incredibly proud to serve a district with a long history of LGBTQ+ representation that is home to an incredible number of queer-businesses. So many of these businesses are more than just storefronts — they are places to build community. I also have to add that Mom and Mom or Pop and Pop businesses is just so much fun to say.”