Ninety-nine percent of the businesses in New York are small ones. There is no shortage of entrepreneurs here, which is something to be grateful for. And niche is on the rise, particularly near where I live in Brooklyn, enough so that it has become a parody of itself. We have everything from specialty mayo to artisanal popsicles.
When I heard that a new hot-sauce shop called Heatonist would be opening in my neighbourhood, I was immediately sceptical. The odds for new businesses are tough and not being a hot-sauce savant myself, I was unsure of its longevity.
During the past six years the number of start-ups versus the number of business closures in the US has been declining. The number of new businesses compared to closures at the beginning of the year was negative 70,000. Compare that to 2008, those numbers were reversed: business startups outpaced failures by about 100,000.
There is plenty of literature to be found with rules on how to create a successful business: such as carefully managing your bookkeeping, understanding that a young business is hard work and being painfully tenacious. All of these things have merit. But as a potential customer, that’s not what inspires me to become a patron.
This week I was finally able to visit my neighbourhood’s new hot-sauce shop. Despite initial hesitation, it won’t be my last visit. While niche businesses can air on the side of pretention, this shop was immediately welcoming, even to a novice. Custom wood shelving neatly displays bottles of hot sauce from Houston, Portland and Maui, as well as brands from the neighbourhood. A friendly face sits behind a counter offering tastings of any of the nearly 100 products in stock. And behind closed doors, owner Noah Chaimberg is setting up a kitchen, dining room and back garden to host dinners and events.
What’s striking about the fresh business to me is not balanced books, it’s the atmosphere. This is a place that is inviting customers to linger and to return. From appearance to product, everything is well thought out and Chaimberg is very involved in each bit of the operation, from personally answering emails to even moving in upstairs. Though a quirky speciality shop could raise a cynic’s eyebrows, customers are attracted to authenticity and passion; and that will always spice things up.
Megan Billings is Monocle’s researcher/writer based in New York.