Nino DiGiovanni’s East Harlem pizza shop is struggling to survive, and it could close if his business doesn’t receive a boost.
DiGiovanni, 51, opened La Corsa Pizzeria & Ristorante on E. 110th St. near Park Ave. two years ago, but it hasn’t been easy.
Last summer, DiGiovanni applied for a $50,000 small business loan from a bank to make improvements to his cozy Italian restaurant.
“I have a lot ideas, but not the money,” he said, listing plans to renovate the shop, do more advertising, and create a new menu.
But those plans have been put on hold because DiGiovanni was denied the loan. He insists he has good credit and says the bank wanted him to have more money in order to get a loan.
“If I had more money, I wouldn’t need a loan,” he said. “Financially, it’s a struggle.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wants to help small business owners like DiGiovanni – and Thursday night he proposed a fund to aid local merchants in his State of the Borough address.
“Small businesses are the heart and soul of our neighborhoods. They enrich our lives and add character to our streets,” Stringer said, also mentioning DiGiovanni and his shop.
“Banks have rolled down the teller windows on small businesses. It’s become impossible to get a loan.”
Stringer proposed establishing an alternative lending source called the New York City Small Business Growth and Retention Fund.
Modeled after a similar program in Philadelphia, the city would initially fund the program with $20 million. The
money could be used to leverage five times that amount from the private sector, he said, adding
the city’s Department of Small Business Services could market the fund and package the loans.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg was dismissive of Stringer’s idea, saying in a statement, “The City has dozens and dozens of programs to help the small businesses that make up the core of our economy, and no one has been more committed to helping entrepreneurs create jobs in New York City than Mayor Bloomberg.”
DiGiovanni, who commutes from Long Island with his wife, Nina, and son, Anthony, to run the business, said it’s hard to keep going, but he’s determined to stay open.
“I put everything I have into this,” he said, adding he even imported a $30,000 oven from Italy. “I put my life savings in here. I didn’t hold anything back. I did everything top notch.”
As for Stringer’s proposal, he welcomes the assistance.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “We need it in these times…It will keep us here, keep us in the community. I know it would help us.”
Customers are also rooting for DiGiovanni’s restaurant – known for its popular shrimp pizza – to survive.
“It’s one of the only really nice Italian restaurants uptown,” said Dan Ciccarelli, 27, who works in the area. “I’d be really upset if they had to close.”
Carmen Velez, 55, comes to the restaurant two to three times a week.
“There aren’t many places you can sit down and eat [in this neighborhood\],” she said. “More should be done to help small businesses.”