Community Food and Juice

Building a Better Community with Small Local Businesses

Stroll around Morningside Heights and you’ll find thriving parks, breathtaking views, world-renowned academic institutions, stunning houses of worship, and much more. But perhaps the most important amenity that makes our community unique is its lively retail corridor, featuring small local businesses that reflect the character of the people who live and work here.

Columbia has a long-term strategy of favoring small local businesses (this typically means no national chains and a preference for small, NYC-based businesses) to create an enduring, vibrant urban layer within its real estate portfolio. The team behind this strategy, University Facilities and Operations’ Real Estate department, understands the significance of offering a variety of quality retail options to meet the needs of the University and surrounding community, as well as to attract and keep the best students, faculty, and staff.

“We benefit from, and are fortunate to serve, a diverse community of all different ages, backgrounds and nationalities,” notes Vice President of Real Estate Shari Colburn. “Our goal is to preserve the character of the neighborhood while working with the community to offer services that they want and need.”

The University recognizes that the best types of businesses to meet these needs are small local business. In an increasingly homogenized world, one-of-a-kind businesses play an integral part of a neighborhood’s distinctive character and identity. Small business owners tend to invest more in the community, are especially cognizant of how their decisions impact neighbors, and often take more time to get to know the needs of their customers, resulting in a broader range of product choices.

For example, University Hardware and Housewares on Broadway and 113th Street has served the University community for over 77 years, becoming a trusted source for home goods, kitchenware, storage and organizational products, bedroom and bathroom accessories, hardware, lighting, and travel products, dorm room essentials, and much more. The store, owned by Bob Fendell, started as Columbia Hardware in 1938, expanded to a second location under the University Housewares name in 2004 and launched a Web site service in 2012. Its fiercely loyal customer base appreciates the friendly and personal service, vast selections, and product demonstrations. Morningside Heights “is almost like the United Nations,” says Fendell. “People from different areas, countries and ethnic groups, all getting along.”

Another prime example of the University working with small businesses owners to create a thriving local retail scene is eclectic-American restaurant and juice bar Community Food and Juice. Owners DeDe Lahman and Chef Neil Kleinberg, who also own world-renowned Clinton Street Baking Company on the Lower East Side, leased space from Columbia to open Community in late 2007 at Broadway and 112th Street. Lahman and Kleinberg consider Community “first and foremost a neighborhood restaurant”, with a bar for drinking and eating, community wine nights, classic table seating mixed with larger communal tables, and outdoor patio seating weather permitting. Since its opening, the eco-friendly restaurant, which features seasonal, health-focused, local ingredients, has become one of the most talked about restaurants in the neighborhood and an extremely popular weekend brunch spot. Julia Moskin of the New York Times called it “the most welcoming restaurant to appear on the Upper West Side in years,” and “a near-ideal neighborhood restaurant.”

There are many other recent examples of the small local businesses in University-leased space that make our neighborhood great. Enjoy delicious, sustainable cuisine at farm-to-table restaurants Dig Inn and Friedman’s. Get your caffeine fix at top New York City-based coffee house Joe. Curl up with a good book at independent community book shop Book Culture. Check out the unique eats and hand crafted brews at beer inspired restaurants Arts and Crafts and Bernheim and Schwartz, whose name and design pay tribute to the former Bernheimer & Schwartz brewery at 128th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

The University will look to continue its successful small local business strategy to improve both campus and community life in throughout its Upper Manhattan real estate portfolio, including in Manhattanville, where Columbia is building a new campus.

“It’s about creating an environment where the school and the community not only coexist, but also benefit from one another,” says Colburn. “It’s about growing together.”