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The Brass Owl storefront
Small Business

The Brass Owl: Rallying the local business community

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Many people are surprised to learn most retailers are small businesses. In fact, more than 98 percent of all retail companies employ fewer than 50 people. Small business owner Nicole Panettieri is more than a retailer. She’s also a strong advocate for the retail industry. Panettieri, whose boutique in the Astoria, Queens neighborhood in New York City opened four years ago was celebrated at NRF’s Retail Advocates Summit 2018 as a finalist in the America’s Retail Champions program. She joined the co-hosts of Retail Gets Real to talk about her store, The Brass Owl, and how she’s using the business to advocate for her community.

Nicole Panettieri recording NRF podcast

Nicole Panettieri (center) with co-hosts David French (left) and Bill Thorne (right).

Stories like Panettieri’s show how retailers are making a difference in their own communities. Panettieri’s grandfather, a retailer himself, told her, “We're not just a business in the community, we're part of a community.” Panettieri lives that every day. “When I opened my store, I lived in the community that I owned the store in,” she says. “It was important for me to give back and not just take everyone’s money.”

Inspired by movements like Shop Small and Small Business Saturday, Panettieri started Shop Small Astoria to rally other small business owners in her community. “We've all grouped together. We do events together,” she says. "We are each other's network." As MSNBC's JJ Ramberg mentions in a previous Retail Gets Real episode, one thing successful buinsess owners have in common is a local business champion, and for Astoria, Queens, it's Panettieri.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about community retailing, the important role advocacy plays in retail and Panettieri’s best piece of advice for aspiring business owners. 

Mentioned in this episode:


Kristina Stewart is a co-host on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.

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