By Nicole Robles
On Wednesday, May 20, North Brooklyn’s most successful, influential, and contemporary individuals gathered together under the big top to celebrate Evergreen’s annual awards ceremony.
The carnival themed event created a laid-back, fun-loving ambiance where business professionals and community activists were able to kick back and enjoy themselves with colleagues and friends. Although the attire was business professional the mood was relaxed and cheerful. Evergreen: Your North Brooklyn Business Exchange, previously known as EWVIDCO, held their annual awards ceremony at The Well in East Williamsburg.
Since 1982, EWVIDCO has served industrial businesses in the North Brooklyn area through financing, locating real estate, and connecting businesses with elected officials and government agencies. In December 2014, the organization’s name from the East Williamsburg Valley Industrial Development Corporation (EWVIDCO) to Evergreen: Your North Brooklyn Business Exchange.
“We don’t just serve businesses in East Williamsburg anymore,” said Leah Archibald, Executive Director of Evergreen, “Our acronym EWVIDCO was both difficult to pronounce and non-descriptive.”
The organization’s new name was inspired by the telephone exchange name “EV” once used in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, and Bushwick. “We liked the subtle reference to North Brooklyn without spelling out every single pocket of the community,” said Archibald. Archibald and the Evergreen board believe the new name describes the organization’s “enduring and continued relevance to the local industrial neighborhoods.” Archibald assured members that whatever the name may be, Evergreen will remain committed to serving the businesses of industrial North Brooklyn.
Evergreen continues to welcome change and innovation in its organization as this year’s event was held at a new location. After years of hosting the event at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Evergreen moved the event to The Well at 272 Meserole Street. This hip underground bar is located in East Williamsburg in an industrial building which was once a brewery.
This year’s ceremony was inspired by a Coney Island theme. Guests enjoyed boardwalk-style games and food as well as a captivating performance by the Coney Island Circus Sideshow Act. The guests, in business attire, were able to kick back and enjoy the casual vibe of The Well as they mingled with friends and colleagues and helped themselves to a delicious barbecue-style buffet (pulled pork sliders, sweet potato fries, chicken wings, and grilled watermelon) catered by local Brooklyn business, Urban Rustic.
Guests were able to purchase raffle tickets for an array of prizes all donated by businesses in the North Brooklyn community. The money from the purchase of the tickets supports the nonprofit organization. Prizes included cooking classes, tickets to baseball games, and a night out in Williamsburg. At the back of the venue, which boasted a lovely open-air beer garden, guests were greeted by ‘Serpentina’ of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow Act and her six-foot-long yellow albino python Pee-Wee. Those who were brave enough pet Pee-Wee and took pictures with the duo. Adam Realman, also of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow Act, entertained guests with his super strength as he demonstrated bending nails and ripping through decks of cards.
The performers also took the stage where they put on a brief sideshow act. The Coney Island theme came to life when guests gathered under the tent to watch the freak show. Serpentina mesmerized the crowd with her hypnosis wheel and made toes curl when she exhibited her talent of smashing glass with her bare feet. Realman demonstrated his talent of sword swallowing for the audience as he plunged a 27 inch sword down his throat.
Handsome Dan’s Snocone and Candy Stand provided the guests with carnival treats such as cotton candy and snow cones in a variety of flavors. There were classic boardwalk-style games such as the ring toss, bowling, and Tip-A-Troll and some even went home with prizes. Men and women in suits and dresses were seen with stuffed animals and smiles.
Evergreen’s Executive Director Leah Archibald was vibrant and light-hearted as she thanked the sponsors and attendees as well as the Senators and Councilmen present all while cracking a few jokes to the audience. Tod Greenfield, Evergreen’s Board Chair, was welcomed to the stage where he thanked Archibald for all her hard work organizing the event and proceeded to present the awards to the honorees.
The first award of the night went to two small businesses, The Jam Stand and Salty Road, for Emerging Business of the Year. Best friends Quon and Valle, founders of The Jam Stand, put meticulous detail and thought into every element of their business to keep their customers smiling. Evergreen was able to help The Jam Stand secure two rounds of financing enabling them to purchase inventory and improve cash flow.
Marissa Wu, founder of Salty Road, was inspired to make outstanding quality, locally-produced salt water taffy using all natural ingredients. Salty Road began as a one-person operation but has expanded quickly since 2011. Evergreen, as well as a Kickstarter campaign, helped Wu obtain the financing she needed in order to purchase the machines necessary to produce the taffy.
The next award was presented to Marvin Siegal, owner of Tri-Mar/Soho Art Materials, for Expanding Business of the year. Siegal contacted Evergreen for help with the expansion of his business which manufactures custom made stretcher bars for professional artists. Evergreen contacted the city to get answers to Siegal’s questions about zoning and his expansion plan; in addition they helped Siegal complete his second floor expansion, grow his business, and create jobs in the community. Siegal was grateful and humble when accepting his award, thanking Karen Nieves, Evergreen’s Manager of Business Expansion and Retention, and Leah Archibald for being “outrageously helpful.”
The final award, Business of the Year, was presented to Lucky Lee, Vice President and COO of Lucky’s Real Tomatoes. Tony Marcelli and the Marcelli family founded the business in 1979 with the idea of bringing fresh, seasonal tomatoes to New York City. Today, Lucky’s Real Tomatoes supplies flavorful tomatoes to hundreds of restaurants in New York City and across the country. Lucky’s suffered extensive damages to their business after Super Storm Sandy but with the help of Evergreen, Lucky’s was able to secure a loan from NYBDC to replace electronics lost in the storm as well as an SBA loan used to fund the construction needed to refurbish their facility.
Lee accepted the award with her team by her side as she thanked the Evergreen board for all their support, hard work, and commitment to the community. Lee gave a special thanks to Archibald, referring to her as “a tremendous leader” and recognizing her passion and leadership as an inspiration to Evergreen board members. Lee offered congratulations to her fellow honorees and with a wink said, “Listen you youngsters, we were in Brooklyn before Brooklyn was cool!”
The annual event was an enormous success for Evergreen and an entertaining night out for the attendees. The revenue produced during the fundraiser allows Evergreen to help small business in North Brooklyn. In 2014, Evergreen served more than 324 individual businesses by obtaining $3,477,200 in financing, managing 22,200 square feet of industrial real estate, and helping 25 business navigate government agencies with an extremely high success rate. Evergreen will continue to provide unwavering support and dedication to the businesses of North Brooklyn.