Our Businesses Are Essential will be an ongoing series that focuses on how local businesses have been navigating these unprecedented times. The first installment of this series spotlights two businesses: longstanding community business Capri Jet Realty and newer business, Loconsolo Paints, whose Williamsburg location opened in July 2018.
Capri Jet Realty
More than thirty years ago Capri Jet Realty was established by industry veteran Robert Napolitano, whose knowledge of the community is derived from three generations of family roots in Williamsburg. Capri Jet Realty was in the vanguard of businesses that established themselves before North Brooklyn’s popularity boom with the distinction that their ability to adapt to the growing community of newcomers has continued their success. It was a shock when the COVID-19 shutdown struck and Capri Jet Realty needed to close their office temporarily as many others did in the effort to save lives by flattening the COVID curve. The dedicated staff assisted by management staff, Jessie Lookfong and Ally Asanbaeva, swiftly adapted to working from home measures and technology to maintain operations during quarantine. They conducted daily meetings via Zoom, and Capri Jet Realty had remote closings every week throughout the shutdown. “We couldn’t leave our houses or see our families for due to COVID-19. There are millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, and it is crazy to think that my team has continued to thrive. I’ve had to hire more people to keep things going,” said Napolitano.
Before Capri Jet Realty could reopen as part of NYC Phase 2, they had to navigate guidelines that prohibited real estate agents from performing at least 50% of their usual duties. In order to prevent a permanent detrimental effect on the boutique agency’s future, Napolitano said, “We’ve had to change the way we do business in every aspect. Real estate ceased to be a face to face business, and the only way we could survive was to adapt.” Such adaptions included 3D virtual tours and creating separate websites for each property. As they couldn’t meet potential buyers and tenants in person, agents performed virtual open houses on vacant properties. They utilized Zoom as a way to tour properties and meet with the owners. Social media was used to generate leads and as a venue for video content. One Capri Jet Realty broker created his own news channel on Instagram that tracked the real estate market during the pandemic.
Once Phase 2 gave Capri Jet Realty the green light to reopen their office on June 22nd, the agency took care to protect their staff, clients, and visitors by a strict adherence to safety protocols. The office was manned by 25% of their usual staff to maintain social distancing. Masks are worn by staff, and those who visit are asked to wear a mask on entering. At this point in-person showings and in-person open houses were allowed, however to ensure everyone’s safety they were accessed one person at a time by appointment only. Those at the showings/open houses needed to sign a COVID-19 disclosure and their contact information was collected before they were allowed entrance to the property. After the viewers leave, the agent wipes down all handled surfaces of the property with disinfectant wipes. As of today, the agents are still wearing masks and staying six feet apart when showing properties or hosting open houses. They are also using technology when at all possible to limit exposure. More lease signings and closings are being done electronically; virtual and in-person showings are being offered. Some agents are using Zoom or Facetime on a daily basis. Mr. Napolitano believes that it is better having more options and services to offer his clients to keep them happy and safe. Capri Jet Realty attributes their success amidst the pandemic to their adaptability, diligent work ethic, and dedication to their clients.
Capri Jet Realty is located at 533 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Ph. (347) 450-3577
Loconsolo Paints could be considered a relatively new neighbor on Graham Avenue as they opened their store two years ago this past July. However, when you look deeper you discover Loconsolo Paints has a long history: it’s a 4th generation family business, which originated with a store on Coney Island. When the March COVID-19 shutdown hit they remained open as they were designated an essential business. They did reduce staff hours to safeguard the health of their staff who all remained healthy during this time. Until June 1st no customers were allowed in the store, they fulfilled orders via curbside pickup or delivery.
“I know so many people are struggling and empathize with the hardship many other fields are going through during this time. I do believe that we are blessed to be in such a durable industry. Our industry is a strong one and will weather [this crisis] well.”Jonathan Chiaro, Executive Vice President of Loconsolo Paints
Picking out paint colors is more of an in-person task and difficult to do virtually — paint colors viewed on a screen differ from the actual paint color. Loconsolo encouraged customers to call to get paint chips and during this time Loconsolo cut the price of paint color fan decks in half, which put them below cost. Customers depended upon the staff’s expertise in guiding them through their choices, and the end results showed that their faith was justified. When June brought customers inside the store again, there was a strict adherence to safety protocols. To this day safety protocols are in effect, all staff wear masks. Masks are required for customers too, and near the entrance is hand sanitizer which customers are asked to use before they begin to browse.
As to COVID-19’s effect on business, Jonathan Chiaro, Exec. Vice President of Loconsolo Paints and a 4th generation family member of those who founded the business, sensed in the early days of lockdown the decorating industry could strengthen. However he’s not celebrating this benefit, “I know so many people are struggling and empathize with the hardship many other fields are going through during this time. I do believe that we are blessed to be in such a durable industry. Our industry is a strong one and will weather [this crisis] well.” Sure enough, there has been a DIY boom that has yet to run out of steam. Chiaro says that business has consistently increased. He also gives credit to his staff, “Our staff has been dedicated and resilient throughout this pandemic regardless of the challenges we have faced. From quarantine to looting incidents our people have remained calm and focused on delivering reliability and convenience to all of our clients.”
Loconsolo Paints is also an active supporter of their communities. They donated 3,000 masks to NYU Hospitals and NYC Health + Hospitals. “We were fortunate to get one of the last deliveries of masks from 3M at the end of February,” said Chiaro. Loconsolo has also donated paint for local community mural memorials like one for Pablo Ramirez at the Brooklyn Skate Garden and the one to Nipsey Hussle on Frost Street.
“We look forward to resuming demo events, classes and more in person opportunities to connect with our clients,” said Chiaro. At present they are prioritizing safety first. Chiaro offers, “We are always available in store, on the phone, or through email to answer any project related questions and advise on the best solutions. We want our clients to know that we will remain open and available to assist them with all of their needs both professionally and personally.”
Loconsolo Paints is located at 371 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Ph. (718) 384-6595