Business Partners Spotlight

Vito and Caterina Pizza

Vito of Caterina Pizza in Cypress Hills

In 1977, Vito first opened his pizza shop on the corner of Shepherd and Fulton St. He moved down to the corner of Essex and Fulton Street in 1979, where he is still located today. Over the past forty years, he has perfected his craft serving thousands of pizzas and supporting the community along the way. While sitting back in one of the booths in the dining room of Caterina Pizza, Vito expressed a great love for his customers:

“After a while, they are not customers– they are family.”

He has watched as the community has changed and grown over the years, and he believes that the best future for Cypress Hills is rooted in respect and communication – characteristics that the Cypress Hills Business Partners value and promote. Vito voiced appreciation for his community owing his happiness to the people who have loyally eaten his food over the years. He believes businesses in the community must be involved, not only with each other, but also with residents.

“More people need to get together to communicate. When we’re together, we’re much stronger.”

For the past twenty years, Vito has operated a student of the month program with a local school offering two students from each class a free meal. Vito values his connection with the young people in the community who will be the next leaders of Cypress Hills.

Vito has been an active member of the Business Partners for two years, always attending meetings and sharing his input. Regarding the importance of the Business Partners to Cypress Hills, Vito expressed his thoughts on the relationship between business and community:

“The Business Partners has created a platform for business to unite, which not only makes our businesses better but also the community. The Business Partners has worked hard to bring cleanliness and safety not only to my business, but again, to the community.”

 

Caterina Pizza at 3035 Fulton Street in Cypress Hills

Caterina Pizza, located at 3035 Fulton Street, offers pizza and a variety of other Italian dishes.

Felix Bello/Bello Travel

Felix Bello of Bello Travel Service in Cypress Hills

“In my 29 years here, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation is the only organization I have seen that represents the interests of small businesses on a daily basis,” said Felix Bello, owner of Bello Travel Service and one of the first business owners to join the Cypress Hills Business Partners program. Along with a number of other small businesses owners in Cypress Hills, Felix was recently honored at our biannual dinner celebration, at which we celebrated the success of our Business Partners program. Over 80 small businesses participated in this informative and festive occasion and the night was marked with lots of energy and excitement about the work that the program has accomplished in allowing small businesses in the area to flourish. As of right now, 35 businesses have already committed to hiring locally through the Business Partners program.

Cypress Hills Business Partners seeks community-friendly businesses who can partner with us to strengthen the local economy and expand workplace opportunities in Cypress Hills/East New York through local hiring. Local hiring is important both for strengthening small businesses in Cypress Hills as well as providing employment opportunities to neighborhood residents. Ultimately, this commitment will strengthen our local economy and make our neighborhood a place where people can flourish. CHLDC is especially committed to helping local small businesses thrive and withstand displacement pressures in light of the rezoning.

In his 29 years of working at the same location in Cypress Hills, Felix Bello has come to learn firsthand about the importance of partnering with the community. “It’s fundamentally important to understand how your business can help the community,” said Felix, who has watched Cypress Hills change drastically over his time as a business owner. “Although there is obviously an economic motive—because in the end we are a for-profit institution—if you are not motivated by this sense of service for the community you just can’t maintain your business.”

Bello Travel Service at 2986 Fulton Street in Cypress Hills

While Felix’s many successes are clearly the result of his tireless effort and unrelenting passion, he is also incredibly grateful for the presence of Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in his life. “[CHLDC] is what links business owners and the community to elected officials and the city,” he explained. “Because for some—and especially for Latino business owners—we are sometimes afraid of navigating these institutions. So CHLDC is like a light.” Felix also reflected more directly on the role that CHLDC has played in his success as a long-time business owner: “I remember once in the middle of this terrible snowstorm, someone from CHLDC had the confidence to come and sit down with me, to clarify a few concepts, look at a few things, give some advice—and with humility. For me, that’s incredible. I feel so supported. So supported.”

If you want to learn more about joining Business Partners of Cypress Hills, contact Raquel Olivares at raquelo@cypresshills.org or (718) 676-1544, Ext. 111.

 

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