DUMBO, Brooklyn — A bright red mailbox sits next to the Christmas tree in the middle of Pearl Street Triangle. Children walk up to it and slide letters into the mailbox. Those letters, addressed to Santa Claus.
“We were able to work it out with the North Pole to get a special Santa mailbox in the heart of DUMBO,” said Alexandria Sica, president of DUMBO’s Business Improvement District (BID). “I think Santa really loves the idea of helping small businesses.”
Santa has sent his elves to work with the local BID for the most unique of partnerships. If Santa sees something on a child’s wish list that can be purchased locally, BID will give that child 100 “DUMBO dollars” they can spend at some of these neighborhood shops.
“Technically you’re still in the city, but it feels just like a small town community almost, that’s what I really love about being here,” said resident Vibhuti Amirfar. “One of the very unique things of our neighborhood is it’s alive with this holiday spirit no matter which traditions people come from, no matter what they celebrate, it’s a real community feeling and it’s really beautiful.”
Amirfar’s 7-year-old daughter wrote a letter that started with: “Dear Santa, Merry Christmas. I’ve been good all year, some would say fantastic.” She asked Santa for magical creatures and books about the topic for her and her younger sister.
“Their letter got picked by Santa to have some DUMBO dollars, incentivizing us to fulfill their wishes by buying in the neighborhood,” said Amirfar. “My daughters also know these shops, so they know the bookstore. They frequently go in there to read books. They’re just excited it’s sort of the magical spirit, we focus on spending time together as a family and it’s just really sweet to be a part of the neighborhood in a unique way.”
According to Sica, 80% of businesses in DUMBO are independently owned and operated. Like many mom-and-pop shops city-wide, many have been hard-hit by the pandemic. BID has earmarked $10,000 for the mailbox project, seeing it as a perfect way to help families buy gifts for their kids while putting the money right back into the community.
“This idea came as a win-win,” said Sica. “We knew that local families could potentially be struggling right now, we knew that the retailers needed a little extra boost, so we match-made.”
While toys and books are often on a child’s list, for older kids, it might be time in world famous Gleason’s Gym, where Mohammed Ali and Mike Tyson, trained. Bruce Silverglade owns Gleason’s.
“We’ve had a couple of invitations to come to Gleason’s Gym and get a lesson. Boxing teaches discipline.”
Silverglade welcomes younger boxers.
“When I first bought the gym 39 years ago, we had no children; now we have quite a few,” said Silverglade. “We teach them how to box. Everything they learn in a gym they can use outside.”
DUMBO resident Lindsay Stuart opened Glam Expressway in 2017. It’s a trendy clothing shop that matches the vibe of the neighborhood.
“We want the business. We’re going above and beyond: gift wrapping, free delivery, whatever we can do, but we will really go the extra mile for people, whereas you won’t get that online,” said Stuart.
She’s one of the area’s many female business owners.
“It really just encourages people to keep the money in the neighborhood and shop locally, walk around your neighborhood, find a treasure that’s special,” said Stuart. “Christmas is for the kids, so when you have that joy, it spreads to everyone around.”
It’s the season of giving and Santa is making a list and checking it twice, getting it right for both DUMBO children and businesses.
Organizers tell PIX11 News they’ve already received hundreds of letters from children. Santa’s mailbox will be here until Christmas Eve, and they’ll make sure Santa gets every one of the letters.