A stalwart in the Bed-Stuy community for over 50 years, Joseph Foster, 84, has seen the neighborhood change many times throughout the years for both good and bad, but still to this day he remains a figurehead among the neighborhood’s small business community.
Owner and operator of The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa, located at 413 Tompkins Ave., Foster has what Kenneth Mbonu, Director of Economic Development at the Bridge Street Development Corporation, calls it “one of the most stable businesses in the Tompkins Ave. commercial district.”
The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa offers mainly dog and cat grooming services as well as pet accessories. They specialize in washing, trimming, styling and even nail painting. They also have animal pickup and drop-off services.
The family-owned and operated business — Foster’s two sons and wife all work there — has been offering pet grooming services for over 12 years and remains one of the few grooming businesses in the neighborhood.
Before starting The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa, Foster’s first venture was a dry cleaning business, Foster’s Dry Cleaners, on Ralph Ave., which he operated for about 50 years. Eventually, he became fed up with all the government bureaucracy that came with owning a dry cleaners and sold it.
“I was trying to get out of it because the government was trying to get in your pocket too much for all the dry cleaning rules and regulations,” said Foster
After leaving, he started the Bed-Stuy Animal Spa in 1998, operating out of the back of a sports clothing store. Eventually, the New York State Board of Health told him that where he was operating was not allowed, so he packed up and moved into his current location.
“I’ve always had a love for animals,” said Foster about starting a pet grooming business.
In 2000, Foster decided to retire and leased the business to promote and consult young entrepreneurs with similar interests. After his brief retirement, Foster returned to form ‘The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa in 2009, just as the lease was about to expire. It was during this time that Foster was approached by Mbonu with how the Bridge Street Development Corporation could help his business. The BSDC helped Foster receive a new front gate, introduced him to an accountant, and even helped to enroll his business in the New York Main Street Program, which is a program that targets small businesses and communities throughout the state. The Main Street program helps businesses by providing funding and grants from the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation to local branches of government, business improvement districts and other not-for-profit organizations like Bridge Street Development Corporation.
BSDC also aided Foster with receiving a state-backed loan that covers at least half of any repair or renovation costs to small businesses.
Foster has said that since his partnership with the BSDC he has seen an improvement in his business, and is currently working with BSDC on another business venture, which Mbonu calls “a really incredible and excellent idea”, but remained silent on its details out of fear that someone might copy it before it comes to fruition. Mbonu thinks of Foster as a mentor and role model for other local small business owners
Foster’s two sons, Carlton and Adrian Brown, admit that they both love working with their father, and feel a sense of pride in keeping the business alive and engaged with the community.
“I’ve been doing this for about 8 years now and I have the scars to prove it,” said Adrian, the Chief Groomer.
Both are also actively involved in the community and help maintain the partnership with BSDC.
Aside from pet grooming, The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa also offers an educational program, where they travel to local schools and speak to the kids about animal care. They also have a program in which schools sometime send students to the spa who are interested in learning more about animals and animal care.
For more information about The New Bed-Stuy Animal Spa, you can log on to their Web site at www.newbedstuyanimalspa.com, and for more information about BSDC you can log on to their Web site at http://www.bsdcorp.org.