Small businesses are much more than hobbies occupying quaint storefronts in small towns across America.

Small business is the lifeblood of the American economy. According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016. Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89% percent of that total. Add 24.8 million non-employee businesses, and the share of U.S. businesses with 20 or fewer employees increases to 98%.

Employer firms with fewer than 20 workers employed 16.8% of private sector payrolls.

For those who still believe job creation requires a large manufacturing facility to locate in the region, small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016. Small businesses have consistently played a major role in economic growth because they create so many jobs – many more than large businesses. Small businesses continue to play a vital role in the economy of the United States.

Contrary to what you may believe, opportunity is everywhere. Jean Ann Gallo, owner of Vintage and Vines on Broad Avenue in North Belle Vernon, started the shop online in 2011 and has seen business bloom since 2013, when the flower shop closed. She saw it as a chance to open a Vintage and Vines storefront. Gallo utilized the services offered by the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center to bring her plans to fruition.

Main Street has many names depending on your community, and Broad Avenue is the quintessential small-town Main Street. With most of our business districts plagued by shuttered and vacant storefronts, the Avenue has found its niche and continues to thrive. Unique shops such as Broad Avenue Treasures, a creative co-op shop owned by Stefanie Senko-McCulloch, features vintage and new home decor, jewelry and florals. Ms. Senko-McCulloch is another of the Avenue’s hard-working entrepreneurs.

Over at the 1933 Grill, owner Brandon Horrell is providing a contemporary speakeasy offering modern American cuisine, specialty cocktails and craft brews. The restaurant is housed in a 1920s building on the Avenue that did house a speakeasy during the Prohibition era. The name, 1933 Grill, is homage to the year that Prohibition, the constitutional ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages, ended.

Broad Avenue is an eclectic collection of small businesses that not only provides for the residents of North Belle Vernon. From prescriptions at Standard Pharmacy, to apparel of all kinds at Bee Graphix, you can find what you need here. If you are traveling and would like to have a unique overnight experience, try the Good Ol’ Days House. Opened in 2009, the nostalgic guest house is owned and operated by Melanie Patterson and provides a one-of-a-kind experience.

Sitting on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River and only a few blocks south of Interstate 70 in the Mon Valley, Broad Avenue in North Belle Vernon has something for everyone.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at

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