“There are a number of issues that have been neglected by the city over a number of years,” claimed James McCormick in announcing the formation of a business association along Norse Way, near Carson Street and Lakewood Bouelvard. “We have sidewalks that people have tripped over, trees that should be taken out and very poor lighting. Our goal is to achieve a better-looking business area. It is somewhat embarrassing, the condition it’s been in.”


McCormick is owner of Sunbelt Properties and is serving as president of the newly formed Lakewood Village Partners of Norse Way. So far, the association is made up of 30 of the 65 businesses in the area, and is gaining momentum.

James McCormick is the owner of Sunbelt Properties and president of the Lakewood Village Partners of Norse Way, a newly formed business association near Carson Street and Lakewood Boulevard. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Brandon Richardson)


Cindy Matranga, the owner of Yesterday’s Memories, Today’s Treasures Boutique,   spearheaded the effort to create the association last summer. Matranga and about 30 business owners from Norse Way and nearby Viking Way met with 5th District Councilmember Stacy Mungo to discuss the desired improvements. According to Matranga, Mungo said she could not help them until they all formed a cohesive set of goals and formed a business association.


“She asked for all of our emails, and then six weeks went by and none of us heard from her,” Matranga said.  “I thought she would do it for us, [set up a business association] but then I realized, it’s not her job.”


Matranga took it upon herself to invite all of the area business owners to a meeting. Although only 12 people showed up, Matranga said the second meeting gained more traction, as Mungo attended and the group voted to establish a board. They decided not to form the association with the Viking Way business owners since their problems were not the same.


In addition to promoting unity and economic development, the association will also serve as a neighborhood watch to prevent crime. Matranga said that one of the group’s priorities is to hire a security guard for nights, and possibly 24 hours if affordable. The association plans to fund its operations with donations. Participating businesses are requested, but not required, to contribute $25 per month.


“Someone broke a window recently,” Matranga said. “A lot of people think if you own a business, you’re well off, but we’re not. A lot of us here are women by ourselves. Sometimes we have problems with drug addicts who give us a hard time. They’ll come in and want to use our phones.”


Matranga said the association would also like to hire a gardener. In fact, it was the state of the flowerbeds that pushed her over the edge to take action.


“[Norse Way] is neglected. Nobody does anything to the flowerbeds. That’s what started it all. They’re just a mess,” Matranga said. “I drove downtown and it’s just beautiful by city hall. They have beautiful flower beds. I feel like a poor stepchild in our neighborhood.”


McCormick said an eventual goal of the association is to become an official business improvement district (BID), in which businesses agree to assess themselves and pay a fee to fund improvements within the district’s boundaries. But, since he estimated the cost to become a BID at $60,000 to $70,000, the association’s short-term objective is to create accord among the business owners.


“It seems the best way of getting the attention of the city is approaching as a group rather than as an individual,” said Lakewood Village Chiropractic’s Dr. Thomas J. Thomas, an associate boardmember of the Lakewood Village Partners. “Many of us have approached the city on an individual basis and nothing seems to have been resolved or has gotten done.”


Mungo has been working with the group to create a framework and set goals. So far, the association is in the process of defining their membership structure and recruiting more participants, Mungo wrote in an e-mail to the Business Journal.


The organization has four associate boardmembers, a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, Thomas said. It has held three board meetings and a couple of public meetings to inform business owners of its plans. The city council has also voted to set aside $450,000 for business corridors throughout the city, with Carson Street identified as a priority, Mungo stated.


“Today, businesses face more challenges than ever to be successful, and the value of the Norse Way business association is having everyone working together to take what’s there and make it even better,” Mungo commented. “We are working hard to make sure the money will be spent in the most effective way. We want to make a big impact.”