The business sector of Little Syria comprised numerous types of establishments that evolved and varied from the 1880s to the late 1940s. The types of businesses played a vital role in the assimilation process of the Lebanese and Syrian community in America. In the early day, the most popular business for these new immigrants was the vending and peddling of religious items. It is said that the Jewish immigrants of the time actually assisted these new Arabic speaking immigrants in informing them about peddling routes and techniques. Rosary beads, crosses, holy water, and many other religious based goods were sold to the American public due to a growth in Catholicism in the United States.
As the years went on, the Lebanese and Syrian businessmen became very much accustomed to the manner of trade in America and began opening up fixed-location businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, coffee houses, book shops, music stores, cigar shops, and linen and kimono factories. The most profitable business that the Lebanese and Syrians participated in was import-and-export, or the commission-based merchant business.
Below, you will find an article on this subject (“Present Conditions Of Syrian Trade”) that was published by The New York Daily Tribune on Sunday, August 15, 1909. This article has been transcribed from the original newspaper (which can be found on this website under the “Little Syria’s Press From The Past” blog post in the “News” section on the main page) published over one hundred years ago. The most prominent business establishments, especially the commission-based merchants who exported dry goods throughout the world, are highlighted in this article in substantial detail.
We hope that this information will help researchers and the curious learn about the business world of the early Arabic-speaking immigrants in New York City and the United States.
For photographs of some of the many businesses in the Arab American neighborhoods in New York, click here. Also, a list of known businesses that existed in Little Syria in different years and decades can be found here.
Daily News Story on National September 11 Museum and “Little Syria”
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Community Board One Resolution on “Little Syria” Historical Signage
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Wall Street Journal Piece on Little Syria (Jennifer Weiss)
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Salaam Club in New York Hosts Holiday Hafleh To Benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
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Walking Tour of Washington Street on November 10 (With Joe Svehlak and Esther Regelson)
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