Friday, September 26, 2008

Rikers Island entrepreneurs

Recently, a small jewelry store opened at 19-10 Hazen Street in the East Elmhurst section of Queens, a location that gets a highly specific type of traffic, being outside the entrance to Rikers Island.

One might question the wisdom of opening a jewelry store close to one of the world’s largest penal colonies. But the shop’s owners — Michael’s Gold Market (“The Leader in Extravagant Jewelry Design”) — selected the location with care, said a man who sat in the shop last week behind bulletproof glass.

Let’s Go Shopping at Rikers Island

He pointed to the adjacent business: a check-cashing outlet that offers Western Union with special rates for wiring money into Rikers Island, which on any given day has some 12,000 inmates, a staff of about 9,000 correction officers working and approximately 1,500 visitors.

Another entrepreneur, Christopher Samolis, 26, of Astoria, sells hot dogs out of a truck parked daily at the Rikers entrance, and he also offers many insights about the conditions under which a businessman operates just outside the largest prison in the city.

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