Self-funded, the Throggs Neck Merchants Association has preserved E. Tremont Avenue. Now the TNMA aims to fortify E. Tremont and make Throggs Neck a must-shop destination.

The city’s Department of Small Business Services recently awarded the TNMA a $20,000 grant for economic development. TNMA president John Cerini and his fellow merchants promised to recruit new members and increase foot traffic. "We want to keep people here," Cerini said. "We want to keep Throggs Neck strong."

Cerini applied for a number of grants; SBS denied the TNMA in 2007, preferring to support NYC’s most down-and-out neighborhoods. Grant-less, the TNMA raised $25,000 to sponsor a sidewalk sale and holiday lights. It donated U.S. Savings Bonds to 60 worthy students. It hosted business seminars, launched a website and participated in a Halloween parade.

Eventually, Cerini and the TNMA impressed SBS. The city agency has mailed Cerini a $10,000 check. The TMNA will receive an additional $10,000 pending quarterly reports.

The TNMA hopes to produce a monthly coupon book soon. Distributed at member restaurants, shops and beauty salons, the book would offer tear-away discounts and deals. According to Cerini, the SBS grant would help pay for it. The TNMA will continue to advertise in The Bronx Times-Reporter and The Penny Pincher. It will donate U.S. Savings Bonds to 75 students at 15 schools this spring, and could expand north of Waterbury Avenue to include merchants like Creative Image Hair Salon, La Strada Restaurant and Sylvan Learning Center.

"We’re going to brainstorm," Cerini said. "We’re going to consider other forms of advertising, maybe television."

Tara Lane of Guys & Dolls Hair Salon praised the TNMA.

"[Cerini] has done a great job," Lane said. "Look at the other neighborhoods. You see 'for rent' signs. Here, business is booming."

Wayne Baker of Frank Bee Costume and Frankie’s Carnival Time agreed. On May 23, during the TNMA Memorial Day Weekend Sidewalk Sale, Baker will serve cotton candy and popcorn. Bobby Love, an 80-year old crooner, will serenade shoppers in front of Frank Bee.

"The merchants association has been working hard," Baker said. "[Cerini] and the others have given the neighborhood hope."

Baker hopes the TNMA will use the SBS grant to make E. Tremont a fun place to shop. Before Cerini deposits the $10,000 check, the TNMA needs to secure 501c6 non-profit status.