11/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Brooklyn's Local Chains Become Little Empires

While New Yorkers have been nervously eyeing the encroaching tide of national chains, fearing the stores will wash away all things small and charming, a different retail species has taken root in this still-gentrifying quarter: the chain that is distinctly, even aggressively, local.

Little empires of restaurants, bars, clothing stores and other establishments started by homegrown entrepreneurs have multiplied in this patch of brownstone Brooklyn, sending up new sprouts every few blocks. Within about a square mile, more than a dozen of these clusters have emerged since the late 1990s, mainly along a mile-long stretch of Smith Street connecting Atlantic Avenue to Hamilton Avenue.

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