Brian Jewell

Expert Insight from Tony Muia

 
 

Brian Jewell
Published October 10, 2018

Tony Muia has Brooklyn in his blood.

“I’m a first-generation Italian American,” he said. “My parents both came from Italy in the 1960s, and I was born here and grew up in Brooklyn in the Bensonhurst neighborhood. Any Brooklynite you speak to, there’s a home-grown pride about where we’re from.”

Muia displayed that pride as he traveled the country and the globe throughout the 1990s in his career as a respiratory therapist.

“I came to realize that a lot of people are fascinated with Brooklyn: the food, the pizza, Coney Island and the Dodgers,” he said. “I would find myself describing Brooklyn to them in terms of movie locations.”

Over the years, many of the friends and business associates Muia met in his travels would make their way to New York. And they would ask him to show them around his borough.

“I became an unofficial ambassador for Brooklyn,” he said. “It was a passion of mine to show people my hometown. People started asking me to show their family members around.

“At the same time, I was getting tired of health care — I just couldn’t do it anymore. My friends encouraged me to start doing tours of the borough. So I thought, if I could do it the right way, put it on a bus and show people clips of movies filmed here as we passed by locations, it could work well.”

With this model in mind, Muia launched A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours in 2005. His first tour was a pizza tour, which remains a popular option for visitors today. The tours included samples at various Brooklyn pizza restaurants, as well as a visit to Coney Island and a photo stop at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Business got a big boost in 2007 when A Slice of Brooklyn was featured on “The Today Show.”

“That really blew it up,” Muia said. “Ticket purchases were coming in from 8:45 that morning until midnight.”

As his company grew, Muia sought the advice of seasoned tour professionals in New York, who recommended he become a member of the city’s tourism bureau, NYC & Co. And his contacts there introduced him to the group tourism market.

“Groups are now a big part of what we do,” he said. “I’ll have 12 groups in October alone. I try to go to ABA and IPW whenever possible.”

Today, groups that visit New York can have Muia or another Brooklyn-born guide from the company meet them in Manhattan and step onto the bus to take them on any of several tours highlighting different aspects of Brooklyn, including holiday lights, chocolate and unique neighborhoods.

These tours showcase both traditional Brooklyn sites and newer businesses that have become part of the community with the borough’s growth.

“It’s incredible to watch what’s going on in my hometown because I can literally be a tourist here now,” Muia said. “I can go to microbreweries and experience all the new IPAs, or I can go find who’s making sake in Brooklyn or who is doing barbecue. And on tours, I want to showcase all the things that make Brooklyn great.”

Sales Tip from Tony

“Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want to do in New York. A lot of times people tell me they want to see Brooklyn, but they don’t think their tour operator will take them there. You never know what people may be interested in seeing.”