New Yorkers are caught in a terrible bind: their beloved city changes quickly, thoroughly and constantly and they’re proud of that. At the same time they themselves want stability and familiarity. Nowhere does this tension play out more vividly than around the fate of New York’s Mom & Pop Stores. They’re often gathering points in a local neighborhood, places such as the cornerstore bodega, or the local barber or cigar store and then when the surrounding area changes, rents go through the roof and next thing you know the local mom and pop store closes because it’s become too expensive to keep going. There’s a group, #savenyc of New Yorkers who are very unhappy about this and are campaigning to stop it. See the video for the story of one business that is having to close. That’s one side of the story and there’s not the slightest doubt that the closing of long time stores is very painful.
The other side is the recent TD Small Business Health Check which shows that out of a representative 495 small NYC businesses doing an annual turnover of $5m a very large majority were expanding produce and service offerings, hitting or exceeding their financial goals and using modern technology to cut costs in running their business. The survey also showed that the small business owners surveyed are mostly young, a culturally diverse group and savvy in their use of social media to support their businesses. A lot of them sell online as well as having physical premises.
There is undoubtedly change occurring. Rents are getting too expensive for some businesses in their old locations, especially in Manhattan and when they close up and move on there is considerable neighborhood unhappiness. But some are moving to a different borough where rents aren’t so high and they are building a different business which attracts the kind of people moving out of Manhattan into new hip neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that attract lots of young families and businesses get very busy selling food that is new and unusual, designing and selling striking clothing, featuring experimental art, promoting 3D manufactured goods and refurbishing vintage goods. In other words they are fulfilling a new set of needs in their neighborhoods. No they are not the old corner bodega, they are the new up market bookstore that has become a community meeting place.
It seems New York’s older style of Mom and Pop store may be slowly fading and new Mom and Pop stores are taking their place. They operate differently but they are still an important part of their neighborhoods providing not just goods and services but also being a strong point of community contact. What is important is there are still opportunitites for a couple in NYC to set up a small business and make it a profitable and socially useful concern.