By Mariel Priven
As Phase 1 of New York City’s reopening began on Monday, retail stores across the Upper West Side are finding new socially distant ways to serve their customers. For now stores are only allowed to serve customers outside (curbside pickup) or allow them to pick up items in the store that they previously ordered. Delivery, of course, is still an option at many businesses.
Small business owners shared their excitement as they reopened their doors for the first time since mid-March, expressing hope that neighbors will quickly step in and support them after the long drought.
“People are so glad to see us open,” remarked Tracy Morse, co-owner of Down and Quilt Shop on Amsterdam Avenue and 85th Street. “We are here. We are happy to be here. Because we’ve been a neighborhood store, people have been very kind.”
Down and Quilt Shop, like other West Side retail stores, is offering a range of services to aid in the process of purchasing. In addition to the option of placing orders for pickup or delivery by phone, Tracy has stationed herself outside of the Amsterdam store with a table covered in samples. As she speaks with customers, she can communicate with her co-worker Beth, who remains inside the shop, and can bring out items until the customer’s needs are met.
Similarly, at Westsider Rare and Used Books, located on Broadway between 80th and 81st, the familiar stacks of used books placed on the sidewalk outside of the store are back. Dorian Thornley, co-owner of the bookstore, explained that most books outside cost just one dollar, so customers can select books from the outdoor assortment, and place a dollar in the money box located at the table, thereby eliminating any unnecessary interactions. Specific orders by phone are still available for shipping, delivery, and pickup.
In an effort to ease the process of purchasing shoes, Harry’s Shoes has placed chairs outside its store at a comfortable distance apart, where clients can try on shoes they have ordered for pick-up before leaving with their items. Though being measured and fitted for shoes is not yet an option, owner Robert Goldberg hopes that this try-on option will make the prospect of committing to footwear easier.
Storeowners who rely on phone- and email-based orders conveyed hope that local West Siders will show support. “We hope the community will help us survive,” shared Shlomo, owner of West Side Judaica on Broadway. “We rely on locals to help us. And at the end of the day, even with all of the government’s help, we still have our rent to pay.”
Sylvia Parker from Magpie agreed that this time has been especially difficult for small business owners, but shared that her store’s primary concern is maintaining the safety of employees and customers.
Avi, co-owner of Flowers on the Park, was less optimistic about reopening. He explained that the spring is a critical time for florists, what with weddings and graduations, and that business gets more difficult in the summer as many West Siders escape to their second homes. “If you asked me for three months when I would want to be closed, I would not choose March through June, which is exactly what happened,” he lamented.
One hundred days after New York’s first case of COVID-19, small retail stores are excited to resume business. Here are several that are open (feel free to highlight more in the comments).
Barnes and Noble
Blooming Couture Flowers
Books of Wonder
Canine Styles West
Down and Quilt Shop
Flowers on the Park
Gold Leaf Stationers
Jimmy’s Custom Framing
John Koch Antiques
Shakespeare and Co
Tip Top Shoes
West Side Judaica
Westsider Rare and Used Books