As the economy continues to suffer greatly under the strain of state-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns, some small businesses have decided that it’s time to open up.
In New York state, and especially New York City, which remains the American epicenter of the coronavirus, many small businesses have been shuttered for up to two months.
Some of these businesses have had enough, signing a petition called “ReOpenNY,” which as of publication has 6,863 signatures.
The petition reads:
We need the local small stores to open up NOW. Our businesses are hurting terribly and WE closed to help YOU flatten the curve. We accomplished that goal together and got NYS under control. Now WE need YOUR help!!!! Please allow us to reopen!!!! We know that you are not purposely trying to hurt our businesses but WE ARE HURTING!!!!!!!! We promise to open safely. We will enforce social distancing, masks and/or sanitizing when necessary. Let NY flourish again!!!!!!!!
Several New York business owners have even shared video testimony as their livelihoods have begun to crumble.
Chaim Homnick, whose wife runs baby clothing boutique Lavish Layette, said in a video posted to social media that business owners who wish to reopen aren’t doing so out of greed or naïveté, but out of a need to “sustain and support” their employees and families.
“All of us just want a safe, cautious return to normalcy,” Homnick, who is himself a small business owner, states in the video. “If you can shop at Target for pants or Walmart for toys, why can’t a small business owner safely and cautiously reopen here in New York?”
Criticizing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s alleged politicization of the pandemic, Homnick noted:
[Cuomo] has said that this is a matter of lives versus dollars, and he doesn’t understand how anyone could be advocating for the dollars end of the equation. But that’s not true. This is a matter of lives versus lives. So many people are being impacted by these shutdowns, and all we are asking is for equal opportunity under the law. Reopening New York is essential; small businesses are essential; being able to support our families is essential.
“We all want to protect our grandparents and the elderly and the vulnerable, but we want to do so in a way where there is still some hope for a future for our children and a way – just give us a glimmer of hope that there’s a way forward,” Homnick concluded.
Simcha Minkowitz, owner of Amor Fine Jewelry in New York City, similarly released a video to social media begging for a reopening.
After noting that she and her husband complied with orders to shut down during their “busiest season,” Minkowitz said that it’s difficult to see businesses such as Walmart, Costco, and 7-Eleven remaining open while her business languishes.
“I see 1,500 people in Prospect Park every day – trust me, I’m there every day – and I cannot be trusted to open my door to one client at a time?” Minkowitz said.
The Amor owner spoke of her frustration regarding the “hypocrisy” of allowing “the big chain stores” to remain open, adding that she would implement the necessary safety measures in reopening her store if only she were allowed to do so.
Speaking with The Daily Wire, Minkowitz said that she initially made her video after learning that a “very dear friend” had lost his small business. Additionally, she stated that her sister owns a gym in Brooklyn, which has been shuttered during the pandemic, and she isn’t sure how much longer she can hold on before having to close down for good.
Minkowitz shared that she was confused after closing her store because she saw crowds out in the park, and she was also able to go to Target, which remained open.
“I see fifteen people walking down the aisle in Target – not in an essential aisle – and it’s maddening,” the Amor owner said, adding that it seems so illogical. “Entrepreneurs are the most creative, and we can figure out ways to open safely.”
Minkowitz fears, however, that as their “hands are tied behind their backs” because of the lockdown rules, “there will be major devastation.”
Homnick echoed Minkowitz’s concerns about chain retailers versus small businesses, and told The Daily Wire that if he were allowed to open, Lavish Layette would only allow one customer in at a time, and they would be required to wear a mask.
Additionally, only one employee would be present in the store, surfaces would be sanitized, and masks and gloves would be worn.
A press release from the ReOpenNY group states in part that businesses “must reopen our doors” by May 26:
At the start of this pandemic, and when our city needed it most, we shut our doors to flatten the curve. But today, while the curve has been flattened our requests to reopen our sources of income have fallen on deaf ears. Our businesses are the backbone of this state, and quite literally what we depend on to put food on our tables and is equally vital to our employees, vendors, and local neighborhoods.
Therefore, we will be stating that on Tuesday, May 26th, we must reopen our doors.
The ReOpenNY group, which held a press conference on Wednesday, is backed by nearly 290 small businesses, including Lavish Layette and Amor Fine Jewelry.
The Daily Wire also reached out to two other small businesses in New York City, the owners of which are not part of the official “ReOpenNY” movement, which wants to have doors open on May 26.
Darryl Gamble and Ed Coviello, partners and co-owners of women’s clothing store Darryl’s Boutique, which has been open since 1986 and has three locations, said the closure has been “catastrophic.”
“Other than someone wanting a gift certificate or something like that, there’s been no business at all,” Gamble said.
“We’re holding on like a lot of other businesses,” Coviello added. “We have some savings, so we’ve been going into that. We were doing fine up until all of this happened.”
Gamble indicated that they can “hold out” for a few months, but after that, remaining in business would no longer make sense.
As for how Darryl’s Boutique would reopen safely, Gamble said that they would strive to create an environment where the customer could feel comfortable, guidelines would be followed, and they would require and even provide face masks and hand sanitizer.
The co-owner added that he and Coviello have reached out to other local businesses in order to try and create a “common statement” so that there’s no confusion among customers upon reopening.
Sam Chulpayev, owner of Made Man Barbershop, which has multiple locations in New York City, but is not part of the ReOpenNY group, told The Daily Wire that his business would be in a dire position should the forced closure continue for another month.
“The PPP loans that they gave us wouldn’t make a difference if we were to be in this position for another month because the PPP loans are for two and a half months of expenses,” Chulpayev said. “And we’re already at two months by the end of the month.”
From there, between helping the employees in the company stay afloat – not as employees, but as people, we’ve been helping our guys to just, kind of financially supporting them – it’s not a good situation to be in.
Chulpayev stated that aside from the obvious steps being taken to reopen, such as masks, gloves, and tool disinfecting, he is “contemplating” UV sanitization as well.
According to New York Magazine, as of May 20, multiple regions in the state of New York will begin the process of reopening. However, New York City remains shut down – and before the city can begin phase one, it must meet seven health-related benchmarks, which can be read here.
As of publication, New York City has met four of the seven benchmarks.
The New York State official website says that phase one “includes delivery, curbside, and in-store pickup service only” for businesses including but not limited to clothing stores, jewelry stores, and office supply stores.
New York Magazine notes that “it’s not yet clear where hair salons and barbershops fit into the phases, but it seems likely to be Phase Two.”
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