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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

How grim is the future of New York City

Small biz flatlines in NYC.

If you walk down 5th Avenue, all the shops are shuttered in plywood. Officially the city began to reopen, but nobody is rushing into Manhattan to do business. The month of April was brutal. Major layoffs. And those jobs are gone.

Getting around the city used to be subways and cabs, but now the only viable way is bikes and walking. In the entertainment sector we’ve gone from lunches and meetings, actors and microphones, to home cooked meals and Zoom, stay-at-home workers and linen closets.

The vibration of collaboration becomes a pajama party. Happy Hour becomes early to bed.

Is all this going to work? Sure. If you've got kids at home and a Jersey commute, it's going to feel great. Maybe what we’re losing we've already lost. But something is missing.

Remote work is all work. Isolation is draining. Our social lives quickly reduce to social networks and you know what that's like.

My conversations with small business owners have common themes. Nobody knows what's going on. Nobody knows how to plan. Everybody is waiting. And you can only wait for so long.

Manhattan is expensive. If you can't use subways, if you can't meetup, if you can't do any of things you do in the city, then why pay the rent? I know people sitting on 5000 sq. ft. of office space, 10,000, 20,000. How long can you do that with no revenue?

The feeling among the small business people I talk to is recovery looks like it might happen first quarter 2021. Maybe it happens sooner, but there's a whole gauntlet of what-ifs to negotiate.

The hope seems to be business needs to move. Brands need to market. Networks need to broadcast. New is still new.

The byword in small business is survival. The businesses with smaller footprints have a better chance. But this might be the end of bricks and mortar. Even before the plague, New York became a city of empty shopfronts. Currently, the most vital business in New York is the plywood sheet guy.

Oh, this is going to change. The city always comes back. By next week everything will begin to bounce. The city that never sleeps is just taking a nap.

New York is a vital economic engine. It's a brutal blow to the American economy if the city continues to misfire. Innovation and reinvention are second nature to the city.

Rebirth is opportunity. Entrepreneurs are already working the abacus, calculating against new odds. It's just about time. The question is how much time? A month? Six? A year? Five?

Next week I'll be on the Zoom again. Conversations. They hold it all together. I'm looking for that spark. It's out there somewhere. I'll keep looking.

It irks me after I finish writing this post. I need air. Too much lockdown. So I take my dog for walk.

We reach the corner and there It is.

A small business, a woman’s clothing store had gone COVID belly up. For months the corner is boarded up. But on my walk I see a pop up took over the space, cleaned it up and is getting g ready to business on Monday. Good to see in the dark. A shop of lights.



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