Whether to adapt: ​​Downtown businesses address new realities | WGN Radio 720

Whether to adapt: ​​Downtown businesses address new realities | WGN Radio 720

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New York (AP) — Once upon a time, downtown US and international businesses took it for granted that nearby offices would provide a stable customer looking for breakfast, lunch, daily necessities and services, and last-minute gifts. rice field. Some are adapting and others are clinging because the elastic coronavirus has closed offices and kept workers at home.

Some businesses are already gone. Survivors are taking steps such as expanding online sales, changing business hours, staff levels, and what they offer their customers. Others are more dependent on residential transportation.

Many business owners were looking forward to the office reopening this month and returning to normal. However, with the proliferation of COVID-19, many companies have postponed plans to return workers, and downtown companies take into account the fact that on-the-spot adjustments could be permanent. doing.

In downtown Detroit, Mike Frank’s cleaning business seemed to be out of money due to lack of funding.

Frank started Clifford Street Cleaner eight years ago. Pre-pandemic monthly revenue was about $ 11,000, but by December last year, when many downtown offices had to be closed, revenue had dropped to $ 1,800, Frank said.

Frank had to borrow money from his wife to pay the bills. “In the end, I was almost ready to go out of business.”

Instead of shutting down, Frank adapted. He turned part of the store into a small market for toothpaste, laundry detergent, shampoo, bottled water, soft drinks and other essentials. He also delivered clean laundry and merchandise from the store.

Eventually, some foot traffic was back. The combination of retail sales and dry cleaning will bring revenue back to about $ 4,100 a month, he said. That’s enough to keep him afloat, and that number is improving every month.

In Lower Manhattan, 224 businesses closed in 2020 and 2021, according to the Downtown New York Alliance. About 100 stores have opened.

Jessica Lapin, president of the Alliance in Downtown New York, said: “You can’t miss them as much as a local company.”

Lappin predicts that office workers will come back, but they may come a few days a week, another day, or take turns.

“Just as we had to make dramatic adjustments to stay home all the time, there are adjustments to coming back,” she said.

Blue Park Kitchen, one block from Wall Street, was lined up outside the door on weekdays as office workers were waiting to buy one of the grain bowls to serve as a healthy lunch option.

“Things are completely different,” she said.

Online orders currently make up 65% of the business, but profitability is low due to the reduction of online apps. There are no high-margin catering orders yet, and BluePark has reduced its staff by nine.

“At the peak of July 2021 (before the delta variant surge), there was about 65% of the pre-COVID business peak,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is seeing more offices reopen and hopes more businesses will return in October before the later holiday months of November and December.

Nearby Aankit Malhotra acquired Indian restaurant Benares with his brother in 2019. Their core banking customers disappeared when the pandemic struck overnight. No one attended the $ 13 3-course lunch special that is famous for its restaurants. Previously, lunch accounted for 95% of Benares’ business.

Currently, there are about 10 lunch orders per day in Varanasi, down from 100. However, locals have highlighted their brothers as they appreciate the restaurant’s pre-pandemic opening hours daily from 10:30 am to 11:00 pm.

With the help of deliveries and supper meals, the business has returned to about 70% of its pre-pandemic level. Customers have changed from nearby Battery Park City to workers to young people and families.

“It’s great to see it, not just the people of downtown businesses. It’s becoming a family-friendly place.”

Jorge Gooseman, an assistant professor of business administration at Columbia University, said the shift in economic activity from the downtown area is likely to continue. Entrepreneurship is booming outside downtown New York, such as Jamaica, Queens and South Bronx.

“To be precise, downtown never dies. It’s not like Midtown goes everywhere. But it’s going to be a bit more mixed, more residential and mixed-use concept.”

Across the Atlantic Ocean in London, office workers have slowly returned to their desks since the government lifted the COVID-19 blockade on July 19. The UK peaked in July with delta cases, but the number dropped sharply in about two weeks. However, recently, the number of cases has increased again.

The number of commuters is far from pre-pandemic levels, making it difficult for small businesses in central London’s financial district to survive.

“Before the pandemic, it was great, good, and busy,” said Rado Asatrian, who worked as a barber for six years at the Man-oj hair salon in the financial district. Prior to COVID-19, he typically had 10 to 15 customers a day, but now he has reduced to 3 to 4.

“Now it’s very empty,” said Asatrian. He said he was considering moving to a busy place, changing jobs, or moving abroad.

In some downtown, tourists are coming back to boost business while workers are still away.

In Atlanta, Kwan’s Deli and Korean Food has about as much summer business as it did before the pandemic, says Andrew Song, a family-owned restaurant.

At the height of the pandemic, Kwan’s lost about 80% of its business, shortened business hours and reduced staff. But thanks to tourists from the Georgia Aquarium and an event at a nearby convention hall, Deli has bounced back.

Still, the surge in delta variants creates uncertainty about falls. Song said he heard that some companies had permanently relocated or scaled down.

“It’s a little hard to imagine what would happen if the office regulars didn’t come back or were farther away,” he said.

In Nashville, Lyle Richardson, chief operating officer of restaurant operator A. Marshall Hospitality, said he saw the city’s restaurant industry devastated by the coronavirus epidemic. He is a board member of the Tennessee Hospitality Association’s trade association and estimates that hundreds of restaurants had to be closed.

Those who stayed open made adjustments. Richardson has stopped serving lunch at one restaurant, Deacons New South, in order to focus on dinner only after office workers have left. However, he left the other restaurant, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, open from 7 am to 11 pm, attracting tourists to the city.

“The normality we called pre-COVID, which no longer exists,” he said. “We need to prepare on our toes to adapt.”

Returning to Detroit, downtown bakery and sandwich shop Cannelle by Matt Knio’s business recovered above 2019 levels after a sharp drop in the early stages of the pandemic. Baseball and soccer spectators are back, and outdoor dining and takeaways are still popular.

If businesses are subject to more restrictions when the weather is cold, Knio believes they can rely on the lessons learned so far in the pandemic.

“I think we now know how to do it and how to deal with it,” he said. “You will be able to take out and curbside pickup.”

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Chrischer reported from Detroit. London AP writer Kelvin Chan and Atlanta Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this report.

Whether to adapt: ​​Downtown businesses address new realities | WGN Radio 720

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