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Shifts in Home Stores in New York City

Housewares giant Home Depot announced that it has signed a lease to take over the 120,000 square feet, 4-story facility that was once occupied by Bed Bath & Beyond store at 410 E. 61st Street in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Home Depot gets New Home in Manhattan
Houseware giant Home Depot is taking over the lease for Bed Bath & Beyond’s Upper East Side location

This is Home Depot’s third location in New York City, with one in the Flatiron district and one in midtown at 59th street. The latter location is expected to close once the larger space at 61st Street is ready. The lease is one of the largest retail deals, in terms of both size and total yearly rent, on record in Manhattan in recent years.

FinTru Opens Offices in New York

The UK-based financial services firm FinTrU opened its first North American offices in New York City.

The FInTru offices are set up on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan and represent an international growth for the award-winning fintech company.

“Many of our tier one investment bank clients are based in New York so it was a logical next step for FinTrU to expand to the city in order to increase our presence on the global stage and ensure proximity to our clients”

-Darragh McCarthy, FinTruFounder and chief executive

BIDs to the Rescue

New York City’s BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) and neighborhood organizations are a pivotal lifeline for local shops and stores. The BIDs take on the lion’s share of street cleaning, marketing campaigns, and publicity.

The tragic economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened the need for BIDs. They are helping businesses stay open, advocating the city on their behalf, and obtaining significant financial assistance, and other crucial services.

The Alliance for Downtown New York for example maintains an updated list of stores that are open as well as a page titled “Portraits,” highlighting local business owners, city workers, and others who have eased the countless burdens of the coronavirus chaos. These posts illustrate the alliance’s strong roots within the community and represent just one of the ways New York City’s BIDs and neighborhood associations are helping businesses stay strong and connect with the people they serve.

From Yemen to New York: Historic Coffee Finds a Home

Quhwah House is one of Brooklyn’s newest coffee shops. But the traditions and beans which make it special are already eight generations old. Ibrahim Alhasbani, the owner, is from Yemen. He comes from a longline of coffee farmers and is proud to keep the family business alive.

Alhasbani decorated the store’s walls with images conveying the origins of Yemeni coffee, from the growing through the picking and brewing.

When Alhasbani arrived in the U.S. in 2011 he knew the familial legacy would be a part of his American journey. He opened his first shop in Michigan in 2018 and is now expanding to New York. According to Alhasbani, coffee transcends all cultures and is an important part of daily and celebratory rituals for most ethnic groups. This is certainly true in New York, where residents have been shown to drink seven times as much coffee as other Americans. The Big Apple has more coffee shops and cafes than any other city in the country. And now it has one more.

Social Media Steps in to Rescue New York City Bookshop

The Strand, New York’s most legendary bookstore, is breathing a sigh of relief, for now.  In late October, Nancy Bass Wyden, the third-generation owner, turned to social media as a last ditch effort to keep from permanently closing Strand’s doors.

A typical day sees about 300 web orders; the influx of online orders following Wyden’s post brought in 25,000 orders, causing Strand’s website to crash. New Yorkers also flocked to the shop’s two locations, in the East Village and the Upper West Side, with lines stretching around the block.

Like other businesses, The Strand has faced significant struggles during the pandemic. As an independent bookstore, around for almost 100 years, The Strand is not new to hardship. It has made it through the Great Depression, World War II, mega-bookstores, and e-commerce. But COVID-19 presented new challenges. Revenue dropped by nearly 70% compared to last year. Various loans and business reserves have been helpful, but Wyden says the store needs to sustain the influx of orders and purchases for long term sustainability.

“When I meet people, they always have a heartwarming story about the magical time they first found a book or went on a first date at the Strand, so I felt like I knew the Strand touches people, but I was absolutely beyond floored at the response the community had to help support us.”

Nancy Bass Wyden, The Strand owner

NY City Businesses That Opened During the Pandemic

More than 2,800 businesses New York City businesses have shuttered their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But New Yorkers are known for resilience, and many new businesses successfully opened their doors in the coronavirus economy.

The brand new Krispy Kreme shop, a full 4,500 square-foot venue, is open for business in the middle of Times Square. And even when the tourists are gone, Broadway theaters are closed, and hotels have more vacancies than occupancies, the doughnut emporium is busy. As if the fresh, sweet doughnuts were not enough of a reason for patrons to visit the new site, dozens of masked and socially distant customers line up outside each day to view the production line that churns out thousands of doughnuts every hour. The glaze waterfall, standing 24-inches tall, is another attraction.

Krispy Kreme doughnut
Fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee bring customers to the new Times Square locatin

Murray’s Cheese is a New York staple. For 80 years, the company has been selling cheese, wine, and delicacies across the five boroughs.  A new location opened in August in Long Island City, Queens.

Nick Tranchina, president of Murray’s, said the decision to finish the construction and open the shop and restaurant was easy. “We knew people wanted to go out, and we wanted to make people’s days better. Cheese brings joy.” The outdoor space can only accommodate five tables, and predictably, the demand has been far higher than that. “We’re in the process of increasing our space,” Mr. Tranchina said. “We’ve already hired more staff, extended our hours, and tightened the menu.”

Murray's Cheese

But it is not only eateries that are pulling through the corona-chaos. Shen Beauty, in Brooklyn, is an independent cosmetics and beauty shop. In January, the owner began renovations on a new, bigger space a few blocks from the original store. When everything came to a halt in March, plans had to be revamped. Finally, on September 1, the new 1,800 square-foot space opened. The shelves are lined with 1500 products from 150 companies; four sterile and safe treatment rooms are used for facials, massages, etc. After more than six months of lockdown, customers are looking for ways to treat themselves. Ladies (and men) who were forced to neglect their usual self-care routines are finding their way back to beauty practices for the body and soul.

2020 New York Business Journal’s Women of Influence Announced

Dorit Ungar Black, a founding partner at New York’s Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP was named as one of ten  Women of Influence in 2020 by the New York Business Journal.

The women recognized this year are all pioneers in the legal, finance, engineering, and real estate industries. They have all demonstrated professional and communal leadership and demonstrated their commitment to workplace excellence as well as civil engagement and involvement. 

This is not Ungar Black’s first 2020 award. She was named Best in Litigation by Euromoney Legal Media Group as part of the 2020 Women in Business Law Awards, and also listed on Crain’s New York Business’ 2020 Notable Women in Law list.

Pandemic Brings Early Holiday Season to New York

The rushed last-minute holiday shopping scramble may just be another annual tradition lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Across New York and the country, retailers are getting a head start on the holiday season.

While most shoppers don’t usually appreciate the holiday “creep,” this year there are several good reasons for getting an early go on gifts and cheer.

First, stores are looking to reduce in-store crowding. Typical doorbuster sales are not being offered, with many companies driving shoppers to websites to avoid crowds, curb the need for social-distancing enforcement, and minimize chaos.

Another good reason for the early holiday season is the goal of minimizing shipping holdups that are typical in November and December. Many chains were overwhelmed by the lock-down induced online shopping surge, so they are looking to learn from that experience and motivate shoppers to buy early.

The economic fallout of the pandemic has many New York stores rebranding their holiday gift ideas. Many people are unemployed, looking to save where they can, and not expecting to travel to large family get togethers where numerous presents would be necessary. Instead, merchandise is being geared toward “homey activities” that keep people active, offer entertainment for kids, and even introduce new hobbies. Similarly, more stores are offering on-line shopping with curbside pick-up. 2020 has certainly been a different kind of year. The early holiday retail is one good way of ushering in cheer and joy when we need it most.

Health Heroes: A New Award Program for New York

Empire BlueCross BlueShield, in collaboration with Crain’s New York Business, has launched the 2020 Empire Whole Health Heroes Awards program. The program is designed to recognize and highlight individuals who have exhibited profound commitment, kindness, and outstanding leadership in the field of health and wellness in New York City during the continued coronavirus emergency.

As the largest health insurer in New York, Empire has spent the last several months tracking, recording, and reading endless stories of the hope, resilience and determination of New Yorkers. The Heroes program will recognize a total of 50 honorees in the following categories:

  • Health Care Whole Health Heroes: Health care delivery leaders or those in professional services/technologies supporting the health care sector (nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc.)
  • Business Whole Health Heroes: Private sector leaders (CEOs, business owners/executives, HR directors, etc.)
  • Essential Whole Health Heroes: Individuals leading the way as essential service providers (infrastructure, transportation, emergency services—like police or fire), warehouse and delivery, critical manufacturing, food and agriculture, government and community-based services)
  • Whole Health Insurance Brokers: Leaders in sales, administrative and customer support

To submit a nominee, an essay must be uploaded online at crainsnewyork.com/wholehealth starting today through November 6, 2020 at midnight EST. Winners will be featured in Crain’s New York Business (print and online) in a special section on January 18, 2021. A virtual salute and event will recognize honorees on January 15, 2021.

New York City is Growing Fintech Center

New York City has always been a welcoming home for the financial and business sectors of the economy. Some of the world’s leading financial outfits have based their headquarters in the Big Apple. But continual technological shifts, the coronavirus pandemic, and demographic transitions are giving New York City a new title. Now, more than ever, New York is emerging as the heart of fintech, the rapidly growing, entrepreneurial-driven industry bridging the divide between technology and financial operations.

This fintech opportunity is not entirely new for the city. Since the Fintech Innovation Lab New York was founded in 2010,  44 partners have signed-on, alumni companies have garnered over $1 billion, 1,100 jobs have been created, and close to 250 proof of concept businesses have been generated. 69 companies, including five acquisitions, were formed.

According to Forrester Research, New York’s fintech industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the North American economy. It has the biggest market of tech talent across the U.S. and has more fintech industry workers (333,000) than San Francisco Bay Area (310,000). New York has the most computer-science graduates, more than 7,600 each year, and is home to close to 100 academic institutions. Tech:NYC reports that 10 percent of the nation’s developers are located in New York City.

Way back in 2011, then mayor Michael Bloomberg (also a fintech entrepreneur), acknowledged the burgeoning importance of technology in the city’s economic future. Cornell University and the Technion (Israel’s Institute of Technology) joined forces to build a $2 billion graduate school of applied sciences, making New York City the world’s premier technology capital. In 2019, New York was designated the “world’s global technology leader” by U.K.’s Savills Survey.