BANDING TOGETHER: Thousands of Small Jewish-Business Owners Unite To Oppose Cuomo’s Lockdown

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[NOTE: According to the Rambam, the highest form of Tzedakah is to give someone Parnasah. YWN implores our vast readership to please read this and try and help these THOUSANDS of small-business owners before it’s too late. Many small-businesses in the NY area have already decided to close for good as they will never recover from their financial losses over the past few months!]

A group of New York-based Jewish small business owners have banded together in opposition of Cuomo’s continued lockdowns. Big box stores are overcrowded and overwhelmed, and these small business believe that being allowed to reopen would alleviate that burden and provide a safer environment for shopping.

Several recent viral videos highlight the claims of these owners. They ask for equal rights and the opportunity to open their businesses while maintaining proper hygiene and capacity control. New Jersey has already allowed curbside pickup for small businesses but in New York, small businesses remain shuttered.

These small business owners deliver heartfelt pleas on behalf of their businesses, their families and their employees.

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Some of the videos from these business owners can be seen here:

AN OPEN LETTER FROM A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

These are unprecedented and uncertain times. We see beloved grandparents and gedolim dying, community members laid off en masse, and young children cooped up at home, anxiously trying to process a world that seems scarier than the one they lived in last month. Our frum community is reeling, and our trademark togetherness is shattered although we are all trying to glue the fabric of our community back together via Zoom and quick curbside hellos.

At the same time that the world has imploded around us, we have seen beautiful examples of our community at its finest. Hatzalah, Achiezer and myriad other organizations and individuals are performing chesed on a daily basis. New chesed initiatives, virtual Beis Medrashim, and so much more have sprung up to fill the void.

With all of the global chaos, shopping (for anything other than basics) is far from many people’s minds. And for those who have been laid off or whose finances are uncertain, retail shopping should be the least of your concerns. This article is in no way intended to minimize the public health crisis that we face or the financial issues many are facing. But for anyone who is in a position to help support local business, it is more imperative than ever that you try to do so! Let me explain why…

WHO WE ARE

The local retailers and the many other local business owners are not just nameless, faceless business people, angling for a buck.

We are your friends and your family and your neighbors. We or one of our employees sit next to you in shul. We might have sponsored your child’s little league team and we definitely supported your shul’s Chinese Auction and your school’s raffle. Our ads help finance the local papers and our businesses employ many other people. We are an “essential” part of the community.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US

And now we are hurting. “Stop the Spread” has saved lives but the governor’s shutdown orders also crushed every Jewish retailers’ most important month: the month before Pesach. And now it continues with no clear end in sight, no obvious date for your favorite local shopping destinations to magically return to normal or even semi-normal.

Our businesses are shut or crippled, and our families and employees rely on the success of those businesses for our livelihoods. Most business owners will pay their employees no matter what, even if it means not taking home their own pay. When someone loses their job now (which is terrible), they lose a set monthly income they relied on. Perhaps unemployment payments or the stimulus check has helped ease that temporarily. We hope that every person enduring the agony of losing their job sees a recovery quickly!

If one of us loses our business, we could also be consumed instantly by insane amounts of debt and business owners don’t get to collect unemployment. When we took a “risk” by becoming an entrepreneur, or taking out a loan to grow our business, we never dreamed that the whole world could shut down. leaving our stores closed and our debts piling up with no clear end in sight. That could mean, for some, an instant loss of their expected income and insurmountable debt. It could take years to recover or some business owners and their spouses and children might never recover.

Our sales revenue numbers aren’t just actuarial data on an excel spreadsheet; they are what determine if we make it. For the majority of us small business owners, it’s not just what determines if the business makes money, but whether we make money. We rely on these businesses to support our families. We rely on your patronage to sustain that business.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

With no clear end date to the stay-shut orders in sight, we are all panicking. Restaurants rely on a mix of sit-down, takeout and catering to sustain their business. Curbside pickup and Uber Eats deliveries is not a sustainable business model long-term for almost every restaurant. Those reliant on the simchos industry like caterers, singers, and photographers are getting crushed as well right now. Some local businesses were newly acquired by their owners, while others just completed a renovation. Some businesses have money in bank for a rainy day but many do not and live month to month, relying on each month being like the prior one.

Businesses like your local clothing and shoe stores that carry seasonal inventory made purchase orders over 6 months ago assuming that this Spring/Summer season would be like any other. Some of those stores maxed out their credit lines to make those purchases. And now they face the reality that they may not see a reopening in time to move all of this backlogged merchandise. To you, a 30% off or a 50% off sale right after Pesach is a metziah. For them, it is a desperate reaction to a desperate new reality.

Who can afford to get stuck holding outdated inventory? Usually these businesses rely on selling the bulk of their merchandise at the beginning of the season at full price and gradually discounting items as the season nears the end. This year, businesses jumped straight to slashing prices, desperate to generate some minimal sales while closed. That means profits are out the window. This is “damage control” time for most stores.

In terms of non-retail, local self-employed lawyers, doctors, social workers, and other service providers are struggling as well since they are closed or severely limited in their ability to perform their jobs. Camp owners, little leagues and gymnastics centers face uncertain futures, frozen enrollment and a ticking countdown clock on their seasons.

WHY CAN’T THE GOVERNMENT FIX THIS?

What about government bailouts, you ask? Sadly, the SBA programs have been doomed from day one. It is literally impossible for the government to float enough Monopoly money to sustain every business through a lengthy lock down. And even businesses that “won” the SBA jackpot are funded based upon their payroll, not the size or needs of their business.

So a store may receive a forgivable loan but it requires them to pay employees for the next 8 weeks while they are closed and the employees cannot work anyways. Another business may have only 1 or 2 salaried employees but they could be sitting on a million dollars of inventory they can’t sell or their rent might be $15,000 per month and their landlord won’t negotiate with them.

WHEN WILL IT END?

We all want a return to normalcy. We all hope we can save lives and see improvements to the health and safety of the Jewish community and of New York in general. We hope that this progress comes quickly and Shuls, schools, stores and more can start to reopen.

If the summer can see a return to semi-normalcy for businesses, then hopefully all of the stores and services you know and love will make it out the other side. Hopefully our children get to play outdoors and attend camp and we can all grab a coffee and window shop again! We hope. But we just don’t know. Only Hashem knows.

But if things take a lot longer? If stores can’t reopen for months or they reopen but shoppers just aren’t around? Many of the stores you know and love might not be around whenever Cuomo releases his stranglehold on local businesses. And that would be a shame. Again, the loss wouldn’t just be a matter of how many different pizza choices you have. The loss of every store or business is another Jewish family or families facing an uncertain future, their source of a living ripped away by this disease. Covid-19 is taking lives and ruining lives in many different ways.

SO HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES?

For the restaurants and other businesses that are open in some capacity, please patronize them. For stores forced to close, you can shop on their websites. Or find them on Instagram or call them. Most stores are taking orders and then shipping or delivering them locally. Online orders for many businesses can’t possibly match the sales they were making when the storefront was also open.

Consider changing your habits. If you were going to buy a pair of shoes on Amazon, consider buying from a local retailer. Amazon has given up on 2 day deliveries anyways and many items on Amazon Prime are taking far longer to arrive. So consider whether a retailer locally might have what you are looking for. Try to find other items or services you used to buy online or from a big box retailer and try to support the small businesses here in the Five Towns.

If you don’t need anything now, but have a favorite store, buy a gift certificate. Help their cash flow problem now and get yourself something nice later. Or give the gift certificate to someone else who needs it or as a gift. Perhaps you can stockpile something now that you know you purchase regularly anyways.

Many businesses have gotten creative. Caterers have “to-go” Kiddush packages, local entertainers or entertainment places are offering affordable Zoom sessions, retailers are offering free shipping or local delivery. We are all trying our best to stay afloat in these trying times. So please shop local if you can!

Keep spreading the message and email or call Cuomo’s office and other politicians’ offices.

If we all keep helping each other and having each other’s backs, hopefully Hashem will bring an end to the virus and we can look forward to a brighter, healthier future for us all.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Local Business Owner

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)



24 COMMENTS

  1. stop whining and just open your stores,and resist this fascistic little wannabe dictator Cuomo and the rest of the evil loony America hating leftist swines.
    This closing down of America has nothing to do with saving lives,these leftist swines who murder yearly tens of millions of unborn children have absolutely no regards for human life ,this America hating leftist Cuomo had absolutely no regard for the lives of thousands of nursing home patients when he forced the homes to take in crono virus patients knowing full well it would kill thousands. Coumo’s hands are literally dripping with the blood of these thousands of unfortunates.
    this closing down of America has only one agenda and that is to destroy the capitalistic system that these socialist DemonRats hate,and of course to bring down Donald Trump and help elect that demented pervert Biden

  2. Dear Concerned Small Business Owner,
    I feel for you, I also own a small business, albeit d=service, not retail.

    BUT….you do not post true facts when you state business owners cannot collect unemployment.
    If you in fact, acted honestly and were an on the books employee drawing a salary and paying Social Security and unemployment taxes on that salary, you can collect unemployment. If you ran the business without taking a taxable salary and helped your self from the till, then you are paid back for your dishonesty by not getting unemployment.

    The Care Act specifically included small business owners and self employed individuals in eligibility for unemployment benefits. I know a good number of sole proprietors, shopkeepers, professionals (such as dentists) who are collecting unemployment during this time period.

    Yes, times are hard. We are in a Pandemic, more than 85,000 Americans have lost their lives. Better to lose your money than your life. My parents lived through the Great Depression where their parents lost everything. My mother went from living in a Fifth Ave Mansion (German Jews) with governesses, liveried chauffeur driving their Pierce Arrow and a summer Home on the north Shore of Long Island to 6 people living in 2 rooms in the South Bronx. My grandparents rebuilt their lives, something our brethren destroyed in the holocaust could not do.

    I was raised in a life of privilege in the post-war baby boom, but my father’s business went bust in the early 1960s and we lived on my mother’s $4,000 annual salary as a school teacher. He rebuilt a business empire. My business went bad in the early 1980s due to changing demographics, so I went to law school while working full time and raising a family. The CTL firm and our personal investments have prospered over time. Life is cyclical. To quote an American adage: when life tosses you lemons, make lemonade.

    It might just be the time to pack up and move to a place where you don’t pay millions of dollars for a house on a tiny lot where you can reach across the alley and touch the neighbor’s house. Where that 3,000 square ft store doesn’t cost $15,000 a month in rent, but $3,000 which also comes with free off street parking for your customers. Where your children have space to breathe, play and enjoy the outdoors instead of being cooped up in overcrowded neighborhoods catching every illness that comes along.

    I live in small town CT (my choice) all our grandchildren, great nieces and nephews have been in residence since the week of March 12th. Do they miss parents and school friends, yes, but they haven’t been confined staring at 4 walls, Outside school hours, they have been free to enjoy basketball and other sports in our yards and gardens. This morning they helped me finish spring planting of flowers and vegetables.

  3. The hypocrisy of this post is blatant. YWN has been crusading against Minyanim calling them murderers & Rodfim. Now you are publishing this article in such positive light. I haven’t seen you publishing any articles pushing crying and complaining that our Shulls and schools are closed and devastating effects it’s having on the lives of all Ehriliche Yidden

    Moderators Note: YWN called Minyanim “murderers” and “rodfim”? When and where was this? Just S. Samonovits spreading vile motzei shem ra for a change.

  4. If you wait for the government to change their policies the stores will have long gone out of business. Give a deadline and then everyone open your doors. Let’s see them arrest 17,000 plus store owners for trying to feed their families and stay in business

  5. Everyone has to stop quoting the death toll as an excuse to keep businesses shuttered. Many lives were lost due to negligence and poor treatment. And sheer stupidity. Why were hospitals and nursing homes overcrowded instead of sending to the USS comfort and Javits? So that more patients died.
    If target and Walmart and dollar tree can be open, so can small stores. It’s even less risky. It’s a bogus excuse. It doesn’t stand up to basic reasoning. Destroying the economy won’t save lives it will create more mental illness, more suicide, more domestic abuse. More divorce. The trade off isn’t worth it. Open with care.

  6. Chugibug: While I totally disagree with your vile characterizations of the state leaders who have filled leadership void left by our national leadership, your rant clearly demonstrates the mental and emotional health issues affecting the tzibur in these difficult days

  7. During this pandemic I’ve been totally missing the chachke stores, 25 dollar flowers that go to the garbage on sunday, not to mention I was looking where to get those extra special kid shoes for 75 a pair (shavuos is coming) i had to scroll through many pages on amazon when searching low to high on amazon. However, I am opting to wait for you to open your local stores for the better return policy. Let’s open up again , I mean most of us already were foolish enough to get the disease at the cost of hundreds of lives ( let’s ignore that fact they were old anyways). So after having almost no parnossa for the past 2 months I look forward to partaking of the ” post plague sale” around the block of your jewelry store or silver store it’s just what we’ve been missing.

  8. blame this on china. you take cheap goods so you can make a profit. now we take their virus too. Stop buying from china and supporting evil regime that manufactures bio terrorism. this is not the first virus from china. there was hong kong flu in 1969 and sars and hn, all from china. wake up america.

  9. I have a better idea. How about organizing a recall on both Cuomo and DeBlasio for gross incompetence.
    Cuomo is responsible for the deaths of thousands of nursing home patients and all he does is apologize ,sorry I made a mistake and expect to walk away scot free. He should go to jail.
    DeBlasio should be dumped just for being the dumbest and worst mayor in the country. Not only has he done nothing right but he has surrounded himself with his buddies who are just as dumb.
    People don’t realize that the reason yeshivas are closed is only because of the Board of Ed. These are the laziest civil servants in the city and they don’t want to work. Why should they work if they are getting paid anyways. Lets not forget it is these lazy city workers who put the mayor into office.
    We should organize a demonstration of 100,000 in front of City Hall yelling BOZOhas to go to wake him up from his slumber.

  10. “stop whining and just open your stores,and resist this fascistic little wannabe dictator “- wanting to keep people alive and healthy makes someone a dictator?
    “This closing down of America has nothing to do with saving lives,these leftist swines who murder yearly tens of millions of unborn children have absolutely no regards for human life”- false equivalency and irrelevant. Public health officials want people who are currently alive to, well, stay alive. And the nature of a pandemic makes it so that even those who would survive COVID-19 in “regular” times will not have access to healthcare because hospitals are overrun.
    “this closing down of America has only one agenda and that is to destroy the capitalistic system that these socialist DemonRats hate”- No. it’s to save lives and make sure hospitals are not overrun. It’s to make sure people don’t end up dying in the street like what happened in Italy.
    It is mind boggling that a pandemic has become a partisan issue!
    You might survive getting sick. Others won’t. Stay home so that they can live. Is this really so hard?

  11. Im glad i didn’t listen to Evil Cuomo & DeBlasio. our business was open the whole pandemic time,we were doing our orders pre pandemic. but still our business has dropped off.BREAKING NEWS: The pandemic is over, Evil Deblasio & Cuomo ARE DELIBERATELY STRETCHING IT OUT ,HOLDING US HOSTAGE UNTIL TRUMP FORKS OVER MONEY TO SAVE NEW YORK. watch when the feds approve bailing out new york, the lockdown will magically end

  12. CTlawyer:
    You make a very strong point but your article would fit better for the Law Journal, NY Times, Wall Street Journal.
    We live in a chasidishe community for the last 70 years since our parents were saved from the Holocaust and made their homes and businesses in East side, Brownsville, Crown Heights , Willamsburgh and later Boro Park.
    They worked very hard to build business and factories and stores all over NYC.
    Our great Rebbes Z”L from chasidishe ,litvishe Ran Feinstein in East side and Satmer Rebbe in Wmsbg. choose a city life over a town in Connecticut.
    So now what do you really call Honesty? I own a business with 23 employees and had to shut down because of Covid19 . I have NO income ,YES i get my unemployment check which is 600 a week + 520
    Can i pay $8000.00 rent utilities,insurance ,taxes ,vehicle leases from this money?
    Can i pay tuition, grocery, medical insurance from this money?
    and now that we chasidishe dont go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer cant we live in out neighborhoods and work hard to earn a living and the state of NY shuts us down ? why is Costco,Target,Walmart open?

  13. @ct lawyer.
    Your very critical. just saying
    you also say that business owners can collect unemployment. while that may be true, (disregarding that those payments are a few weeks backlogged anyhow), i would imagine that unemployment does not equal income, it is only the personal income of the person filing. That leaves a small business owner with no way to pay for the basic expenses of their business. your welcome.

  14. I’ll tell you who benefits. The liberal politicians. I live in Brad Lander’s district. I get his newsletters. Even before this pandemic, he was advocating laws that would cap rents on commercial properties. Tenants shouldn’t have to pay rent for who knows until the pandemic is officially over. Small business owners would have to give part-time workers benefits like regular workers. Anything to make it difficult for those “vultures” who dare collect rent or try to run a mom and pop store. My advice to these store owners is to make yourself look like the underdog or without saying his name let the liberals know this may giving support to Trump.

  15. There’s NO reason they couldn’t open safely after a few weeks of this. Nothing has changed as far as what we supposedly know about the Chinese Wuhan Virus in the past 6 weeks.

    Distancing
    Masks or face covering
    Sanitizer
    Sanitizing surfaces
    Etc

    Nothing new but same old govt control.

  16. If it saves even one life.

    It’s ok to destroy the economy.

    If it saves even one life.

    It’s ok to send millions into deprivation and ruin.

    If it saves even one life.

    We can crush supply lines for food and medicine.

    If it saves even one life

    (Says a Democrat governor and mayor and political party who approve of partial birth abortions and infant organ harvesting, and even murder of a child born by accident when mother wanted no child.)

  17. Thank you, CTL, for shedding some light on the facts about small businessmen (regardless of height or weight) being entitled to unemployment benefits.

    I don’t think this letter is good for the Jews. The nonsensical behavior of some chareidim at weddings and funerals has drawn enough bad attention to us. There are plenty of misguided gentiles begging for a premature abandonment of pandemic precautions. Let them carry the ball on this bad idea.

  18. CT Lawyer: There is no automatic ethical or legal obligation for a small business owner to put himself on a salary and in most circumstances it is not advisable, either. In some instances it may even be fraudulent. What kind of law do you practice, anyway? Second, the point is that the contagion is now at the point in most places (including the entire downstate NY area) where we can begin a limited reopening of businesses. The medical science does not support a continued shelter in place lock down.

  19. CTLAWYER, with all due respect, your answer is insensitive and irrelevant. No one wants to hear your life story right now. The issue here is an unfair arbitrary diktat from the tyrant in Albany which is squeezing the life out of small business owners for no good reason. It is a SHANDA that the local 7-11 and Walmart are packed with people going in and out on a constant basis ( I see this myself every day here in Monsey) while small shops just a few feet away in the same commercial strip are shut with no end in sight.
    And yes under ordinary circumstances storeowners can afford the rent, just like you can afford your mansion in Connecticut which you talk about all the time. Let’s not make this an in-town vs out-of town issue, our fellow Jews are struggling to keep their heads above water and they need our help. Now go sign the petition!

  20. CTLAWYER, I just want to clarify, I respect you greatly and usually agree with what you say, with your life experience and eloquence you are a real asset to our online community, besides you are probably old enough to be my grandfather, I hope I didn’t come across too harsh.