BY RANIA RICHARDSON | Small businesses are vital to the economy and a mark of healthy communities. Knowing that so many are struggling during this pandemic is disheartening, to say the least. Taking action by putting dollars back into the neighborhood is one way to lift spirits and contribute to the revitalization of the local economy.
A new spotlight program, All In Chelsea, is putting its focus on a wide variety of businesses ranging from restaurants, bars, and hotels to pharmacies, art galleries, and clothiers—all of them, in keeping with Chelsea’s character, offering something unique and (in the truest, pre-pandemic form) essential.
Presented by the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, (GVCCC), the program features deals and discounts from participating businesses and will continue for the month of October.
Maria Diaz, longtime Executive Director of the Chamber, said in a press statement announcing the program’s debut, “Working together with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office and the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA), will help spread the message that Chelsea bands together when times are challenging. Our business owners are trying all they can to stay afloat. And we hope that programs like this, and sound policy making that address the times, will allow businesses to succeed.”
Chelsea Community News contacted Diaz, who said, “Businesses are suffering. We want to help them out with added exposure.”
With COVID-19 nipping away at the bottom line, there has also been a decline in businesses joining and renewing their GVCCC membership.
“We are working with members to afford dues, so that they can benefit from what we offer,” noted Diaz, “such as connecting businesses to one another for networking, directing them to financial resources, and being a liaison between the businesses and elected officials or city agencies.”
With a sentimental tone, Diaz described a favored section of town, with an eye on its revival.
“Last night, I took a walk on the High Line and through Chelsea. I saw many people safely enjoying dinner outside, being mindful and staying safe.”
As the weather gets colder and less conducive to long periods spent outdoors, “There is talk of heating lamps, but it’s not clear how businesses can operate. We need policies from the city and state,” said Diaz, noting GVCCC, indeed any Chamber of Commerce, has at its core a mission and a passion “to advocate for small businesses,” and not just in difficult, sometimes extraordinarily challenging times. “When businesses close, there is more garbage, more dark spaces. We want to keep our neighborhood vibrant.”
Active door-to-door recruiters have welcomed dozens more small businesses into All In Chelsea, Diaz said, noting, “The program is very flexible, and they can come in when they want, any time before October 31.”
There is no fee associated with the program. A business must have a physical, permanent storefront that is normally open to the public, in order to participate.
New participants will continue to be unveiled through the month. Deals can continue through the rest of the year, and the information will remain on the All In Chelsea website and social media platforms—but there will be no additions after the deadline.
“New York is always full of entrepreneurs,” said Diaz, of a post-pandemic restocking—not of shelves, but of stores whose shuttered storefronts and closed spaces “won’t stay empty forever,” speculated Diaz. “When science proves it is safe to be operational, we will see a change.”
“I’ve been canvassing the area to invite businesses into this promotional effort,” said local resident Cher Carden.
“Clientele at restaurants has gone down because of the economy, but also because people have become used to ordering meals online. Customers need jogging [of their memories] to have the awareness that restaurants are open and they can ‘come out and play’ so to speak,” she said.
Visiting Qanoon Restaurant (180 Ninth Ave. btw. W. 21st & W. 22nd Sts.), Carden recounted, “It was owner Tarek Daka and a chef. Tarek was doing everything- waitering, bartending, bussing and keeping up with it. No one had to wait for their delicious food.”
Qanoon means “grill” in Arabic and the cuisine is inspired by Daka’s family’s farm in Palestine. Through All In Chelsea, the purchase of a full dinner will qualify you for a glass of prosecco or a mimosa.
Carden reported that in her travels across the neighborhood, she learned that some proprietors had died from COVID-19 or other illnesses. Many business owners are frustrated with the lack of garbage pickup, but the main problem is landlords not budging on the rent. One custom frame shop will close at the end of the month because there is no room for negotiation.
A singer, artist and wellness counselor, Carden has lived in Chelsea for 34 years and is a board member of Save Chelsea, a community organization that seeks to protect the residential character of the neighborhood and maintain quality of life for all.
Why is she so involved in local activism?
“I love the community. It is my home and I want to preserve it as much as I can. It embodies the charm and diversity and uniqueness of New York.”
“There is also a tremendous amount of Black history in Chelsea,” she added.
Carden reported that Lyft is a sponsor of the program and is offering free (up to $25) roundtrip rides to shop in Chelsea through an online contest.
Mastercard is also a sponsor, through a partnership with All In NYC, the broader revitalization initiative created by NYC & Company, a non-profit convention and visitors bureau for New York City. There are benefits for qualifying businesses and customers from Mastercard, as outlined on the All In Chelsea website.
As a division of the citywide All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways, All In Chelsea focuses on visitors within driving distance, to be in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.The emphasis is on exploring and rediscovering the local neighborhood. Promotion of All In NYC will expand into regional markets when tourism resumes.
Among the businesses that Carden mentioned as coping with the pandemic despite setbacks is Champignon (202 Seventh Ave., btw. W. 21st & 22nd Sts.), a bistro serving French, Italian, Spanish, and American dishes for almost 20 years.
Owner Peter Anderson said, “Our prices are lower than they were pre-pandemic. We’ve decreased prices 10-20%.” He added that his happy hour prices can’t be beat. Happy hour runs from 11am to 8pm daily.
As reported by Chelsea Community News (click here to read the article), the restaurant was looted in the height of pillaging in New York City and Anderson boarded up the storefront temporarily.
“The neighborhood is safer now and we’ve had no serious issues since the 1-2 weeks of rioting,” he said.
Since Sept. 30, the restaurant has been open for indoor dining, but since that has just begun, and the weather has been good, people are preferring to sit outside.
Anderson is frustrated by city and state restrictions that keep changing. “Every time the government does something they make it more difficult. Now we take temperatures and have a notebook for customers to sign in with date, time, and telephone number. Some customers refuse.
The mayor has to consult with restaurant owners. We have no safety with landlords and labor costs are high. We need help from Congress or 85% of us will be out of business and only franchises will survive.”
To Chelsea residents he says, “We are striving because of our customers. Don’t take your business to other neighborhoods. Support the community. ”
Mention All In Chelsea for offers at these and the many other etablishments in the program:
New London Pharmacy (246 Eighth Ave., btw. 22nd & 23rd Sts.) Named for the nearby London Terrace Apartments, the pharmacy has been selling personal care products and natural remedies since 1960. 10% off purchases over $20 in October.
Billy’s Bakery (184 Ninth Ave., btw. 21st & 22nd Sts.) Cakes, cookies, and pies are available at this on-site 1940s-style bakery. 5% discount for the rest of 2020.
Chelsea Guitars (224 W. 23rd St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.) A mom-and-pop shop on the ground level of the Chelsea Hotel features musical instruments for every level of player. T-shirts discounted from $25 to $15 in October.
Brows a Go-Go (177 Seventh Ave., btw. 20th and 21st Sts.) A specialized beauty shop by Benefit Cosmetics focuses on facial enhancements. 10% off on services through the month.
JoAnne Artman Gallery (511 W. 22nd St., btw. Tenth & Eleventh Aves.) A roster of artists shown in museums and in private collections are available in a spacious gallery setting. Free delivery of art in October.
Chelsea Market, a sponsor of All In Chelsea, offers more establishments, such as:
Pearl River Mart (75 Ninth Ave., btw. 15th & 16th Sts.) An eclectic emporium for Asian inspired goods run by the daughter-in-law of the 1971 founders. 20% off purchases in October.
Damselfly Flowers (75 Ninth Ave., btw. 15th & 16th Sts.) Transportable bouquets, fresh flower deliveries, and event arrangements are available in an eco-conscious business. 10% off orders in October.
Posman Books (75 Ninth Ave., btw. 15th & 16th Sts.) Newly reopened, the bookstore has reading material to make quarantining (almost) enjoyable. Buy two jigsaw puzzles, get one free in October.
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