By Maria Rocha-Buschel
In a bid to help the businesses in the East Village that that been destroyed or damaged by the gas explosion at the end of March that killed two, a few elected officials led neighborhood residents on a small business crawl last Friday.
The event was part of an initiative known as Follow Me Friday, which was launched by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in 2014 and which the speaker uses as a way to communicate directly with constituents. She worked with Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s office for the East Village crawl in order to bring attention to the businesses on Second Avenue.
“Despite the horrible tragedy that occurred in this neighborhood recently, the East Village remains a vibrant and lively destination in New York City,” Mark-Viverito said. “The whole Council stands with the residents and business owners of this community in encouraging all New Yorkers to visit and enjoy all that the East Village has to offer.”
Businesses along the route included Moishe’s Bake Shop, New Yorker Market, Café Mocha, Bar Virage, Himalayan Vision, Enz’s and Jimmy’s No. 43.
Mariann Marlow, the owner of the clothing store Enz’s, said that it’s been hard since the store was closed for two months after the explosion to do repairs and restock the inventory, most of which was destroyed, but since reopening, hasn’t had any problems getting business.
“People couldn’t wait for me to reopen,” she said after multiple prospective customers came into the store within five minutes of each other, looking for items she used to have in stock before they were temporarily closed.
She had to redo the entire basement and floor, and was dealing with black mold on the walls, but said that support through donations helped the process considerably. Trashy Diva, a New Orleans women’s clothing store that focuses on vintage-inspired pieces, donated $2,000 and pin-up model Bernie Dexter contributed as well.
Union Square resident Barbara Kahn heard about the crawl through the #SaveNYC campaign, which was launched by local blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York to highlight local businesses and protect “the diversity and uniqueness of the urban fabric in New York City.” Kahn said that she avoids chain stores because she literally grew up in a mom-and-pop store that her father ran.
“My father was always honest in his business and that’s why we were poor,” she joked.
Kahn added that while she didn’t think the crawl would necessarily generate a huge amount of income for the businesses they were visiting, the event is good for morale.
“It can be hard for the businesses so close to the site of the explosion, to see this empty space that their neighbors used to occupy,” she said. “It can really help to see that there is community support for them.”