Unemployment is down, according to the latest Labor Department report released on Friday, which also counted a robust 271,000 new jobs in October. Average wages, meanwhile, went up 9 cents for the month. That’s all good news.
Some other economic indicators are not so positive, though: Retail sales excluding automobiles, for example, slipped 0.3% during September and the stock market continues to be sluggish. Sales are down 0.2% at retail stores, a number that includes online giants like Amazon. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence numbers indicated that people were a little less economically confident in October than they were in September. The economy, it seems, is in flux.
So how about here in Brooklyn? To get a handle on that, The Brooklyn Ink asked residents and small business workers and owners all over the borough how things are going for them, moneywise. And how they measure how things are going. How’s your economy, Brooklyn?
Ryan Heil, 33, Sales Associate, Red White & Green Wine & Spirits, Williamsburg
“Our $13.99 under section—that’s the stuff that goes. Nobody’s buying $40 dollar bottles of wine. Our economy’s not doing that great. I think it’s gotten better. I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Mohamed Basaeed, 42, owner of Fin Brothers Discount 99 Cent Store, Crown Heights
“It’s been a slow year, and this was a bad October. We sell lots of paper towels, toilet paper, washing soap…things for everyday use. But before, people were buying things like machines for air fresheners. Or electronics—CDs, DVDs, cameras. “
Leila Flatsousis, 41, owner of Delilah Salon, Gowanus
“For hotels, restaurants, the economy is doing better but there’s pressure for small businesses. I see a lot of businesses that cannot compete with rising rent prices.”
Bailey Cooke 27, Membership Director at NY Studio Factory, an office space and studio rental, Bushwick
“In the past three years alone, I have seen businesses quadruple, square footage of real estate quadruple. Lofts that were $700 a month are now $3,000 a month and this has happened in the last five years. People are just scooping up places left and right. But I think it is really exciting because a lot of these spaces were really falling apart and needing revitalization.”
Jibriel Muhammad, 34, salesman, Respect for Life Books-N-Things, Bedford-Stuyvesant
“This store’s been pretty consistent over the last five, six, seven years. No increase or decrease really. We have down weeks, but then the next week is usually better.”
Elissa Olin, 53, owner of Green in BKLYN, selling green home goods and gifts, Clinton Hill
“I know half a dozen businesses that are planning to close. I’ve heard other small businesses are struggling.…I’m concerned this year but I wasn’t as concerned before. I know a bakery, gift shops, and a food store and other businesses similar to them are closing. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently.”
Corliss Elizabeth Williams, 35, owner of The Lowry Estate, a vintage clothing boutique that recently opened in Bushwick
“I don’t think the economy is doing great. But I feel like I am helping with the economy by being a smart, new small business. Just the fact that I am able to be here and have a space that I can call my own is an indication that things are getting better.”
Natania Blumenkehl, 37, owner of Kumon, an after-school academic enrichment program, Carroll Gardens
“I think it’s specific to industry, and mine happens to be education, where right now, there seems to be a need for extra academic programs. Even during an economic recession or crisis, I think the last thing people look to cut on are their children. They’ll stop eating out, they’ll stop shopping but they won’t cut out the needs of their children.”
David Abren, 45, pharmacist, Williamsburg
“My dad started this store around 27 years ago. I’ve really seen this neighborhood change. We face the same concerns that a lot of people do here—the people who run big businesses have set up systems that work for them. Earlier, per customer who came in, we’d make around $40. But now, it’s more like $7 per person. A lot of this is because of insurance restrictions.”
Crystal Jurado, 26, owner (family operated business) Guias y Angeles (flowers and religious items), Sunset Park
“Not as many people buy flowers as they used to. It has to be a special occasion. We don’t have ‘just becauses’ any more.”
Suhaib Alsahybi, 24 (finance major, Baruch College), Heights Deli and Convenience, Brooklyn Heights
“The intersection between our job roles as not only the owners but also managers has helped us quickly adjust to customer demands in the area. We care about the wants of our customers, if we have to make any changes we don’t have to go through layers of management to get to the owners. Most of the demands are met overnight. It’s a closer relationship we share with them. We keep our business simple and hence are able to survive here.”
Amanda Bielen, 26, barista and assistant manager, Milk Bar, Carroll Gardens
“I do plan to speak to my manager about increasing my pay, since there’s all this talk going on about fast food workers getting a wage raise. Right now, I make 13 an hour. I’m also assistant manager here—second in command. Baristas start here at 10 an hour. Business has been good.”
Mindy Dulberg, 36, manager of By Brooklyn, Boerum Hill
“Business has definitely been slow on Smith Street. I notice less people coming in from the street. We mostly have tourists. Everything in the store is made by artists in Brooklyn, so when we don’t do well, they really feel the effects.”
Chundra Munilall, 66, construction worker/carpenter but currently homeless; interviewed in Bushwick.
“My pension is $569 and I do not get money from SNAP. I have no bed, no stove. I sleep in the trains. When you’re out of a job, you can’t get another. I’ve gone to good will till I can’t go no more.”
Azriel Cocchini-Beck, 22, volunteer coordinator at Repair The World, Crown Heights.
“We work with an organization that gives teenagers who have dropped out of school the opportunity to get their GED. They require that the kids dress up for class in shirts and ties for class. We’ve been seeing that a lot of them aren’t able to afford to buy formal clothes, so we started a clothing drive here.”
Chino Villa, 46 owner of Vinos En Wyckoff, Bushwick
“People used to spend 20 dollars a day and now they spend between 8 to 10. I had to lay of two of my part time people because of lots of taxes to pay, it makes things harder.”
— Carlett Spike