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Retailers Aim to Uplift Spirits After Downtrodden Year

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Kevin Felton out front at Nick and Son Clothing Inc. in the Lower East Side. Photo by Kari Jensen
Kevin Felton out front at Nick and Son Clothing Inc. in the Lower East Side. All photos by Kari Jensen.

This story was reported by contributor Kari Jensen.

Local retailers are helping boost the spirits of beleaguered New Yorkers by offering festive settings and quality customer service, as a year tarnished with pandemic-related loss draws to a close.

The mood feels cheerful as customers walk into Canal Street Market. The space is brightly lit. Snowflake ornaments dangle from the ceiling in the entryway of the retail section. The scent of fresh-brewed grounds rises from the Office Coffee booth.

Jackie Granchamps has set up a sample table at her booth, Cecile’s Bath and Body. Shoppers can try various handmade creams and lotions, including Shea Butter Whips, which soothes wind-chapped hands. Granchamps said now is a good time to shop for others and for yourself, especially given the current life stressors. “It’s a new year. It’s a new you. It’s time to take care of yourself. Self-care is so big. It’s so important now, especially more than ever,” she said.

Jackie Granchamps, at right, at her booth, Cecile's Bath and Body in Canal Street Market. Photo by Kari Jensen.
Jackie Granchamps, at right, at her booth, Cecile’s Bath and Body in Canal Street Market.

The Canal Street Market features both retail and food vendors. Granchamps said she will have her booth there until the end of the year and after that she will sell her products wholesale, online, and also custom – via her blend bar.

Over at Pearl River Mart, pandemic-related change is in the air. The retailer recently reported that it would close its flagship store in Tribeca/Chinatown some time at the start of 2021, due to stalled negotiations with the landlord. After the holidays, the store’s new location will be announced. In the store’s home accents section in the basement, small Buddha statues are displayed nearby lucky cat figurines. The gold, silver, black, and white kitties’ arms wave back and forth, as if beckoning sorely needed auspicious blessings and fortune.

An assortment of lucky cat figurines at Pearl River Mart in Tribeca/Chinatown.
An assortment of lucky cat figurines at Pearl River Mart in Tribeca/Chinatown.

This past year, some have promoted shopping in Chinatown and supporting local merchants. This helped offset economic losses suffered in part due to the pandemic and rampant anti-Asian racism. The Lo-Down has been reporting on Lower East Side small business survival and casualties of the pandemic.

Covid-19 and 2020 have had their fall out. Since the beginning of the year, some stores have permanently closed, including Century 21, the discount luxury department store chain. Others, such as Lower East Side bookseller Bluestockings, have relocated to more affordable locations. Still others have shuttered their brick-and-mortar storefronts and moved online, including East Village retailers Gem Spa and Turntable Lab.

On a recent weekday evening, Lot-Less Closeouts on Clinton Street bustles with customers, including some browsing in its discount holiday section, which is located at the front of the store. Moonie Singh, manager, said the store is a good place to shop for bargains, including discounts of up to 75 percent off department store apparel prices. Staff is on hand to assist shoppers’ needs.

Over on Orchard Street, a few blocks south of Houston Street, Nick and Son Clothing Inc. displays some goods out front, for Covid-19 safe shopping. It may be cold outside (that evening, the temperature is in the low 40s) but Kevin Felton, business partner, warmly greets passersby. He even wears a dapper wool flat cap, similar to the ones on display, and talks enthusiastically about the shop’s inventory. “We do leathers, suits, blazers. We do all types of sports jackets, furs, minks, all types of classy jackets,” he said.

Further down Orchard Street at the corner of Grand Street, Rafael Masri smiles and welcomes a potential shopper to Jodamo, his designer menswear store. The outside sky may be gray, but indoors the walls and clothing racks are lined with tailored suits in rich, varied hues. Masri said the store also sells dress shirts, tuxedos, sportswear, shoes, and accessories, plus offers alterations. “Personal service and a tailor on premises,” he said. “Our business is about repeat customers.”

Narcisso Cruz checks out an Enzo sports jacket at Global International Men's Clothiers.
Narcisso Cruz checks out an Enzo sports jacket at Global International Men’s Clothiers.

Longtime shoppers know to go to Orchard Street for quality men’s garments, product knowledge, and customer service. Across Orchard Street from Jodamo is Global International Men’s Clothiers. Managers of both Jodamo and Global International men’s stores note that women, LGBTQ and non-binary people sometimes shop there, as well.

Global International also stocks designer suits, dress shirts, sportswear, tuxedos, and accessories, and offers alterations. Many customers know Samuel (“Sammy”) Gluck, the owner/manager, by name. “Everybody can find their place here,” he said.

When Narcisso Cruz, who grew up in the neighborhood, enters the store, Gluck warmly greets him, chats for a while, and then encourages him to browse.

Cruz looks around, pausing to check a few price tags. He touches the sleeve of a camel color Enzo wool sports jacket, feeling the plush fabric. “It’s not the price,” he said, “it’s the quality.”

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