26 May Think Big & Shop Small With Reopen New York
New Yorkers have had enough. A movement of NY small businesses fighting for survival has grown into a pack of thousands of supporters and hundreds of businesses. Now, the group is planning to fight the system head on. Beginning this past Sunday, around 200 stores plan on opening in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Flatbush, Monsey and the Five Towns. Many have already opened. They will use extreme social distancing, some just curbside service, while others will allow one person at a time into their establishments. The are banded together under the name #ReopenNY. Organizers say that NY Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor Deblasio are aware of the movement. The group has lawyers and is well prepared for legal action, including visits by the police. While these businesses suffer, large stores, like Costco & Target, remain open. Dozens of small-businesses have already announced that they will never reopen, and many others are gasping for air as they struggle to pay bills and survive. It is simply outrageous that the big stores are permitted to have remained opened the entire COVID-19pandemic as they are essential, while small-businesses – selling the very same items – were forced to close and in essence, go out of business. This past weekend, Ari Hirsch from The Jewish Vues interviewed Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz from Amor Fine Jewlery. Simcha is one of the people that started the Reopen New York Movement. They have had a store in Boro Park for the last twenty months and a store in Woodridge over the summer months.
Please tell everyone about the movement Reopen New York.
Reopen New York is a coalition of small businesses coming together to have our voices heard. The small businesses of America are important. This is not a partisan issue. Every single one of us has to make a living and the small businesses of New York have the right to open our doors just like anyone else. If Costco can sell jewelry, I can sell jewelry. If Walmart can sell glasses, why can’t your local ophthalmologist sell glasses? This is what we’re fighting for; we want to be able to run our businesses like anyone else.
How did it start?
I started this because my husband was speaking to a friend of his who told him that the business he had built his whole life was now closing its doors. So as a yid and a person with a heart, I could not handle hearing this man’s story. I spent the whole night thinking, what can we do as a community to help each other? We’re all intrinsically connected and we all have a responsibility for one another. The current situation is going on and on and I finally decided that I need to make a group of people who would come together to oppose it. I called a friend of mine, Suri Katz from Shopmezzo, who has two stores, one in Boro park and one in Cedarhurst. She immediately started this group. We told everybody in the group to make videos of themselves in front of their store saying that this is unjust and unfair. We want to show that there are real people behind every brick and mortar store. I made a video saying that I think it’s unfair that big chain stores can be open, such as 7eleven, but that I can not be open and trusted to keep my space clean. I think that as business owners, we can keep our spaces cleaner than anyone else because we care. I don’t want to bring any disease home to my family chas v’shalom. I want everyone to be safe! I put the video out and it went viral. Ben Shapiro tweeted the video; Chazkel Bennet and Tova Hershkowitz helped to get the video out. We recruited my sister Sara Chani Broffman who owns a gym in Crown Heights called Gymies Gym, Sarale Gitter, whose Instagram handle is @hairbysarale, and we also got in touch with Bruce Backman. He’s the one who said we need to raise our voices louder and we need to have a press conference. He told us to get a diverse crowd, not just Jewish owners, but to get everyone together on this and that he would organize a press conference. So with that in mind, we set to work to create an Instagram page @reopennewyork and a GoFundMe page, as well. We contacted business owners and asked them if they’d join our coalition and when we saw that it was gaining momentum, we hired Ron Coleman as our lawyer.
What is your platform?
Our platform is to reopen New York for everyone! At the press conference we stated this claim; our whole idea is that we don’t want it to get political, we don’t want it to be partisan, we don’t want to attack the mayor, we just want to state our claim and say that we will be opening on Tuesday whether they let us or not. We will deal with the ramifications of that with our lawyer. If we get any tickets, they will go directly to him and he will be the one to help us. If we each get one ticket, we’ll deal with it ourselves. But if they come after all 300 of us, we’ll have someone to back us up. The press conference was Boruch Hashem a success!
What is your ultimate goal?
Our ultimate goal is to get the mayor to reopen New York because it seems more and more like they’re trying to push off schools in the fall. This is much bigger than stores opening. It seems like they’re going to keep pushing us off until they can’t anymore, and we can’t have it. We need our businesses running and we can’t afford to lose even one more day. We want to open right now and get everyone on board with this.
How many small businesses are you with at this point?
About 300 businesses and it’s growing every single day.
What do you say to the people out there that are opposed to your platform?
There are people who are opposed to it; a lot of people want to be home indefinitely. I say to those people “You’re more than welcome to stay home as long as you want, but everyone else has to go back to work and make a living for their families.”
Are you planning on opening this summer in Woodridge, Center 1?
We plan on opening, but we have to see if they’re going to allow us to open. They are currently allowing curbside pick up Upstate, but that’s not going to be a great situation for us. We need it to loosen up a little bit more, but Im Yirtze Hashem we do plan to open either unofficially or officially if they allow us to.
Are you surprised about the coverage you’ve been getting this past week?
Please discuss a little about the press conference. I am a little surprised; I didn’t expect the video to go viral; I didn’t even know what viral meant! When it got tweeted by Ben Shapiro and then I was interviewed by CBS, I thought that was it. But then Bruce Backman, the head of our PR department, arranged a press conference with all the press. We had Fox News, NBC, CBS, Epoch, a Spanish news station. You name it, it was there! After that I knew we were going to be getting coverage. I was invited by Fox and Friends and I had two interviews from the Daily Wire. So am I surprised? For sure! I didn’t expect that one video could make such a difference, but I guess words from the heart enter the heart.
Is there something else you’d like to mention that we did not discuss?
We’re working with a team of some amazing people and we’d like to give them some recognition. I’d like to thank Bruce Backman, Suri Katz from Mezzo, Sarale Gitter from @hairbysarale on Instagram, and my sister Brafman who runs Gymies Gym in Crown Heights. She has about 350 kids per week that usually come to her gym and now it’s closed. We’re really trying to get it reopened as well as everyone else’s businesses. These are the people helping us do this and we’d never be able to do it without everyone! “To my children, my small business is essential’,” said Mrs. Simcha Minkowitz, a small business owner of Amor Fine Jewlery in Boro Park.