Last Wednesday, a Nor’easter swept across New York, bringing wet snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The blustery weather, a veritable slap in the face coming on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, raised an important question: Is it winter already, this early in November?
Whether the next five months filled with subzero days or will simply offer a mild respite from the summer heat, one prognostication is certain: the weather will directly affect Greenpoint businesses and the goods they sell.
But the change in climate doesn’t always affect commerce the way you might expect. At Manhattan Avenue’s Zen Garden Spa, owner Zhong Xiao Chen just had a record week. And she’s hardly alone: sales picked up at many shops on the busy corridor in the wake of Sandy. With displaced downtowners in our neighborhood and Greenpointers stuck at home due to the lack of G and L subway service, several New Yorkers treated themselves to our restaurants, bars, cafes and countless other businesses. Now with the summer gone, Chen hopes that the dry skin and chapped lips that also inevitably come with winter will draw attention to her skin care products.
But not all businesses are booming. At Three Kings Tattoo parlor (572 Manhattan Avenue), where “skin care” takes on a different meaning, most patrons come for their fix when the weather is warmer. “The summer is our best business time,” explained owner Matt Marcus. “It slows down from now until the holidays, but booms from May until September. People want to show off their tattoos. Warm weather means less clothing. Less clothing means more skin.”
Van Leeuwen’s Ice Cream (632 Manhattan Avenue), like Three Kings, is slowing down for much more apparent reasons. The shop was empty on Tuesday evening as the shift’s lone employee, Lynn, idled behind the counter. “I got hired at the end of the summer, and things were crazy. On Saturdays and Sundays, there’d be extra employees on shift.” Now, what little business Van Leeuwen’s attracts comes from their coffee.
In contrast, business is flowing at Greenpoint Wine and Liquor (89 Nassau Avenue). That’s the way it is every year, according to Gan, an employee who has been at the spot for a quarter century.
“In the summer, people go away. In the winter, there are more people. Students. They go out less and want to drink at home.” Rosé, white wine, and prosecco are down. Everything else is up… especially hard liquor.
“People need to stay warm,” says Gan with a shrug.
Not all businesses have such a stark polarity in their calendars. At the Greenpoint Floral Company (703 Manhattan Avenue) sales only improve on certain, well-anticipated dates. “We do really well on the holidays,” says florist Irene. “People buy flowers on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, on Christmas. But we just coast in between. Even Thanksgiving is slow. It would be nice if people came by more.”
At the McCarren Park Pool, being open in the summer was a given, but plans for an outdoor rink this winter have been put on ice. According to a NYC Parks spokesperson, plans to install the rink will be brought to the Franchise and Concession Review Committee by the end of the year. Some might skate on over to the Rink at Rockefeller Center, or to the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers if they want to work on their Triple Salchows. After all, with the economic paralysis Sandy brought to the other Manhattan across the river, it seems right to send some action that way.
Or, if you really want on help a local business in dire straits, head over to Flru Juicy (718 Manhattan Avenue), which opened in September. Fight an early attack of the “flru” season by grabbing a fresh fruit juice chock full of vitamins.
“How many things by season season’d are,” says Portia in William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. “To their right praise and true perfection!” For the merchants of Greenpoint, the praise each season merits is in the eye of the beholder.