Retailers Rethink Pandemic-Battered Manhattan – The New York Times

In the guts of Manhattan’s garment district, a as soon as-busy Starbucks on the nook of Eighth Avenue and thirty ninth Street sits empty. Just down the block, a Dos Toros Taqueria that opened simply three years in the past is now closed. And Wok to Walk, which as soon as served steaming containers of noodles combined with rooster and greens to a bustling lunch crowd, can also be shuttered.

While the Delta variant of the coronavirus has once more delayed plans by many corporations to deliver staff again to workplaces en masse, employees who’ve been trickling into Midtown are discovering that a lot of their favourite haunts for a fast cup of espresso and a muffin within the morning or sandwich or salad at lunchtime have disappeared. Quite a few these which might be open are working at lowered hours or with restricted menus.

With the pandemic preserving hundreds of thousands of New York City office staff dwelling for the previous year, eating places, espresso outlets, attire retailers and others struggled to remain afloat.

By the top of 2020, the variety of chain shops in Manhattan — every thing from drugstores to clothes retailers to eating places — had fallen by greater than 17 p.c from 2019, in line with the Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit analysis and coverage group.

Across Manhattan, the variety of out there floor-ground shops, usually the area of busy eating places and outfitters, has soared. 1 / 4 of the bottom-ground storefronts in Lower Manhattan can be found for lease, whereas a couple of third can be found in Herald Square, in line with a report by the true-property agency Cushman & Wakefield.

Starbucks has completely closed 44 retailers in Manhattan since March of final year. Pret a Manger has reopened solely half of the 60 places it had in New York City earlier than the pandemic. Numerous delicatessens, unbiased eating places and smaller native chains have gone darkish.

“Midtown clearly has been the hardest hit of any of the areas of Manhattan,” stated Jeffrey Roseman, a veteran retail actual-property dealer with Newmark. “If you think of other office-centric areas, whether all the way downtown or Flatiron or Hudson Yards, there is a lot of residential surrounding those areas that helped sustain those markets. Midtown, for the most part, is a one-trick pony.

“It’s mostly offices and hotels, which also took a hit from the downturn in tourism.”

The turmoil has reached farther downtown although. Last week, the luxurious furnishings retailer ABC Carpet & Home — whose flagship retailer was a fixture of the Union Square space — filed for bankruptcy protection, partly due to “a mass exodus of current and prospective customers leaving the city.”

But in a metropolis the place one particular person’s downturn is another person’s alternative, some restaurant chains are profiting from the file-low retail rents to arrange store or increase their presence in New York City.

In the second quarter, meals and beverage corporations signed 23 new leases in Manhattan, main attire retailers, which signed 10 new leases, in line with the industrial actual property companies agency CBRE.

Shake Shack and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen have been amongst these signing new rental agreements this year. So was the burger chain Sonic, which signed a lease for its first New York City outpost, changing a Pax Wholesome Foods location in Midtown. The Philippines-based rooster joint Jollibee, which enjoys a dedicated following, plans to open a large flagship restaurant in Times Square.

Still, with a lot uncertainty about when staff could totally return to Midtown workplaces, some corporations are continuing rigorously. The espresso store Bluestone Lane had plans to increase aggressively into Manhattan earlier than the pandemic and remains to be contemplating places in Midtown. But it has now turned its focus to opening in additional residential neighborhoods like Battery Park City, Hudson Yards and Tribeca.

“We intentionally selected urban residential areas for our new cafes so we are not dependent on our locals returning to a physical office space, and are well-positioned for the future of hybrid work,” Nick Stone, the founder and chief govt of Bluestone Lane, stated in an emailed assertion.

And some chain eating places that have already got reopened in Midtown are altering their methods to handle what they imagine are the altering wants of shoppers in a post-Covid world.

On a latest weekday, a handful of shoppers have been nibbling on salads and sandwiches on the Bryant Park location of Le Pain Quotidien. The lengthy, communal tables that when dominated the entrance of the restaurant are gone for now, whereas refrigerated circumstances for a collection of seize-and-go drinks, salads and sandwiches shall be expanded subsequent year as a part of a transforming. A brand new app to preorder and decide up meals turned out there in May.

While the brand new applied sciences work for some prospects, others lengthy for the previous.

“We used QR codes for guests to look at the menu as we tried to limit the contact of surfaces, but the majority of our guests want to hold a real menu,” stated Stephen Smittle, the senior vice chairman of operations for Le Pain Quotidien. “They very much want to feel normal. They want a server. They want to hold a cup of coffee, not a paper cup.”

Struggling earlier than the pandemic, Le Pain Quotidien filed for bankruptcy in May 2020. It was acquired by Aurify Brands, which has since reopened lots of the Le Pain Quotidien places across the metropolis, together with a number of in Midtown.

“Our thinking is that Midtown New York will come back to a level that might not be 100 percent prepandemic, but based upon information we have gathered, I do believe that Midtown is going to come back to a prominent level,” Mr. Smittle stated.

For Starbucks, one of many massive classes from the pandemic was that prospects favored ordering their drinks on-line after which shortly choosing them up at shops or drive-throughs. Starbucks had began to supply that even earlier than the pandemic, opening a pickup location in Midtown’s Pennsylvania Plaza in late 2019.

Since early 2020, Starbucks has completely closed 44 of its 235 places in Manhattan. But it’s within the means of including cell pickup areas in lots of shops and including extra pickup-solely places. The company says that it expects to have internet new retailer progress in Manhattan within the subsequent few years.

Before the pandemic, Starbucks operated three shops across the Columbus Circle space. It closed them and this year, opened one giant restaurant. Now runners from Central Park decide up their preordered drinks from a cell counter and head out once more, whereas different prospects stand in line to position their orders and may sit at close by tables.

“We were going to build the concept out and evolve over time,” stated John Culver, the president of North America and chief working officer for Starbucks. “What we’ve done is taken the opportunity that the pandemic has presented and accelerated the transformation of our portfolio of stores. Consumer behaviors during the pandemic have accelerated at levels that no one expected.”

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