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Staple Small Businesses Of East Harlem Fade Away

December 3, 2014 Written by | No Comments

In October 2009, nearly 4,000 residents were granted jobs in East Harlem’s newest attraction, East River Plaza, the neighborhood’s first major shopping mall located on East 116th Street.

While the jobs were welcomed and retail sales have generated millions of dollars, small businesses in the area have not been reaping benefits since the arrival of East River Plaza, which houses a Target, Costco Wholesale and Marshall’s among other chain outlets.

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1st Ave Grocery Deli, located on East 115th Street and First Avenue, is one of many businesses in the area that has withstood the loss of customers in the last five years, but its survival is now in peril.

“The mall took away half of our business in the last four years,” said Aziz Haimed, who owns the deli and the adjacent sister shop,Deli Inc.

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Haimed’s corner store has been in business since 1992, but the store no longer has a lease and he predicts his business will permanently close within the next year. Haimed has been in the area long enough to see a handful of other small business shut down, sometimes in less than year after opening – including Aromas Boutique Bakery & Cafe, Kennedy Fried Chicken and Ocelotl Diner.

He said he has been able to support two delis in the area for the past years because he runs his businesses with integrity and has kept his prices reasonable, unlike the other small businesses in the area. He expects to close 1st Ave Grocery Deli but remain in business with his second shop, Deli Inc., where the rent is more affordable.

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As older businesses shut down, East Harlem has seen the arrival of other new, hip small businesses, such as Harley’s Smokeshack & BBQ, Fierce Spa and Makana Hawaiian & Japanese BBQ. Deli Inc. upholds the decorative appearances of the new businesses in the area, shedding away the grungy, dive appeal that is typical for corner stores.

Haimed is grateful he will be able to continue providing services to residents of East Harlem, a neighborhood he is greatly familiar with. “I like the neighborhood. I respect the customers and they respect me,” said Haimed.

Categories: Old Timers