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New NYC program will allow stores to expand outdoor shopping to sidewalks

The new initiative isn't only for retail merchants.

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Written by
Collier Sutter
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NYC sidewalks could soon look like one mighty street fair.

After the success of New York’s Open Restaurants program, a similar initiative has officially sprung into action for shops.

Starting today, stores will be allowed to use a portion of the city’s sidewalk to conduct business, including displaying merchandise and conducting transactions with customers, announced Mayor de Blasio.

“Businesses will be able to display merchandise, complete transactions, and provide areas for customers to line up, as long as the business meets eligibility criteria identified by the city,” said the city Department of Small Business Services. 

The new initiative isn’t exclusive to retail establishments either.

Repair stores, personal care services, dry-cleaning and laundromats can also apply for outdoor space for extra seating, queuing, or to display goods.

As capacity is a major issue for smaller NYC shops, extending business five feet onto sidewalks could allow for more customers to safely browse while social distancing. One small Williamsburg boutique, Treehouse Brooklyn, which sells handmade clothes and jewelry from local designers, currently can only allows up to 2 shoppers inside their store at once to browse. 

"We’re looking forward to participating in the new open storefront program," says Treehouse owner Siri Wilson. "Being a small storefront that depends on both tourism and local followers, we have struggled to survive during this pandemic and the unease to be inside with strangers it has brought. Currently, we accept 2 people inside at a time, masked and we provide our own hand sanitizer. Hopefully with the open storefront program, we can essentially create mini-stores outside, and bring more curious customers to our shop."

De Blasio says the program could jump-start sales for more than 40,000 small businesses as the holiday season is around the corner.

Unlike the Open Restaurants program, which has been extended year-round, the Open Storefronts program is currently scheduled to run through December 31. 

But, some NYC store owners hope the initiative extends through next spring and summer as the fall weather is already iffy to begin expanding outdoors now. Prospect Heights based vintage shop, 1 of a Find Brooklyn, will be keeping things indoors at low capacity given that it’s nearly November.

“Come spring 2021, 1 of a Find would love to participate in the open storefront program, but most of our items, including our vintage furniture and artwork and plants, wouldn’t fair well right now to put outside in damp, chilly temperatures.”

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