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“There Are No Flowers Now”

Prakash Sheth, owner of Houston Village Farm (East Village).

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“I started noticing the business going down in November. November, December, January, it keeps going down. People are buying less of everything. Cigarette sales are way down. Maybe they’re buying them online, maybe they’re buying them from the street people who sell them for $5. Beer sales go down. Food also goes down, but the major thing is beer and cigarettes. I have one customer, I’ve known him since I bought this store. And he was telling me that for the month of January, he got his first assignment on the 22nd. He used to buy three beers every day from my store. Now he’s not buying any. He’s just buying what he needs.”

A customer walks in, tries to pay with his credit card. Sheth tells him it’s declined: “You don’t have any money on your card.”

Customer: “I don’t have any money on my card?”

Sheth: “That’s what your bank says, not me.”

Customer: “Fucking … ”

“We have so many deals in my store. My store is mostly popular for two for $5, three for $5, four for $5. Like this”—Sheth holds up a pack of candy labeled with a 3 for $2 sticker. “People used to buy three to get the deal. Now they say, ‘I’ll buy only one.’ So they don’t go in for the deal. People are going more to supermarkets because they’re thinking, ‘I’ll go to Key Food and save ten cents.’ That’s happening to convenience stores like mine. I’ve been in this neighborhood for twelve years. I’ve already laid off three of my employees—one in the deli section, one was working as a stock boy, and one was working in the flower section. There are no flowers now; I closed it down.”


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