Knickerbocker Meat Market, opened May 2009
166 Ninth Avenue
Previously Chelsea Court Meat Market, opened 1960; closed April 2009
Jonathan Afromsky, co-owner:
It was a butcher shop for a long time before this—we use the same showcase that’s been here 50 years. The son had been working there since he was 15 or so, and he retired. It’s hard work and not always lucrative. We changed the line to more high-end stuff: dry-aged steaks, all-natural free-range chickens. People can spend $30 on a high-quality meal instead of $150 at a restaurant.
Right now it’s my father and me and a little extra help, and we’re open seven days a week. People are so happy that there’s still a butcher in the neighborhood, they come in and thank me. So far business has exceeded expectations. We were hoping to just break even till the holidays, but over the summer, we built on existing customers and got through well.
Albertine General, opened September 2009
15 Christopher Street
Previously Oscar Wilde Bookshop, opened 1967; closed March 2009
Kyung Lee, owner:
My original boutique, Albertine, is next door, and when Oscar Wilde closed, I said I’d try it out for a year. My landlord lives behind the store, and we got a really good rate.
When I started out, I had just 40 dresses, all on consignment from friends. Now I carry about twenty different designers, and the custom-dress business has really helped our bottom line. I think even if people are saving, they’re still willing to splurge on special occasions. There are certain issues girls have—their hips are too wide or they have a problem with their stomach—and if they’re going to buy a $400 or $500 dress, they might as well get one that fits perfectly. Ours start at $245.
Little Closets, opened September 2009
46-46 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City
Previously Art-o-Mat, opened October 2005; closed May 2009
Letia Frandina, owner:
I have a 2-year-old son, and this summer we went through three sizes of shoes in one month, because he’s growing so much. So I had the idea of a consignment store for kids—something sustainable, recession-friendly, and budget-conscious, with story time and a puppet theater. Opening was a whirlwind: It all happened in seven or eight weeks.
I was nervous about starting a business at all, and in the recession for sure. Consignment seemed like the way to go because it’s low-risk, but it’s still our savings. It’s hard to get loans now, too; my bank says they don’t do them until after six months. I have no idea how things will work out in the long run. If all else fails, it’s great to see all the 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds just hanging out together.
Haus Interior, opened in June 2009
250 Elizabeth Street
Previously Kipepeo, opened March 2006; closed December 2008
Nina Freudenberger, owner:
I’m an interior designer for high-end private clients. But my friends were always asking for design ideas, so I opened a store that caters to a lower budget. I got a lot of blank stares when I said I was opening right now, but the recession has enabled me—I was able to bargain down my rent and sign a short-term lease. This store wouldn’t have been an option two years ago.
I opened in the summer, and it’s been a challenge predicting what will sell during the holidays. I bought merchandise specifically for the recession, so I’m not sitting on inventory like a $600 cashmere travel blanket. Business has gone surprisingly well. August was a little tough, but winter is my season.
As told to Christine Whitney and Lauren Murrow.