Retail sales fell in October, for the first time in several months. Analysts largely blamed the hurricane. If they're right, sales will bounce back this month and the economic recovery will continue (slowly, slowly).
That's the big picture. To get a sense of the small picture — messier, more ambiguous — I visited three small businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard, in Howard Beach, Queens. The storm swept in here and flooded the neighborhood.
1. The Party Store
The storm hit on Oct. 29 — the worst possible time for Cedarhurst Party Store. "We are a tremendously big Halloween store," Mary Galady, the manager, told me. "And that's just gone."
Bad to worse: The Christmas decorations and greeting cards were storied in the basement, which flooded.
2. The Salon
Nail Pro, a salon up the block from the party store, has been closed for three weeks now. They have to buy new pedicure chairs.
But getting your nails done is a classic deferred purchase. The store is likely to see a rush of business when it re-opens, from all those people who put off getting their nails done during and right after the storm.
3. The Bodega
A bodega here closed for just a few hours during the worst of the storm. When the power was out, the worked by candlelight. They used battery powered calculators.
"Our coffee business skyrocketed," Jimmy Wilson said. "People would come in and buy 10, 15 cups at a time."
Sales are still up, Wilson said.