Column: Post-9/11, Local Shops Fight on | The New York Times

Five years after the destruction of the World Trade Center, Evelyn Robb is still worried about the future of her candy shop. The business, located just a block from the site of the twin towers, hasn’t recovered completely from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“It’s not going to change for many, many years,” said Robb, owner of Evelyn’s Chocolates. “The people are not back.”

Many Lower Manhattan businesses like Robb’s that depend on customers who work in or visit the area are still struggling. With fewer office workers and tourists around, stores and restaurants say they haven’t returned to the success they enjoyed before the trade center’s collapse.

One reason for the company’s success over the past five years – it now has 200 clients on its books – is it adapted its services to meet the changing demands of other businesses. Its core business now includes disaster recovery services.

Companies with a more far-flung clientele have done better, simply because their fortunes aren’t tied to this still-struggling part of New York.

CapitalIQ was a 2-year-old high-tech provider of financial information located across the street from the trade center in 2001. After the first plane hit, the company evacuated so none of its employees would be in danger. When the buildings collapsed, CapitalIQ’s offices were inundated with two feet of debris.

Executive Vice President William Okun said the company, which he described as “just starting to get good momentum,” was able to keep functioning because it had Web-based services for its customers, and because the staff was able to keep in touch via telephone and handheld computers. In two weeks, it had office space.

The company’s recovery was difficult, however, because “many of our clients were in chaotic situations themselves,” Okun said. He described CapitalIQ as suffering from lost opportunities in the months after the attacks, and it had to downsize by about a third.

But by late 2002, Okun said the company was on sure footing; it continued growing, and in September 2004 was bought by Standard & Poor’s Corp. Okun said his company’s reach beyond Lower Manhattan was key to its success over the past five years.

Carl Mazzanti and Jennifer Shine, owners of a computer networking company called eMazzanti, were on their way to see clients and were in the train station below the trade center when the first plane hit. They made their way to safety despite falling debris.

EMazzanti was only weeks old on 9/11 with a handful of clients, all of whom were in Lower Manhattan and who lost telephone service; without it, they couldn’t use the company’s networking services.

Shine said the company managed to survive by helping clients. For example, it helped them communicate with the outside world by using its own Internet access in its offices, located in Hoboken, N.J., just across the Hudson River.

“We tried to help out in any way we could and just maintain that relationship and know that at some point, things would come back,” Shine said.

Those efforts paid off; although EMazzanti struggled to hold on to its clients, it eventually got more customers referred by those customers. But Shine said it wasn’t until the spring or summer of 2002 that she and Carl Mazzanti started to feel secure.

One reason for the company’s success over the past five years – it now has 200 clients on its books – is it adapted its services to meet the changing demands of other businesses. Its core business now includes disaster recovery services.

“It took us in a different direction,” Shine said of 9/11.

North of the trade center area, restaurants in Little Italy still aren’t as busy as they were five years ago.

“We never recovered,” said John Ciarcia, owner of a cafe called Cha Cha’s. “I’m still 40 to 50 percent off of pre-9/11.”

Business has certainly picked up from the weeks following Sept. 11, when smoke from the trade center’s ruins still drifted for blocks and relatively few people wanted to go to Little Italy despite its long popularity among tourists. But like many other Lower Manhattan restaurateurs, Ciarcia said he has to modify his business to stay open, cutting back his hours of operation and letting some employees go.

“You do the best you could,” he said. “But it never recovered.”

Meanwhile, at her candy shop, Evelyn Robb said she’s not sure she’s going to be able to stay open. Her problem is that many office buildings have been turned into apartments because many companies left Lower Manhattan and developers turned the excess space into residences. And families are more likely to stop in for a few pieces of candy for the kids rather than buy the more expensive gifts that office workers sought.

“It’s not like it used to be at all,” Robb said.

Carl Mazzanti is Co-Founder and President of eMazzanti Technologies, Microsoft’s four time Partner of the Year and one of the premier IT consulting services for businesses throughout the New York metropolitan area and internationally. Carl and his company manage over 400 active accounts ranging from professional services firms to high-end global retailers.

eMazzanti is all about delivering powerful, efficient outsourced IT services, such as computer network management and troubleshooting, managed print, PCI DSS compliance, green computing, mobile workforce technology, information security, cloud computing, and business continuity and disaster recovery.  

Carl Mazzanti is also a frequent business conference speaker and technology talk show guest and contributor at Microsoft-focused events, including frequent prominent roles at the Microsoft Inspire (Worldwide Partner Conference / WPC).

Carl, a serial Entrepreneur, gives back to the community through Entrepreneur teaching engagements at Georgetown University, the company’s ocean wildlife conservation effort, the Blue Project, and Tree Mazzanti.



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