The ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests have become a complicated issue for small-business owners who find themselves on the frontlines of the worldwide movement. While many agree with the protesters' general cause, some have suffered from declining sales and minor vandalism, and one restaurant even laid off 21 employees due to police barricades deterring customers. But for at least one business, Tent and Trails in lower Manhattan, the ongoing movement has provided a nice surge in business.
As the Occupy Wall Street "camp" continues to grow and the most committed bear down for the arrival of winter, this hiking and camping gear retailer is benefiting from an unlikely new group of customers. "A lot of those tents are from Tent and Trails," said co-owner Jamie Lipman-Abish.
The store, located a short walk from Zuccotti Park, has occupied retail space in lower Manhattan since 1959. No strangers to adversity, the store survived extensive damage from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and have withstood the unstable economy.
Lipman-Abish, who owns the store with her sister, Heather, noted that it would generally be a little late in the season to be selling so many tents -- if not New York's newest campsite. "We're seeing a lot of individuals coming in to purchase tents and sleeping bags, and we've made friends with the group of medics down there. They come and purchase mostly rain gear, stuff to stay warm and dry."
According to Lipman-Abish, Tent and Trails has become known as a "protester friendly" store, but the extra foot traffic is coming directly from word of mouth down at the camp. "We haven't done any specific marketing or specials for the Occupy people, because we're worried about turning off our other customers," she said. "A lot of people don't accept it -- some like what's going on and some don't. It's very hard to figure out."
Lipman-Abish said she personally supports the general movement. "I understand where they are coming from, but I'm not sure what the solution is," she said, noting that the protest in her neighborhood is a step in the right direction. "I like the movement because it is going to make people think about the future. What are we going to be allowing?"
Since the movement started, Lipman-Abish said she has met supporters "from New Orleans, Seattle, all over the country. People have really come out for this, and I think it is much bigger than anyone ever anticipated. People thought once it got cold and uncomfortable, they would be gone, but that's not the case."