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NYC Small Businesses Open After Sandy

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BIG NICKS
Nick Imirziades, co-owner of Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint, stayed open, serving New Yorkers during Hurricane Sandy. | Big Nick's

NEW YORK -- Many of New York City's small businesses were open and bustling Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy passed, while larger chains like Starbucks remained shuttered. In fact, some small businesses never closed because of the storm.

Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint at 77th and Broadway was open all night, even through the hurricane. Co-owner Sheri Kern said she couldn't have closed, even if she wanted to, because the policy of staying open 365 days means there's no key for the front door. "I had to make a key [when we closed] for Irene, but I don't know what I did with it," Kern said.

Though Big Nick's was full of people on Tuesday looking for some relief from cabin fever, Kern didn't think the restaurant would make much of a profit, mostly because of the costs of taxi and car services for workers to get to the business and their inability to deliver food, due to debris on the streets.

Knowing the restaurant probably wouldn't make money, even with almost complete lack of competition in the area, Kern said the eatery stayed open nonetheless because co-owner Nick Imirziades "doesn't want to see [the business] closed -- ever. He opened this place when he was 22, which was 50 years ago. Closing makes him sad. He couldn't go through it again after Irene."

Like Big Nick's, many small businesses that were open on Tuesday expected neither big profits nor to take advantage of desperate customers. Instead, they said they just wanted to get back to work and serve their communities, in a show of small business resilience.

Mohammad Zafar Ali and Mohammad Azhar Zafar, the father and son who own the newsstand on 75th and Broadway, stocked up on batteries, candles and flashlights on Monday and saw sales double. They re-opened the newsstand on Tuesday at 9 a.m. "We came to help," Zafar said. "People want stuff." They said demand among customers was high for newspapers, though the only paper that got delivered to them was the New York Post, leaving sales a little flat.

Another entrepreneur who was up and running first thing Tuesday was Neurys Felize, a driver for Kennedy Car Service. Though he said many livery cab drivers in the city may have expected to make more money given the lack of public transportation, Felize said he knew post-hurricane business would not be a windfall. "I'm not making more or less than the average day," which totaled around $200 in eight hours, he said. "I'm mostly driving employees to work, but other people are staying home."

Felize said he braved the tough driving conditions because he wanted to work, not to capitalize on post-hurricane needs. "Money is not that important in my life," he said.

To Kern, community was more important than profits, and she said the business's local customers responded with positive comments on Big Nick's Facebook page. She said the beauty of small businesses is that "we can be more flexible, and decide when to close or open."

Like the restaurant'sr customers, Kern said Big Nick's owners "are a part of the area. We work here and live here. A small business has character like a person has character. And the character of Big Nick's is to be open and fanatic."

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