Main Street NYC: Lessons from the Downturn

There are more than 220,000 small businesses just in New York City-- that’s 20,000 more than five years ago. These are businesses that employ fewer than 50 people each, but overall they provide almost 40 percent of private sector jobs. Some economists say it is these small-time entrepreneurs who drive New York’s economy, not the bankers on Wall Street.

Many small businesses did close their doors this year; we’ve all seen "for rent" signs in vacant storefronts and commercial buildings. But others ventured to open: There’s a new cupcake bakery in the East Village and a new soul food restaurant called Z’Novia on 161st Street in the Bronx. And the majority of small businesses found ways to stick it out with some combination of business savvy, belt tightening, and probably a measure of good luck.

After Wall Street fell, the WNYC newsroom decided to track, as best we could, what went down along Main Street. The many main streets around this city, that is. And we wish there was one big lesson we learned. But what our reporters found instead, whether in Flushing, Queens or in the shadow of the new Yankee Stadium was that each main street has its own, unique ecosystem. And each reveals a different set of lessons about keeping a pulse during a major economic downturn.

Listen to the full feature:

Here is a full playlist of the songs heard in this feature by borough.

Grove St., New Jersey:
Real Estate: Pool Swimmer
The Black Hollies: Gloomy Monday Morning

Main St., Flushing, Queens:
De La Soul: Fallin’
The Freelance Whales: Fallin’

Smith St., Brooklyn:
Karla Schickele: Stevie
Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs: Maps
MGMT: A Time To Pretend

Victory Blvd., Staten Island:
Wu Tang Clan: C.R.E.A.M.
The Budos Band: T.I.B.W.F

161st St., Bronx:
Louie Vega: Diamond Life

The Bowery, Manhattan:
Blondie: Rapture
Television: Marquee Moon