NYC Chinatown weathers killer storm

Updated: 2014-01-06 05:17

(China Daily)

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As the first snowstorm of the year slammed the Northeastern US last Thursday, a number of shops and restaurants in New York's Chinatown closed on Friday while others planned to finish early. For those that opened as usual, business was off drastically.

"The number of customers is only about half of what we usually get," said Li, the owner of Noodle Village, a popular Chinese restaurant that enjoys a four-star rating on Yelp, who preferred not to reveal her first name.

"Usually we have around 200 customers in the morning, but now as you can see, the market is practically empty," said a cashier at the Hai Sein Company, a grocery store near Grand Street metro station that kept its grocery and seafood sections open but was forced to close its vegetable stands on the street.

"We don't sell vegetables on extremely cold days. The vegetables freeze and get ruined," a Hai Sein employee explained, adding that the store's closing time would depend on public transport — they would close early if the late trains were cancelled.

Some of the larger-scale markets in Chinatown were open for business as usual, albeit with fewer employees making it in to work.

"Although you can still see many customers now, the business is much worse than normal days," said an employee at Deluxe Food Market, one of the most popular supermarkets in Chinatown.

To avoid the safety risks of a long commute during the snowstorm, the market asked employees who live relatively far from work to take a day off.

"I live close so I came for work today, but some of my colleagues stayed home because of the snow," Li said. "We have fewer staff but also fewer customers, so it's okay."

The Hong Kong Supermarket, another popular store just opposite Deluxe Food Market, had only three of its six registers open on Friday.

Although the business for these markets slumped after the snowstorm, it was boosted to an all-time high Thursday night.

"There were so many people coming in to buy groceries yesterday (Thursday)," said a Deluxe Food Market employee. "Obviously they were stocking up for the storm."

Liu Dong, a recent college graduate who is interning in Midtown Manhattan, decided to cancel a dinner with friends to make a trip to Chinatown. She bought enough food for the weekend in case the weather got worse. "I went there right after I finished work yesterday," she said.

"I don't think the weather is that bad though," said Mui Lee, who took her daughter shopping in Hong Kong Supermarket Friday morning.

"Plus, I don't have to stand in line to buy things today," she added.

Other businesses got a share of the surge in pre-storm customers. Jackson Chen, a vendor at a shop that sells winter clothing, told China Daily that the business had been exceptionally well for the last few days.

"But today rarely does anyone come to buy things," said Jackson. "Usually I close at 8 pm, but I will close at 5 or 6 pm today."

The snowstorm hit the New York region Thursday night and stopped Friday morning and moved on to New England, leaving up to seven inches of snow in some areas overnight. The storm slowed traffic and caused the delay and cancellation of more than 2,000 US flights stranding travelers in area airports.

The National Weather Service called for some of the coldest temperatures in almost two decades to grip the northern and central US and will result in life-threatening wind chill values as low as 60 degrees F. below zero. The Associated Press reported that at least 13 deaths were blamed on the storm.

Zhang Yang contributed to this story and can be reached at