Video: Can a 182-year-old store survive the pandemic?

Small business owners like New York City's 182-year-old Bigelow Apothecary are struggling to cope with the economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

Editor’s note:
The following is a transcript of the accompanying video. ©2020 Thomson Reuters.

The Bigelow Apothecary in New York City's famed Greenwich Village has been around since 1838 and has seen it all: from wars to the Great Depression and every economic upheaval during its 182-year history, but the economic calamity caused by the current health crisis, well, that's shaping up to be the challenge like none other, says current owner Ian Ginsberg.

"It's funny, I said to somebody today, we've survived world wars, civil wars, you know, 9/11, and everything. This one [coronavirus pandemic] is probably the mother of all issues we faced. This one is sustained, and we don't know what the end will look like or when the end will be. So I think that's been the, you know, the uncertainty has been the biggest thing."

For small businesses like this one, the future seems bleak, even with vaccine distribution just beginning. In New York City alone, more than 2,800 mom-and-pop shops have shut their doors since March. And around the country, most small business owners believe the worst of the economic fallout is still to come. According to a poll released by the US Chamber of Commerce, roughly 75% of small business owners said they need further government assistance to keep going. That number rises to 81% for minority-owned businesses.

Ginsberg, who has been with the store full time for 35 years, admits these are challenging times to be a small family-run retailer and not even a prudent business plan is a match for what's happening to this economy.

[He said]: "We survive on slow and steady growth, and we prepare ourselves for, you know, Mike Tyson says everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. And I think this is a big punch in the face. So, we'll, you know, we'll get through it. It's going to be a little rough, but we'll get through it, and everybody will pitch in."

Just like they have — he hopes — for nearly two centuries.