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Forest Hills economy slumps after attack

Since last month’s terrorist attacks, customers have been few and far between for Joe Fronz, owner of Bus Stop, a shop that sells business attire on Austin Street in Forest Hills.

“Business has been down,” he said. “People are not in the mood to shop.”

Small businesses along Austin Street and at the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst have suffered severe losses since the World Trade Center collapse Sept. 11. Both venues also house large national chain stores, but those retailers said they could not comment.

“I’m sitting with a store full of merchandise at the beginning of a season and nothing is happening,” said Fronz. “People are not buying.”

Store representatives attributed the scarcity of customers to a poor economy and the fact that potential customers have issues other than shopping on their minds.

The Fiscal Policy Institute estimated that within one month of the attacks, 108,500 jobs encompassing $6.7 billion in wages and compensation will be lost in the city, according to the New York City Central Labor Council.

“The attack on the World Trade Center severely affected almost every sector of New York City’s economy,” said Brian McLaughlin, Central Labor Council president and the state assemblyman from Flushing. “From high wage workers to low wage workers, thousands upon thousands of people were, and continue to be, touched by the disaster.”

Jenny Kim, a saleswoman at Chatterly Clothes on Austin Street said in addition to being worried about their financial futures, people are not in the proper emotional mindset to make purchases. “Who’s going to think about buying clothes at a time like this?” she said.

Kim noted that on Sunday, usually the shop’s busiest day of the week, only two customers walked into her store. “Before a lot of women came in and out,” she said.

Jack Soleimani, owner of Jacklyn’s clothing shop on Austin Street, described business as “lousy” since the attacks. “We took a dive,” he said. “We’re down about 30 percent. People are not in the right frame of mind. They’re not motivated to buy.”

Speaking of business at Bags ‘N Things, the Austin Street boutique she manages, Gladys Rosario said “it’s nothing compared to what it used to be.”

At the Queens Center mall, Andy Kim, a salesman at Kamp NY, an outdoors shop, said sales were off more than 50 percent since Sept. 11.

“It’s been really, really slow,” he said. “Most people are only buying what they need.”     Michael Lora, manager of the Harwyn Florsheim shoe store, said sales have fallen about 5 percent since the destruction of the World Trade Center. He said business is “definitely not like last year,” when the economy was booming.

Barbara Maldonado, a Ridgewood woman who made a purchase at Macy’s in Queens Center Tuesday morning, said the attacks affected her outlook on shopping. “You don’t want to spend money frivolously anymore,” she said. “There are more important things to do than shop.”

But not every store has seen a drop in sales. Entertainment and communications businesses have been busier than usual. Arsen Yakubov, a salesman at on Austin Street, said business was up 25 percent since the attacks. “People want to be able to reach their loved ones,” he said.

Joel Rainey, manager of Game World on Austin Street, said Sept. 12 — the day after the assault on the Twin Towers — was his “biggest sales” day of the year. “People want to take their mind off the tragedy,” he said.

Many shoppers said they thought things would soon return to normal. Rosemary Walter from Corona, who was shopping in Macy’s said “at first you didn’t feel like going out and doing anything, but now you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Mary, a Bayside woman shopping in Macy’s who would not give her last name, said she was listening to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s call to New Yorkers to help the city return to normal by spending their money. “I feel we should put back into the economy what has been lost,” she said.

Her friend, Emily from Flushing, believes the setback for merchants will be temporary.

“Christmas is not here yet,” she said. “In December it will be very crowded.”

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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