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Beloved NYC store Fishs Eddy ‘gasping for air’ amid pandemic

Emmanuel Bwembya

Oct. 01, 2020

A beloved Big Apple dishware emporium has been left like a “fish gasping for air” — barely able to afford rent amid the coronavirus pandemic’s financial crunch, its owner says.
Manhattan staple Fishs Eddy is drowning in money woes with fewer tourists around to peruse its aisles of eclectic goods — which include Ruth Bader Ginsburg coffee mugs, founding fathers shot glasses and “Buttah”-emblazoned butter dishes.
“We’re like a fish gasping for air — literally,” storeowner Julie Gaines, 57, told the Post on Wednesday.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the small business was “bruised,” she admitted. But now, funds meant for restocking the eccentric merchandise are dwindling — and Gaines said she’s struggling to pay her Union Square-area rent.
“There is no extra money for anything. No money to do extra patterns for dishes, every penny is going towards survival now,” said Gaines.
“This is really killing me,” she added. “We’re on the defensive now and just really really trying to stay alive.”
Before the city went on lockdown in mid-March, visitors from all over the world flocked to the neighborhood favorite to purchase its iconic skyline dishware, which feature the Twin Towers and was once the subject of a spat with the Port Authority.
But now, “There is no line at the register,” said Gaines.
“We relied on tourists and now nobody is coming here, nobody is staying in hotels, so that’s gone,” she added.
Orders from restaurants across the country that bought Fishs Eddy’s quirky wares — which are “proudly made in the US” — have also dried up, as eateries remain shuttered or grapple with their own cash crunches, said Gaines.
The shopkeeper said she received a cash influx from the city meant for hiring employees and payroll, but that “we don’t need them because we don’t have the customers.”
“If you look under the hood everything is way more complicated. It’s just not so simple the city gave us money and we can dig out now,” she added.
In order to get out of its dire straits, Gaines said what she really needs is for tourists to return to the city and “rent forgiveness.” She wouldn’t divulge how much her rent is, only that it’s “a lot of zeroes.”
Since she opened Fishs Eddy in 1986, Gaines said there have been several moments where the store nearly went under — and she’s hopeful the pandemic won’t be what does it in.
“We’ve come out of so much,” she said, “we didn’t think after 9/11 there would be a future, then the 2008 recession happened, and we came out after Hurricane Sandy.”
“I don’t know what our future holds,” Gaines added. “Every fiber in me hopes I’m working. I have to be here… but I just don’t know.”
Additional reporting by Tamar Lapin
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