After Chelsea Bombing
Simkho Chulpayev, 36, had just left his office in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood thirty minutes before a powerful explosion rocked the area on Saturday night.
"It was shocking that it happened here, and so close to us. I couldn't believe it," said Chulpayev, the founder and CEO of Made Man Barber Shop. With two locations in the affected area, none of his employees were among the 29 injured people. On Monday morning, one of the two shops was able to reopen. "We can't allow things like that to scare us," he said.
The explosion occurred around 8:30 p.m. on West 23rd Street near 7th Avenue, and was caused by what authorities believe to be a homemade bomb. A few hours later, a second device was recovered just four blocks away.
Although business owners in the neighborhood are already seeing the effects of the tragedy on their sales, they're still moving forward with a sense of optimism.
"When the explosion happened, I was really scared. I didn't know what was going on," says Borislav Gacina, a restaurant manager at Malibu Diner, which is located on West 23rd Street. That evening, he was instructed by authorities to close the 24/7 diner early. Despite the streets being restricted to the general public, Malibu Diner re-opened the next day to serve complimentary meals to N.Y.P.D. officers and Red Cross workers.
Made Man Barber Shop was similarly affected by the street blockage, and still suffers from only "very limited traffic" in the neighborhood. This morning, Chulpayev only served about 10 customers, compared to the typical 40. He insists, however, that the business is going the extra mile with its customer service duties: Staffers are calling every client who booked a Monday appointment, offering to escort them across the blocked off area of the street. "The business ownership, we're feeling it, but we're not letting our employees feel it," said Chulpayev.
Flatiron Wines, located several blocks from the the explosion, has taken a more laid-back approach to the incident. The store's buyer, Susannah Smith, concedes that business has slowed since Saturday, but that it's too soon to tell whether or not it will have a detrimental impact.
"To be honest, I haven't really thought about it," she said. "Yes, I'm sure everybody was scared to come into work. But these days, you're at risk no matter where you go." There's no particular coping strategy that the business is taking, Smith explained. The goal is to simply focus on moving on. "That's the New York way, right? Just business as usual."
For many New Yorkers, the event brings back memories from the tragic attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Chulpayev remembers the day bitterly. At the time, he was selling coffee at street stand in the city's Financial District. That morning, the "ground shook" as if a train were going to emerge from the street below. Chulpayev notes that it's important to avoid reducing all members of a particular race or ethnic group to the actions of an individual. He originally emigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union in 1992, in search of freedom from religious persecution and racial discrimination.
"After 9/11, because the person I worked for was from Afghanistan, and I'm more of a darker complexion, I can say that people did look at us differently--as not necessarily Americans," he said.
Ultimately, Chulpayev is bullish on the future of his business. Made Man Barber has seen steady sales since launching in 2012, and is preparing to open a third location in the city this year.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images