August 14, 2017: DOLLARS & DELAYS

If rail problems at Penn Station have been a drag for commuters, think about the “mom and pop” shops that call the transit hub “home.”  We’re headed underground to find out how hard they’ve been hit financially through these “days of delays.”

TRANSCRIPT

> HI, EVERYONE.

I'M JAKE ASHER.

THOUGH YOU MAY NOT KNOW ME, I FIND MY SUMMER AS AN INTERN HERE AT PBS HELPING BRINGING 'METROFOCUS' INTO YOUR LIVING ROOM.

I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING PUBLIC DEL VISION WHICH IN TURN GAVE ME THIS OPPORTUNITY.

BUT NOW BACK TO BUSINESS.

OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, WE'VE BEEN PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TO HOW TRACK REPAIRS ARE AFFECTING COMMUTERS PASSING THROUGH PENN STATION DAILY AS PART OF OUR DAYS OF DELAYS INITIATIVE.

WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM PENN STATION IS THE FINAL STOP ON THEIR DAILY COMMUTE?

THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN PENN STATION ITSELF.

THERE ARE OVER 60 STORES AND RESTAURANTS IN THE TERMINAL, AND ALTHOUGH MANY OF THESE ARE POPULAR FRANCHISES, THERE ARE STILL A FEW MOM AND POP SMALL BUSINESSES LEFT.

IF PENN STATION WASN'T ALREADY A HARD ENOUGH PLACE TO OPERATE A LOCAL BUSINESS, IMAGINE HOW THE SHUTDOWNS, CANCELLATIONS AND UPSET COMMUTERS HAVE INTERRUPTED THE NATURAL FLOW OF BUSINESS.

WE WENT INTO PENN AND SPOKE TO A FEW SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS TO SEE HOW THE CONSTRUCTION IS AFFECTING THEIR BUSINESSES.

AND GO EASY ON ME, THIS IS MY FIRST STORY THAT I GOT TO PRODUCE FOR TELEVISION.

WE'VE BEEN HERE 15 YEARS.

HAVING BEEN HERE FOR 15 YEARS, YOU HAVE COMMUTERS WHO ARE COMING IN.

HAS THE TRACK WORK HAD ANY EFFECT ON YOUR CUSTOMERS' ABILITY TO COME IN AND OUT?

HAS THERE BEEN ANY DIFFERENCE SINCE THEY STARTED WORKING ON THE TRACK?

BUSINESS IS DOWN A LITTLE BIT.

IT'S GENERALLY, I WOULD SAY, ONLY NIGHT BUSINESS THAT'S DOWN.

MY DAY BUSINESS IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME.

THE ONLY THING I NOTICE IS PEOPLE TEND TO WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE IN THE EVENING, JUST IN CASE SOMETHING GOES WRONG.

THEN IT TURNS INTO A NIGHTMARE.

BUT OTHERWISE BUSINESS HAS BEEN RELATIVELY NORMAL.

TOMMY, GIVE US AN IDEA OF WHAT THE CUSTOMER FLOW IS GOING TO BE LIKE.

BECAUSE I THINK MOST PEOPLE WHEN THEY COME THROUGH AS COMMUTERS ARE JUST THINKING, GET OFF TRAIN, GET ON SUBWAY.

WHAT IS THE FLOW OF BUSINESS LIKE FOR A RESTAURANT IN PENN STATION?

WELL, WE HAVE A LOT OF OFFICE BUILDINGS RIGHT IN THE AREA, SO THEY CAN COME DOWN HERE, YOU KNOW, FOR LUNCH, FOR AFTER LUNCH, HAVE A LITTLE TIME TO KILL BEFORE YOUR TRAIN.

SO THAT PART OF BUSINESS HASN'T CHANGED.

IT'S JUST THAT PEOPLE ARE LESS LIKELY TO, YOU KNOW, STAY LATER AT NIGHT, YOU KNOW, 6:00, 7:00, KIND OF OUT OF IT MORE SO THAN USUAL.

PRIOR TO THE DECISION FOR PEOPLE TO START WORKING ON THE TRACKS, THERE WERE A COUPLE OF INSTANCES WHERE COMMUTERS, TRAINS WERE CANCELED, THAT PEOPLE FELT ALMOST AS IF THEY WERE STUCK OR TRAPPED OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

DID YOU GET ANY RUNOFF FROM THAT, PEOPLE WERE SAYING, MY TRAIN'S CANCELED, LET ME AT LEAST GO GET DINNER OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, DOES THAT HAPPEN?

NORMALLY WE LOVE TRAIN DELAYS.

THAT'S THE WAY IT'S BEEN FOR SEVERAL YEARS FOR US.

PEOPLE HAVE NOWHERE TO GO REALLY, AND, OKAY, LET ME GO HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT, HAVE A DRINK.

BUT BECAUSE THE TRAIN DELAYS HAVE BECOME SO MUCH MORE OFTEN, PEOPLE HAVE FIGURED OUT OTHER WAYS TO GET TO WORK WITHOUT COMING THROUGH PENN STATION.

THAT'S AFFECTED US IN THAT WAY.

LESS PEOPLE I THINK ARE COMING -- USING THE STATION.

WHY IS THERE A TIE SHOP IN PENN STATION?

WE STARTED ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO WHEN TIES WERE STILL IN HIGH DEMAND.

AND AS THE YEARS WENT BY, WE SELL LESS AND LESS TIES BUT MORE AND MORE CUFF LINKS.

THAT'S WHY WE'VE EVOLVED INTO THE GIFT SHOP THAT WE ARE NOW.

A LOT OF COLLEGIATE PRODUCTS AND GENERIC GIFTS, BUT ALL FUN.

YOUR TIE STORE HERE IN PENN STATION, OF COURSE THERE'S BEEN THIS BIG PUSH WITH THIS SUMMER OF DELAYS, THE SUMMER TRACK WORK ON THE NEW JERSEY TRANSIT.

HAS THAT HAD ANY EFFECT ON YOUR BUSINESS?

YES, ABSOLUTELY.

A LOT OF OUR REGULAR CUSTOMERS NOTIFIED US, EVEN BEFORE THE TRACK WORK STARTED, JUST BY WHAT THEY WERE HEARING FROM TV AND MEDIA, THAT IT WAS A TERRIBLE COMMUTE AND THEY AVOID PENN STATION.

SUMMERS ARE SLOW FOR OUR BUSINESS ANYWAY.

BUT I FEEL COMPARING THE NUMBERS FROM LAST YEAR, WE'RE ABOUT 10%, 15% LOWER.

WOW.

SO FIRST OFF, I THINK WHAT CAUGHT MY EAR WAS THAT YOU GUYS DO HAVE A CONTINGENCY OF REGULARS COMING IN.

TELL ME VERY QUICKLY ABOUT WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS COMING INTO YOUR STORE ON AN AVERAGE BASIS.

WE OPEN AT 7:00 IN THE MORNING.

A LOT OF PEOPLE NEED TO BE AT WORK AROUND 8:00 OR 9:00.

THEY NEED TO COME THROUGH THE STATION BEFORE THEN.

THEY'LL PICK UP A TIE IN THE MORNING, COME IN ALL DRESSED UP WITH A SUIT AND A SHIRT AND EVERYTHING AND JUST MATCH UP THE TIE HERE.

SO WE DO THAT.

WITH CUFF LINKS, WITH BELTS.

PICK UP OFFICE GIFTS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT JUST LIKE TO STOP BY.

WE'RE ON A FIRST-NAME BASIS.

OH, HOW ARE THE KIDS GOING?

DOES YOUR DAUGHTER STILL HAVE A COLD?

DID YOUR KID GET INTO COLLEGE?

WE'VE BEEN HERE 20 YEARS, SO A LOT OF THE PEOPLE GO THROUGH THE STATION ALL THE TIME.

SOME JUST COME IN TO SAY HELLO AND CATCH UP, SO THAT'S ALWAYS FUN.

SO WITH PEOPLE CHOOSING TO REROUTE THEIR COMMUTE, CAN YOU GIVE ME AN IDEA OF HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU MIGHT BE MISSING?

I DON'T KNOW FOR SURE, BECAUSE I HAD ABOUT -- I'D SAY ABOUT A DOZEN CUSTOMERS COME IN AND SAY, DON'T WORRY, I'M NOT GOING TO GO THROUGH THE STATION AND GO THROUGH JAMAICA AND TAKE THE TRAIN OUT, A DOZEN PEOPLE OR SO.

BUT HOW MANY ACTUALLY, I DON'T KNOW.

A LOT OF PEOPLE GO AWAY FOR THE SUMMER, SO IT'S HARD TO TELL.

BUT IT HAS AFFECTED US.

THEY'RE WORKING ON ONE SIDE OF THE STATION, REPLACING THE SWITCHES, ET CETERA.

IF THEY DO THE SAME THING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATION, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT WOULD GIVE YOU ANY CONCERN?

WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO ADDRESS IT IN A DIFFERENT WAY?

A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE SAID, YOU KNOW, ONCE I TOOK INTO CONSIDERATION THE WORK, I WAS ABLE TO GET IN AND OUT OF PENN STATION.

IF THEY DO THIS AGAIN FOR LARR, WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO ADDRESS IT A DIFFERENT WAY?

ABSOLUTELY.

ABSOLUTELY.

MAYBE NOT CAUSE A PANIC -- IT WAS IN THE PAPERS ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY, ON THE NEWS, THAT IT WAS EXPECTED TO BE REALLY, REALLY BAD.

PEOPLE JUST DIDN'T WANT TO RISK IT AND BE HERE IF IT WAS REALLY BAD SO THEY MADE OTHER PLANS.

SO MAYBE NEXT TIME, NOT THE SUMMER OF HELL.

PLEASE, NO.

NO.

SO, HOW HAVE THESE DAYS OF DELAYS BEEN TREATING YOU?

HAVE YOU BEEN AVOIDING PENN STATION?

DOES THE WORK ON THE TRACK MAKE YOU LESS LIKELY TO WANT TO STOP AT THE LOCAL MERCHANT OR DOES IT GIVE YOU MORE REASON TO DO SO?

LET US KNOW BY SHARING YOUR STORY AT DAYS OF DELAYS.ORG.

AND THANK YOU AGAIN FOR SUPPORTING PUBLIC TELEVISION AND ALLOWING ME THIS WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY.

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