World Journal

Shops in Sunset Park are beginning to reopen, but with precautions.

Read the original story in Chinese at World Journal
Translated by Rong Xiaoqing

Although confirmed cases of COVID-19 are still accumulating in New York, many shops in Chinese-concentrated Sunset Park, Brooklyn have reopened, or are ready to do so.

A milk tea shop on Eighth Avenue even had a long queue of people in front of its newly-opened doors on May 6. Shop owners said they are taking precautions, and have prepared personal protective equipment (PPE) for customers. 

Though it was rainy, the shops that had just reopened were welcoming an influx of customers that day. The street, with more cars and pedestrians, was reminiscent of the hustle and bustle before the pandemic. On the blocks from 60th to 56th streets, about half of the shops had reopened, with fresh fruit and vegetable vendors pitching their wares to customers.

Supermarkets, seafood markets, Chinese medicine stores, cellphone stores, restaurants and clothing boutiques had also opened their doors. Trying to buy a cup of milk tea at the milk tea parlor at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 59th Street? Well, be prepared to wait for half an hour in the queue.   

Ms. Lin, who was waiting in line at the shop, said that it was for her two children. “It’s not easy for small children to have to stay at home all the time,” said Lin. “I am buying some milk tea to reward their efforts.”  

Ms. Lin said she came on the previous day as well. But the shop only takes credit-card payments now to avoid spreading the virus, and she didn’t have a credit card with her then, so she had to come back.

In addition to the “credit card only” policy, the store also adjusted its layout to make it safer: The cashier’s desk is now right at the door, behind a transparent shield. When the milk tea is ready, the cashier lifts a window on the shield and serves the tea cups in a push drawer to the customer waiting outside. Customers and employees have no physical contact in the process.    

Nearby, a Chinese herb store was requiring all customers to wait outside. A sign on its door said: “Please knock, offer your name and DOB, and then wait for your medicines at the door for a few minutes, or take a walk somewhere else and come back later.”   

Other shops have also taken careful precautions, with posters on the door requiring all customers to wear masks, and all employees in shops donning full protection equipment, including masks and head-to-toe suits.