Shops and eateries impacted by East Village explosion get boost from small business crawl

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EAST VILLAGE, N.Y. (PIX11)-- Egg creams were flying out of Gem Spa on Saturday, and all for a good cause.

The iconic East Village store known for making the old fashioned beverage, was the gathering point for people wanting to help mom and pop businesses affected by last month’s deadly gas explosion and fire.

Barbara Klaperman bought a magazine from Gem Spa.

“I’m a new customer,” Klaperman, an Upper East Sider, said. “Maybe I’ll keep coming when it’s not an event.”

The small business crawl event was organized through social media by the grassroots organization #SaveNYC.

It targeted hurting shops and restaurants between East 6th and East 8th Streets on Second Avenue.

“Because of the barricade situation, a lot of these businesses aren’t getting the traffic flow that they should be getting, pedestrian wise,” said Kirstin Theodos, one of the organizers from #SaveNYC.“

“We thought it would be a nice idea to kind of give back to the community, encourage people to come down, pay attention, spend money.”

Paul’s Da Burger Joint, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was forced to close its doors for a week after the blast. Owner Natalie Wardrop said business has been down 60 percent. But on Saturday, thanks to the crawl, she saw it turn around.

“We haven’t seen it since the explosion like this. We haven’t seen this traffic, we haven’t seen these crowds, we haven’t seen this amount of people here, so it’s great.”

James Burton, 11, showed his support with a sign listing the names of some of the impacted stores inside the shape of a heart.

“Today’s a day we’re able to support them, that are all very special to us. And it just makes me very happy that New York has a day that considers all the small businesses,” said the sixth grader.

“I was very worried at the beginning,” said Jessie Ballan, owner of Café Mocha, which had to shut its doors for 8 days. “Everybody really cares, and asking what happened. It’s giving me good hope, green light for the future. We’ll come back.”

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