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Holiday shopping could be life or death for local businesses

After a rough year for local businesses, the holiday sales boost isn't a guarantee in 2020.

NEW ORLEANS — The excitement that typically comes with holiday shopping isn’t quite the same this year inside Dirty Coast on Magazine Street.

“It’s a lot more challenging,” said owner Blake Haney.

Since the pandemic, Haney has had to rethink how he reaches customers to stay in business.   

“I think there’s a major focus right now on buying online and pick up in-store,” Haney said.

Like many local business owners along the historic street, Haney said he is worried about the future, not just at his store, but all along Magazine Street.

“The next six weeks I think for most retailers there’s a kind of a trepidation to what’s going to happen,” Haney said.

The street is known its local shops, restaurants and bars. Some have closed for good because of the pandemic.

“My biggest fear is going to be if rent's going to be at these higher levels, double, triple of what they use to be locals just simply won’t be able to afford it and it’ll become chain after chain after chain,” Haney said.

With the holiday shopping season kicking off, Danielle Del Sol, executive director of the Preservation Resource Center says keeping small businesses in the storefronts on Magazine Street is crucial in preserving buildings, neighborhoods and a way of life. 

“This is crunch time for them,” Del Sol said. “So much of our cultural identity is based on this kind of village life, that we live, work and play all within close proximity.”

Since the beginning of November, new coronavirus cases in New Orleans have increased, which according to the city are reaching a critical level. If another shutdown happens more small businesses could close. Thursday evening, a digital panel session helped further the conversation of preservation and local businesses.  

“There’s been so much growth and revitalization along Magazine Street and the neighborhoods along Magazine Street. It would be truly sad to lose that progress and move backward,” Del Sol said.

Back at Dirty Coast, known for printing New Orleans culture on everything from cozies to socks, when any small business closes, there’s concern.

“There’s a certain tipping point that will start to occur when it becomes 25-to-30-to-40 percent chain businesses, the character of the street will be lost, could be forever,” Haney said.

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