Hour after hour in the dark, Chander Shekhar’s mind raced ahead to morning.
More than three months had dragged by since the coronavirus forced Shekhar to shut down his business — a narrow, second-floor shop racked with vibrantly colored saris, on a block in New York’s Jackson Heights neighborhood once thronged with South Asian immigrant shoppers. Today, finally, he and other merchants were allowed to reopen their doors.
But they were returning to an area where COVID-19 had killed hundreds, leaving sidewalks desolate and storefronts to gather dust. Now fears were fading. But no one knew what lay ahead on this late-June Monday as owners raised the gates at jewelry stores, tandoori restaurants and bridal shops clustered near Roosevelt Avenue’s elevated train line. Overnight, the stress had woken Shekhar nine times.
“You cannot tell everybody it’s safe to come and buy from us. This is an invisible enemy that nobody can see,” said Shekhar, a father of two anxious about the shop’s $6,000 monthly rent. “This is my baby,” he said, of the store, Shopno Fashion. “I have worked hard for this for more than 20 years, then I got my shop. It’s not easy to leave it.”
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