Wed, Sep 5, 2012
By Aya Watanabe
Judeh “Jimmy” Jamal owns a grocery store in Clinton Hill. He senses the state of the economy in his customer’s method of payment: Cash, food stamps or credit.
Everyday sundries from shampoo to duct tape pack Jamal’s store shelves. Toys and electric cables hang high from the walls. Jamal beams and asks his customer how her daughter is. He recognizes most of his customers by name and knows how they are doing.
“Prices were increasing and people were buying” when he started his “99 cents+ Market” five years ago. But his business plummeted after the 2008 financial crisis. And it has never recovered. Rather, it has been “getting worse” ever since.
Two thirds of Jamal’s customers live in the neighboring Wyckoff Gardens housing project. “They don’t have jobs and they can’t find jobs,” sighs the 50-year-old shop owner.
“We take food stamps,” reads a handwritten note on the glass door of the store. The ratio of customers who pay with food stamps and customers who pay with cash is “fifty-fifty.” And the former is increasing.
“The first two weeks after they receive [welfare] checks, they buy,” Jamal says. But once their welfare money wears off, they start asking to purchase on credit.