NEW YORK — Henry Yao's 300-square-foot shop on the Lower East Side, which sells military surplus items, might have closed during the pandemic, were it not for the kindness of everyday New Yorkers.
Yao, who pays more than $6,000 for Army & Navy Bags' space, said he was planning to tell his landlord that he could no longer afford the rent.
“I thought, 'We cannot continue. That’s how bad it is,'” Yao recalled. “It’s like a ghost town. We depend on tourist like 40%. No tourists. Sometimes [for] more than three hours, no customers come in."
That’s when a customer reached out to social media blogger "New York Nico," he said. A photo posted of Yao sitting in the back of his store changed everything.
What You Need To Know
- Henry Yao's 300-square-foot shop on the Lower East Side, which sells military surplus items, might have closed during the pandemic, were it not for the kindness of everyday New Yorkers, he says
- Yao sells military surplus items and pays more than $6,000 for the space. He was planning to tell his landlord that he could no longer afford the rent
- Yao says a customer reached out to the social media blogger "New York Nico." A photo posted of him sitting in the back of his store brought customers
“I don’t know when he [posted it]. I remember less than an hour, people come here, actually line up to support,” Yao said.
While Yao himself said he isn’t computer savvy, and has no plans to sell his products online, he’s now become popular on social media himself, with a following of over 13,000.
“I don’t know how to use. People who follow me, I apologize," he said. "I just know how to tap."
As COVID-19 cases rise in the city, Yao said he still fears the worse, but praised Mayor Eric Adams for his support of mom-and-pop shops like his.
“I give him two thumbs up. No more shutdowns," he said. "We had the experience before. Shut downs, it doesn’t help that much."
On Thursday, it took over two hours for customers to walk through the doors. Yao said it comes with the territory, but he never fails to engage his visitors.
Yao said he still doesn’t make a profit, and sometimes just barely breaks even, but wants his community of supporters to know how grateful he is to remain in business.
“New Yorkers, they show love and support," he said. "It's just beyond a dream come true."