- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006


Five years after the destruction of the World Trade Center, Evelyn Robb is still worried about the future of her candy shop. The business, a block from the site of the Twin Towers, hasn’t recovered completely from the September 11 terror attacks.

“It’s not going to change for many, many years,” said Miss Robb, owner of Evelyn’s Chocolates. “The people are not back.”

Many Lower Manhattan businesses like hers that depend on customers who work in or visit the area are still struggling. With fewer office workers and tourists around, stores and restaurants say they haven’t returned to the success they enjoyed before the trade center’s collapse.

Companies with a more far-flung clientele have done better, simply because their fortunes aren’t tied to this still-struggling part of New York.

Capital IQ was a two-year-old high-tech provider of financial information across the street from the trade center in 2001. After the first plane hit, the company evacuated so none of its employees would be in danger. When the buildings collapsed, Capital IQ’s offices were inundated with two feet of debris.

Executive Vice President William Okun said the company, which he described as “just starting to get good momentum,” was able to keep functioning because it had Web-based services for its customers and because the staff was able to keep in touch via telephone and handheld computers. In two weeks, it had office space.

The company’s recovery was difficult, however, because “many of our clients were in chaotic situations themselves,” Mr. Okun said. He described Capital IQ as suffering from lost opportunities in the months after the attacks, and it had to downsize by about one-third.

But by late 2002, he said, the company was on sure footing; it continued growing, and in September 2004 was bought by Standard & Poor’s Corp. Mr. Okun said his company’s reach beyond Lower Manhattan was key to its success in the past five years.

Carl Mazzanti and Jennifer Shine, owners of a computer networking company called EMazzanti Technologies, were on their way to see clients and were in the train station below the trade center when the first plane hit. They made their way to safety despite falling debris.

EMazzanti was weeks old on September 11 and had a handful of clients, all of whom were in Lower Manhattan and had lost telephone service; without it, they couldn’t use the company’s networking services.

Miss Shine said the company managed to survive by helping clients. For example, it helped them communicate with the outside world by using its own Internet access in its offices in Hoboken, N.J., just across the Hudson River.

“We tried to help out in any way we could and just maintain that relationship and know that at some point, things would come back,” Miss Shine said.

Those efforts paid off; although EMazzanti struggled to hold on to clients, it eventually got more customers referred by those clients. But Miss Shine said it wasn’t until the spring or summer of 2002 that she and Mr. Mazzanti started to feel secure.

One reason for the company’s success in the past five years — it now has 200 clients — is that it adapted its services to meet the changing demands of other businesses.

Its core business now includes disaster recovery services.

“It took us in a different direction,” Miss Shine said of the attacks.

North of the trade center area, restaurants in Little Italy still aren’t as busy as they were five years ago.

“We never recovered,” said John Ciarcia, owner of a cafe called Cha Cha’s. “I’m still 40 to 50 percent off of pre-9/11.”

Business has picked up from the weeks after September 11, when smoke from the trade center’s ruins drifted for blocks and relatively few people wanted to go to Little Italy despite its longtime popularity among tourists.

But like many other Lower Manhattan restaurateurs, Mr. Ciarcia said he has to modify his business to stay open, cutting back hours and letting some employees go.

“You do the best you could,” he said. “But it never recovered.”

At her candy shop, Miss Robb said she’s not sure she’s going to be able to stay open.

Her problem is that many office buildings have been turned into apartments because many companies left Lower Manhattan and developers turned the excess space into residences.

And families are more likely to stop in for a few pieces of candy for children rather than buy the more expensive gifts that office workers sought.

“It’s not like it used to be at all.”

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