Penn Station delays leave shops struggling

Penn Station retail businesses have suffered due to the spate of delays affecting the station,  managers and employees said.
Penn Station retail businesses have suffered due to the spate of delays affecting the station, managers and employees said. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Commuters are not the only ones feeling stranded at Penn Station — several businesses inside the transit hub said their bottom lines are suffering because customers skip shopping stops when their trains are delayed.

Penn Wine & Spirits sees a roughly 40 percent dip in business when commuters contend with train delays, as Long Island Rail Road passengers did Tuesday, according to the store’s sales consultant José Vilchis.

He said interruptions to rail service are significant enough to cut into the shop’s clientele about once or twice a week.

“People just stand out there for hours and hours,” Vilchis said. “A lot of people are more worried about where they want to head to instead of buying a bottle of wine.”

Nearby, Carlton Cards loses 20 to 30 percent of its business when trains run behind schedule, according to its manager, Vijay Sampat.

The sales slump grows most severe when the waiting area near the LIRR grows crowded and officials have to seal off the area, Sampat said.

“Nobody could come in,” he said. “We were dead here: no customers at all.”

And for some shops, staffing has become an issue. John Sye, manager of the New York, New York souvenir shop, said two of his co-workers were stuck on delayed trains Tuesday.

“Thank god, it’s not busy right now,” Sye said.

The delays are not distressing to all businesses. Several bars and restaurants in and near Penn Station said they benefit when customers are stranded there.

Mark Carfi, manager at Kabooz’s Bar & Grille on the upper level of the station near the Amtrak concourse, said his booths fill up with commuters looking for a place to pass the time.

“I’m sure my bosses aren’t complaining, but I take mass transit,” said Carfi, 58, who commutes in from Yonkers. “It’s a drag.”

Businesses inside Penn Station lease space through Amtrak, which owns and operates the hub’s tracks, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the real estate firm Vornado.

Spokesmen for the MTA and Vornado declined to comment.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert noted that the agency plans to shut down some tracks this summer as part of its ongoing efforts to improve service and infrastructure at Penn Station.

“We recognize the impact on all customers and know that there is never a good time to do this work, but it needs to get done and our plan is designed to try and keep long-term disruptions to a minimum,” Tolbert said in a statement.

Many business managers said they plan to plod on. Sammie Charles Davis, who has been performing in the station under the stagename Mr. Melody for 35 years, said he loved his job, even when poor rail service eats into his earnings.

“Whatever I get I’m thankful for,” said Davis, 72, of Brooklyn.

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