Local retailer details effort to sell merchandise in hard-hit Bronx

By AARON FERRER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) – As New York became the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to keep the state on pause until at least May 15th while keeping all non-essential businesses closed. Over 270,000 residents have been infected across the state.
 
Small business owner Amaurys Grullon, who founded the company ‘Bronx Native’ with his sister Roselyn in 2015 inside their Longwood neighborhood apartment, was forced to comply and temporarily shut the doors to his shop.
 
“We’re just kind of keeping our head over water, just barely making it,” Grullon told ABC News’ “Perspective” podcast. He says he has seen his profits slashed by almost 50%, now relying on online sales to keep them afloat.
 
The pair created the brand after feeling like the Bronx was lacking representation and apparel that signified the pride of the borough.
 
“We wanted to wear clothing that identified us, we wanted to wear clothing that empowered us, showcased our history, our culture, and we could not find any Bronx based merchandise.”
 
After selling merchandise at their first event at Port Morris Distillery in 2016 for a non-profit called ‘Juntos’, they began to do as many as three pop-up shops a day at different locations. 
 
Grullon’s flagship store is located at 127 Lincoln Avenue in the Mott Haven section of The Bronx, the third hardest hit borough in the city with 32,862 confirmed cases according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘Bronx Native’ has occupied the space since 2017 after an invitation to host a pop-up shop for two weeks inside the property, became a success when their merchandise sold out within the first week. Grullon was also honored with the Citation of Merit from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz for upstanding service in the community and commitment to social change.
 
Within that community, CDC data shows that the Bronx has the highest rate of infection per 100,000 people in each borough. The New York State Department of Health reveals that African Americans and Hispanics combined have been impacted at a higher rate, accounting for 62% of all fatalities in New York City due to the novel coronavirus, despite representing only 51% of the population.
 
In Mott Haven, where ‘Bronx Native’ is located, information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and New York City health officials shows Hispanics and African-Americans make up 87% of the demographic. Grullon says he’s using the power of social media to try and help the community:
 
“We try to post as many things as we can on Instagram and Facebook, like hey, they’re doing free testing at Lehman College, they’re giving out free food for first responders at Beatstro. So we try to just update people.”
 
The total number of hospitalizations and deaths in New York due to coronavirus are on a downward trajectory statewide but Governor Cuomo isn’t ready to reopen.
 
Grullon says they had hoped the quarantine would last for two weeks, but with non-essential businesses in the state ordered close since March 20, he’s unsure about the future of his shop:
 
“I think if this continues, definitely the physical shop is in danger of being closed. Definitely. But to say that if this continues that the ‘Bronx Native’ brand overall is going to be shut down. Definitely, not. I would not let that happen.”
 
Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.
 
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