Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, small mom-and-pop stores in the city have suffered significantly, with a number of retail stores, antique and arts shops like Record Mart, and restaurants closing permanently. Many restaurants have had business reduced by numbers as high as 75 percent, while non-essential businesses have only been open for a few weeks. In order to raise awareness of the importance of mom-and-pop shops throughout the city, photographers James and Karla Murray, in collaboration with the East Village Community Coalition, are hosting a free photography and oral history workshop Capturing the Faces and Voices of Mom-and-Pop Storefronts 2020.

Sarita Holding skilletsSarita of Sarita’s Mac and Cheese holding skillets. Photo by James and Karla Murray.

According to the Murrays, the goal of the workshop is “to teach others how to document and capture the cultural significance of mom-and-pop stores and the impact they have on the pulse, life, and texture of their communities and will utilize a large online component in this year’s workshops, teaching participants how to use social media as a tool for advocacy.”

Throughout the pandemic, James and Karla Murray have been documenting many small stores and restaurants on their YouTube page, including Ray’s Candy Store, Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery, and Sarita’s Mac And Cheese.

Paul's Da BurgerPaul’s Da Burger Joint. Photo by James and Karla Murray.

As part of these workshops, participants will learn to create powerful photographs of neighborhood storefronts and record oral histories with shop owners. The workshops will focus on businesses in the entire borough of Manhattan and will focus specifically on businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. The Murrays tell us that small local mom-and-pop shops are the “lifeblood of our communities and now more than ever need all of our support.”

Zargoza OwnersOwners of Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery. Photo by James and Karla Murray.

The Murrays and the East Village Community Coalition will be leading the workshops virtually and free of charge to a maximum of 50 participants per online workshop. The workshops will culminate in an exhibition of the photographs and interviews by participants at The Theater for the New City Gallery at a later date. These efforts to preserve these mom-and-pop shops will also be displayed on the EVCC website and @momandpopstorefronts on Instagram, which still displays participant work from last year’s workshops. Registration for these workshops is available on their Eventbrite page.

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