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For businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown, inflation is a tough economic hurdle


Inside Grand Tea and Imports, a cultural store in Manhattan’s Chinatown, there are glittering floor-to-ceiling shelves of tea, incense and goods for Buddhist holidays — such as paper shoes left at ancestors’ tombs during the annual grave-sweeping festival.

“We usually sell this at $3.99. It’s increased a little to $6 now,” says Alice Liu, a second-generation owner of Grand Tea and Imports.

Though inflation is touching every part of the economy, it has created a particularly difficult puzzle for businesses in Chinatown.

Many of them rely on selling a lot, at a low price, to make a profit. But buying and shipping inventory costs much more now, so stores like Grand Tea and Imports have had to raise prices.

“You can’t rely on the old model anymore,” says Alice Liu.

The store has had to put up a sign by the register telling customers it can’t offer discounts or negotiate on prices anymore, because the cost of doing business is just too high.Part of the challenge for the neighborhood’s businesses is that many of them source their products from Asia. COVID-19 lockdowns and closed ports there are limiting supplies and delaying shipments, which increases prices.Liu says she’s found creative ways to obtain inventory, such […]

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