Millions of small businesses around the globe struggle to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than three months had dragged by since the coronavirus forced Chandan Shekhar to shut down his business — a narrow, second-floor shop racked with vibrantly colored saris, on a block in New York's Jackson Heights neighborhood once thronged with South Asian immigrant shoppers.
Finally on Tuesday, he and other merchants were allowed to reopen their doors.
But they were returning to an area where COVID-19 had killed hundreds, leaving sidewalks desolate and storefronts to gather dust.
Now fears were fading. But no one knew what lay ahead on this late-June Monday as owners raised the gates at jewelry stores, tandoori restaurants and bridal shops clustered near Roosevelt Avenue's elevated train line.
Overnight, the stress had woken Shekhar nine times.
"You cannot tell everybody it's safe to come and buy from us. This is an invisible enemy that nobody can see," said Shekhar, a father of two anxious about the shop's $6,000 monthly rent.
"This is my baby," he said, of the store, Shopno Fashion. "I have worked hard for this for more than 20 years, then I got my shop. It's not easy to leave it."
Amid the deaths of friends and customers, Shekhar is reluctant to complain.
As economies around the world reopen, legions of small businesses that help define and sustain neighborhoods are struggling.
The stakes for their survival are high: The UN estimates that businesses with fewer than 250 workers account for two-thirds of employment worldwide.