A Survivor's Story
The special relationship that J&R shares with its customers extends prominently throughout its own neighborhood. The company is a key member of the New York Downtown Alliance, a community organization that for six years has spearheaded the re-vitalization of the lower Manhattan financial district. The neighborhood, which commanded some of the most desired residential and commercial real estate in the city before the September events, has had its hands full in assisting businesses, residents and cultural institutions affected by the troubles and the relief efforts. J&R itself had extended its business holdings into local real estate, including condominiums situated directly above the store locations. While the vistas from those apartments will never be the same, Friedman is confident of the neighborhood's rapid return. Sharing the spirit of Mayor Guiliani, the Downtown Alliance, NYC & Company, and the rest of New York, she smiles when she says simply, "We're going to come back."
In the meantime, what can other businesses learn from J&R's experiences? "It's hard to prepare for terrorism," says Friedman. "You've got to try to have as many redundancies as possible. You've got to spread out your infrastructure, spread out into other businesses." As an example, while the brick-and-mortar operations were closed, the catalog, corporate and Web operations continued, servicing existing customers while at the same time gathering new ones. J&R continued to pay all its store employees during interim five weeks—with much of that workforce focused on the clean-up.
More importantly, J&R has learned in no uncertain terms what it has always taught—that positive relationships are the key to a successful business. Says Friedman, "We've always had terrific relationships with our customers, our vendors, and our employees. We have very little employee turnaround—some have been with us for over 25 years. Now that the situation is reversed, everyone has come to us, asking how they can help. Everyone from vendors to suppliers, workers at all levels, up to high-level managers are asking what they can do to pitch in. Everyone's been great, and it's meant so much to us."