‘La Sirena Mexican Folk Art’ Illustrates Small Business Resilience Amid COVID-19 – NBC New York
What there is to know
- La Sirena Mexican Folk Art has been bringing Mexican culture to the people of Manhattan for over 20 years.
- The store closed in March 2020 and suffered a series of financial burdens as a result of the pandemic.
- Dina Leor, the founder of La Sirena Mexican Folk Art, wants the government to help more small businesses like hers.
Among the bustling streets of the East Village is La Sirena Mexican Folk Art, a small business offering Manhattanites a piece of Mexican culture, one work of art at a time.
While the store’s exterior looks simple, the interior features a vibrant and colorful atmosphere where paintings by Frida Kahlo decorate the walls and colorful dolls hang from the ceiling.
La Sirena Mexican Folk Art, also known as La Sirena, has been providing Manhattan residents with an abundance of folk art made by Mexican artisans for over 20 years. Dina Leor founded the store in 1999 to share her passion for Mexican art and culture with others.
Leor’s passion for Mexican culture began when she visited Mexico as a child, where she immediately fell in love with the country. Although Leor herself is not of Mexican descent, she shares a deep appreciation for the locals, food, and art of the country.
“I just feel like I’m at home when I go there,” said Leor, who describes herself as “an American of Argentine origin with Mexican art.”
Over the years, Leor continued to travel to various parts of Mexico, collecting different works of art on each trip. After a few trips, Leor’s collection grew considerably, so she decided to open La Sirena.
“When I travel to Mexico I always buy too much, so when the store arrived it was already part of my life,” said Leor. “I never decided to have a store, I was shown it.”
Leor sources many of his pieces from families in various parts of Mexico who have created folk art, a type of art that reflects cultural identity rather than individual identity and is passed down from generation to generation. .
“These are people who are in the patios of their homes creating folk art,” said Leor. “You come home from school and your parents do it, so you hang out with them and learn how to do it.”
The store sells a variety of hand-woven blankets, painted animals and masks created by local artisans and their families in Mexico who receive a portion of sales from La Sirena.
But like many small businesses, the onset of the pandemic brought a series of challenges for Leor and his store.
“Small businesses in New York, we’ve all been affected by the shutdown,” Leor said. “There is no tourism, people for a long time still are afraid to go out.”
Leor closed La Sirena for a few months in March 2020. She set her sights on crowdfunding with an initial goal of raising $ 14,000 to pay for rent, utilities and to support Mexican families who produce works of art. art for the store. Leor also asked for government help using the Paycheck Protection Program, but said, “I wish stores could rely more on the government for help.”
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Like Leor, many small business owners have experienced a series of setbacks in the wake of the pandemic. A study conducted in June 2020 found that nearly 43% of small businesses have temporarily closed due to COVID-19. The Mid-Atlantic region, which includes New York City, saw the biggest drop in employment and the increase in temporary closures.
Recent data also indicates that Latin-owned businesses, such as La Sirena, have been disproportionately affected. In May 2020, the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative revealed that 86% of Latin-X business owners experienced immediate negative impacts from COVID-19. They also reported that Latin-X owners were less likely to receive P3 funding compared to white-owned businesses.
Leor reopened her store in July but closed again for three weeks in February 2021 when she was infected with the virus.
Needing some extra support, Leor decided to reach out to New York Nico, a video maker who featured La Sirena on his Instagram. Shortly thereafter, Leor received a call from a woman who offered him a temporary location at Chelsea Market.
“There are glimmers of hope emerging from the pandemic,” Leor said.
The pop-up at Chelsea Market initially resulted in increased business for the store, but Leor says business at the second location declined.
“It was so awesome at first that I thought, ‘oh, he’s my savior,’ but now it’s gone down too,” Leor said. “But it kind of helps save the business.”
While the pop-up closed in September, Leor continues to spread his love for Mexican culture by hosting book signings and other cultural events showcasing Mexican food and music. Despite the challenges she faced, Leor said she was grateful to have her health and a support network with other small business owners.
“Even during COVID-19, wonderful things have happened,” Leor said. “People came together, there was a lot of love and support within the community.”
Oneika Raymond meets “What would Frida do?” A Guide to Living Boldy, ”Arianna Davis to see how Frida’s life inspires us to be the brightest and most daring. Together they visit Vida Verde and La Sirena Mexican Folk Art.