Small businesses in Lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001, paint a telling portrait of vulnerability after disasters. This qualitative analysis of recovery for small retail and service firms with 50 or fewer employees is based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and documentary research from September 2001 through 2005. A postdisaster emphasis on place-based assistance to firms conflicted with macro-level redevelopment plans for Lower Manhattan. Small business recovery was impeded as aid programs responded to a new sense of urgency, attachment to place, and prestorm conceptions of the neighborhood at the expense of addressing community-wide economic changes accelerated by the disaster. Ingredients for effective programmatic response to the shifting environment and recovery needs of small businesses include (a) long-range planning assistance and relocation options, (b) intelligence on all redevelopment initiatives that affect firms’ recovery, and (c) a blend of grants and loans that acknowledges realistic disbursement schedules of private versus public monies.