Business sectors are essential for community prosperity, and thus it is important to investigate the recovery of businesses after disasters. However, current studies on business recovery after natural disasters are limited, particularly a lack of empirical observations in developing countries. Our observations of the patterns and transformations of small businesses in the recovery process after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China can bridge this gap and provide a valuable contribution to academia. We conducted research through a four-year longitudinal study to track small business recovery in Beichuan County since 2014. Field observations, repeat photography, and semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. The operating status, business type, and spatiotemporal changes of small businesses in the new business district, Banaqia, were demonstrated. Overall, less than 50% of the planned shops were occupied and in operation, and this figure keeps declining from 2014 to 2017. Catering, garments, and souvenirs are the primary business types, but they show individual patterns in terms of sustainable development and spatial configuration. The results help to inform the development of recovery policies following disasters in developing countries.
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