The Businesses in the Elfen Lied series are not often seen, but they tend to appear in pivotal if not crucial moments in the narrative.
In real life, Kamakura is a community whose economy is tourism-based. Tourists visit both its scenic shoreline and its historic architecture and art dating from the period of the Kamakura Shogunate. As a result, most businesses seen in the series are semi-permanent stands rather than brick-and-mortar structures. It is not known, but can be speculated that many of these stands either close shop or have some manner of indoor venue during the colder months. Kouta once mentions needing to seek a job to aid the household; these stands seem a possible source of such income. Yet since the series starts presumably in the fall when school sessions start in many countries, these stands might not be an option, unless the scene where this is discussed occurs perhaps in the spring or early in the second summer of the storyline.
While hardly unique to Kamakura, a taxi-cab driver takes Yuka and Kouta from the hospital after their encounter with Bando. Whether this man runs and owns this business himself or works for a company is not known.
In the story arc wherein Mayu comes to live in Maple House, a kindly woman working at or running a baked goods stand is shown to be giving Mayu bread scraps from her stand, ostensibly as a snack for Wanta. The vendor seemed to know all along that the crumbs and scraps were for both Mayu and Wanta, possibly the only food they were getting while homeless. Informing Mayu that she is closing the shop (for the season, at least, though this is never made clear), she talks to Kouta and Yuka about Mayu and tells the girl this as well. As a parting gift, the merchant gives them a cake for Mayu for her birthday, celebrated at her new home in Maple House.
While in the manga, they are only seen talking to this merchant, the anime at least indicates that Kouta and Yuka have asked around about Mayu to other merchants. At a stand selling fish, Nyu is seen staring in wonder at the open eyes of a dead fish lying on a bed of ice.
A nearby zoo and some of its food stands see young Kouta and Lucy during flashbacks. While the zoo may or may not charge a fee for entry, the food stands certainly needed money, and Kouta indicated using funds he had gotten from his father on that day, including the ride home on a bus where a hallucinating Lucy attempted to strangle him, then exacted a promise from him to kill her, if the need should arise. It seems that, as depicted, this zoo, like Maple House, the Diclonius Research Institute, and the Forest Rest Shelter, has no real-life equivalent in or around Kamakura. This is the site of arguably the happiest day of young Lucy's life.
When Nana first arrives on the mainland, having been sent away from the Diclonius Research Institute by Kurama, she comically attempts to buy crepes from a stand vendor, not realizing she has much more than enough to buy the food. In the anime, this vendor is later seen again when shown Nana's photo by police seeking her out on behalf of Chief Kakuzawa.
It is not known to what degree Kamakura and the surrounding areas suffered damage from Lucy's attempt to destroy the world, but it appears that at least the end of summer festival is still held that same year, the first of ten in which Kouta goes to meet the deceased Lucy at the spot they first met, keeping his promise. At that same festival, Nana and Mayu are seen with cotton candy, and vendors are indicated in the background.
Depiction of these businesses helps ground the fantasy/science fiction realm of Elfen Lied in a world that is at least recognizable, and allows for settings other than the two or three main ones, keeping the reader/viewer's interest and the characters mobile.