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Five Towns store owners are upbeat

Community support, vaccine rollout boost business optimism

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With a new year here and vaccines for the coronavirus rolling out, Five Towns businesses are starting to feel more optimistic about their future, while at the same time remaining diligent in following state-mandated safety protocols.

Nassau County began administering the Covid-19 vaccine to teachers, first responders, public safety and public transit workers on Monday and now people 65 and older. Local business owners are hopeful that the vaccine will lead to a quicker return to normalcy.

Jeff Beja, who has owned Central Galleries, an art-framing shop on Spruce Street, in Cedarhurst, for roughly 35 years, said he was feeling optimistic despite the pandemic. “We’ve been doing much better the last few months,” he said. “Our art sales were slow in the summer, but they’ve come back. We’re confident going forward with the vaccine rolling out, and this spring should be great.”

Beja noted that he had been carefully following safety protocols, including taking customers’ temperatures at the door. “I think that we’ve been the beneficiary of consumer confidence because of the way that our business has been handling the precautions since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “Some of the protocols we’ve enacted include building a Plexiglas counter. We also allow no more than three customers in the store at a time.”

AHC Appliances, on Central Avenue in Cedarhurst, has benefited from its pandemic designation, owner Sandy Tau said. “We were very fortunate that we were considered an essential business from the start, since we carry appliances such as refrigerators,” she said. “Because of the nature of the business I’m in, most people still want to come in and see the products in person.”

Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor Ari Brown, a member of the village’s Business Improvement District, said that despite the circumstances, there haven’t been many closures. “The businesses in this village have been sticking together throughout this pandemic,” Brown said. “The real estate market is strong and the local economy is strong because we work together like a family. If I have 3 percent vacancy out of 280 stores, that would be a lot.”

The village held its annual Midnight Madness sale the week of Thanksgiving, with businesses offering special discounts. Beja, a BID board member, said the event was a success.

“The BID has been proactive since the beginning of the pandemic, distributing masks to merchants and patrons,” he said. “We did Midnight Madness with limitations, such as the number of people allowed in the store. In general, I think the sale was successful for the majority of businesses in Cedarhurst.”

Tau, a Five Towns resident for 37 years, said that Cedarhurst and the BID have been “great” about helping businesses despite the spread of Covid-19. “Cedarhurst has been so on their game during this pandemic,” she said. “The village always tends to react well to whatever is going on around them, and they do whatever they can to help businesses thrive.”

Alan Bernstein, who owns Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, on Broadway in Hewlett, said he remained hopeful going forward. “We’re continuing to observe all kinds of safety precautions with cleaning and masking,” he said. “We’re hoping that a sense of normalcy will return soon.”

Bernstein added that he believed the availability of testing would help businesses return to normal faster. “The hope is that the vaccine will ramp up quickly and testing will be readily available,” he said. “I would love to be able to get everyone tested weekly. The only way that can happen would be getting help from the government.”

Tau said she has appreciated the community’s support throughout the crisis. “We’re grateful to the community, since they have been very supportive throughout this,” she said. “Going forward, we’re planning on continuing to service the community in the best way possible.”

Have an opinion on business challenges during the pandemic? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.

Correction: In the print version, Sandy Tau's last name was spelt "Lau." The correct spelling is Tau.