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‘We have to get through this’: North Shore businesses face down a virus

Many local businesses say they’ll need help

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Deborah Orgel-Gordon, founder of the North Shore Biz Network, which organizes business networking events, said the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus would cause a ripple effect among area businesses. For instance, she explained, both a florist and a caterer would lose out if a wedding were canceled.

All businesses, large and small, will suffer, said Vinny Moscato, president of the Bayville Chamber of Commerce, referring to the closure of all restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and casinos, another directive by Cuomo. Most restaurants are, however, offering takeout and delivery service.

“It will be a tough time, but we have to get through this, and maybe we’ll be the better for it,” Moscato said. “There’s no help for small businesses in Bayville yet. We have to see if the government comes up with some programs.”

Orgel-Gordon said residents could help restaurants by purchasing gift cards, which they can do over the phone. This will add to the establishments’ revenue without risking customers’ exposure to the virus.

Glen Cove City Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews stopped by two restaurants in the city, the View Grill and Henry’s, on Monday to initiate what he is calling a “gift certificate challenge.” He is encouraging residents to purchase gift cards from their favorite restaurants in the amount they would spend if they dined out. “It would show the restaurant owners that we care and value them and know they are suffering,” Stevenson-Mathews said. “Some restaurants are set up so you can purchase the certificate online. Others will take the order over the phone.”

Steve Warshaw, president of the Gold Coast Business Association, said it was possible that all businesses would take a significant hit because of the virus. When people stay home, he said, many businesses have no way of making money. “It’s affecting everyone, because we’re a service-based economy, mostly,” Warshaw said, “so when you aren’t providing a service and people aren’t paying for the service, there are financial repercussions.”

Warshaw said the stress — or panic — that people are feeling is a result of the wall-to-wall news coverage of the virus’s spread across the country. He said he was confident, however, that the government has people’s best interests in mind, and would act to ensure as limited a financial hit as possible. Relief programs, such as a federal freeze in mortgage payments, would greatly help people stay afloat, Warshaw said, and would help to alleviate the stress.

 

Parade is canceled

Each March, the streets of downtown Glen Cove are packed with spectators celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day parade. But not this year. The parade, which was scheduled for Sunday, was canceled. “We are being very careful to not put our families, our friends and the community at risk,” said Robert Lynch, the event’s organizer. “We’ll have more parades in the future.”

And though Lynch said the Glen Cove Hibernians, the organization that stages the parade, will not lose any money, businesses along the parade route will. “That’s the shame of the whole thing,” Lynch said. “We don’t lose any money because it was canceled, but local businesses do, and that’s a shame.” 

Patricia Schutz, a co-owner of Gemelli Gourmet Market North in Glen Head, said she was in constant communication with the small suppliers with whom she has formed close relationships, facilitating the consistent restocking of shelves in her store.

“We’ve seen an increase in business due to the virus because people are worried about food,” Schutz said. “If there’s going to be any shortage of food, we’re trying to accommodate all our customers and new customers coming in, because where they’ve been shopping has been running out of food. We’re a family business, and we’re very accommodating.”

Michael Amendola, owner of the Village Wine Merchant in Sea Cliff, said his store would remain open as long as possible, although he has adjusted its policies. Customers are now encouraged to take advantage of curbside pickup, he said, by placing orders on the phone. But when customers do come into the store, he and his staff will handle the bottles they want to see to make sure there is as little physical contact as possible.

Mike Carrozza, owner of Bayville Wines & Liquors, said his store was busy because of the closure of bars and restaurants. But that didn’t make him happy, he said, because others were suffering.

Carrozza said he was committed to keeping his store sterile. “I’ve literally been wiping doorknobs after every customer leaves,” he said. “I wipe down the counters and the bottles, too.”

Ever Padilla, president of the North Shore Hispanic Chamber, said one of his biggest concerns was not knowing how long the crisis would last. “It’s a very difficult time for businesses — for everybody,” said Padilla, adding that especially now, local businesses need residents’ support.

Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke said he wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and State Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand requesting assistance in the form of compensation for business owners and employees affected by closures.

Lisa Cohn, president of the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce, said she had noted the city’s nearly empty streets, and was struggling to come up with ideas for how businesses could move forward.

“All I can sometimes do is be on the phone reassuring people [and] listening to people’s problems,” Cohn said. “[I’m] not always able to offer solutions, because we’ve never gone through anything like this before, and I can’t say, ‘Ride it out; in a week or two it’ll be gone.’ We don’t know.”

Warshaw said it was up to residents to make sure they come out of this outbreak united and as strong as possible, which will help businesses, too. “The key here is that everybody must be considerate of not just their family, but of their neighbors, and vice versa,” he said. “That’s what’s going to get us through this thing.”