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Owners react to Phase One of reopening

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The Phase One reopening of Long Island’s economy began May 27, and many non-essential businesses reopened for the first time in about a dozen weeks with curbside pickup and drop-off. 

After months of a statewide closure, owners of non-essential businesses in Valley Stream said they had lost customers, time and money, and that resuming their services has been difficult.

“Reopening my business has been unsettling,” said Lisa Elfante, the owner of Central Florist in Valley Stream. “I lost a lot of business since we were closed on Mother’s Day and for communions and other events.”

Due to the closure, wholesalers made little to no money, and farmers were forced to throw out many flower. Now, since the reopening of her business on Monday, Elfante, who would typically order $3,000 to $5,000 worth of flowers a week to sell, now purchases a quarter of that. She can no longer pay her 7 part time employees and laid them all off. She runs her business alone.

“I’ve owned my business for 16 years, and to work so hard and then all of a sudden it’s gone, is tough,” she said. “I’m counting on my Valley Stream community to support their local florist shop and get my business back to normal with my employees. I’m hoping and praying, because this is my livelihood.”

Deo Singh, the owner of D Singh General Contractors Inc., does construction work at schools in various communities. With the pandemic continuing, he does not take a job if there will be too many people at a construction site.

“It was exciting opening upagain, but we did have to cut staff,” he said. “I’m afraid of the virus, so we wear masks and gloves and stay six feet apart on the job, and I also don’t go to every job call if it goes against [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines.”

On June 1, the Wheeler Deli Hot and Cold Catering in Valley Stream also reopened with options for customers to get food to go, and it offers delivery, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub.

“Everyone who enters the store has to wear a mask, and only four people can be in the store at a time,” said Christine Higgins, the deli manager. “It feels good to reopen again after a long time, but it was hard on the business because we had to spend a lot of money starting over by restocking the entire store with items.” 

Reopening has been hard for Higgins because she said she thinks people are still afraid to leave their houses, reducing her customer base. She, however, said she hopes that will change soon.

“I’m hoping to get back on our feet,” she said. “I hope that more people will come, because that’s what we are relying on to stay afloat.”  

The reopening of the Long Island economy will play out by region in three distinct phases hereafter:

Phase Two: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, and real estate, rental and leasing.

Phase Three: Restaurants and food services, beyond takeout and delivery.

Phase Four: Arts, entertainment and recreation, and education.

If the number of deaths, hospitalizations and new Covid-19 cases remains stable or declines for two weeks, a region can move on to the next phase of reopening.

Governor Cuomo has emphasized that personal behavior will determine the success — or failure — of the reopening process. “The trajectory,” he said last week, “is decided by people.”

He repeated that people should:

Wear masks in public spaces.

Wash hands frequently.

Maintain social distance.

“We want [the] economy to come roaring back,” he said.

Scott Brinton contributed to this story.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Central Florist sold $3,000 to $5,000 worth of flowers a week. The shop would typically order that amount in flowers.