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Businesses keep their chins up

Malverne, West Hempstead storeowners hope to stay afloat amid closures


Malverne and West Hempstead businesses owners have acknowledged feeling the adverse effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Many of them say they began to notice a decline in customers even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned large gathering early last week, and then, days later, ordered all non-essential businesses closed.

“We’ve been around for 89 years, so the only things we could possibly compare this to are the Great Depression or World War II,” said Karl Riesterer Jr., owner of Riesterer’s Bakery in West Hempstead.

Due to the restrictions, Riesterer said, the bakery has relied more on curbside service. It is offering $5 deliveries on prepaid orders of at least $30 to the West Hempstead, Garden City and Franklin Square communities.

“It’s not something that we pride ourselves on, because we want people to come in and see the bakery,” Riesterer said. “We like to touch on the visuals so you can get the full experience of hearing the sound of the bread slicer and the smells.”

The bakery has survived difficult times in the past, he said, thanks to the support of residents. He said he hoped more residents would consider shopping locally.

“We’re been here though many challenging times, so hopefully we can survive this challenge and weather this storm,” Riesterer said. “We’ve always had the community’s back, so we’re hoping they can return the favor.”

Malverne Chamber of Commerce President Kathi Monroe said she had been in constant communication with chamber members and Mayor Keith Corbett to stay informed about COVID-19. “It’s an unprecedented event in our lifetime, so there’s no way to prepare our businesses for this,” Monroe said. “Not every business is affected to the same degree, but ultimately this affects all of us.”

Monroe and other chamber leaders have worked to help storeowners modify their business structure, urging members to offer customers coupons and gift cards. Because the village has numerous mom-and-pop businesses, she said, one of the challenges is maintaining their operations on a small budget. She urged businesses to create a little bit of cushion in their savings, but she understands how difficult that can be for small shops.

“That’s the only thing we can try to make sure of, but that’s not always easy,” Monroe said. “The businesses in our chamber have been supporting the community all these years, and now we need a little more support from the community during a time where we’re all feeling anxious. We’re hopeful that we can stick together, keep our chin up and come through on the other side.”

Deirdre Bell, owner of Hair By Deirdre in Malverne, told the Herald that she had expected closures long before Cuomo’s announcements. “I’m the only one in the shop right now, and I’m taking one customer at a time,” Bell told the Herald last Friday. “It’ll all work out. I’m not really panicking about anything. I just hope that everyone will be safe, and for people to know that time will go on.”

Sparrow Tattoo owner Robert Scarpati, based in West Hempstead, said that he was disappointed by Cuomo’s orders, but understood that the precautions were necessary. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Scarpati said. “We’re going to hit it strong as soon as we can get back to work.”

His tattoo parlor, he said, usually handles two or three customers at a time on most days, and he hoped to maintain that once businesses are allowed to reopen. “I just hope that they assess the risks accurately and only do what’s necessary,” Scarpati said, “especially since we keep up a sterile environment anyway.”