Local Merchants Search for Ways to Stay in Business

By Examiner Media Staff

The restrictions on gathering may have emptied restaurants and most stores, but Exit 4 Food Hall in Mount Kisco, above, is one of the many area businesses that have tried to be creative to continue serving the public and provide jobs to their employees.

What used to be a bustling street in Mount Kisco is now left quiet, aligned with businesses trying to stay afloat amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Since restaurants were forced to convert to dine-in services only two weeks ago, Isi Albanese, owner of Exit 4 Food Hall at 153 E. Main St., said he and his staff have had to adapt quickly with cases of COVID-19 on the rise. That now includes no-contact deliveries, curbside pickup and areas within the restaurant sealed off to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

“We’re very lucky in a way that we can stay open; it’s not easy but we’re kind of getting by,” Albanese said. “We’re adapting every day to meet the needs of the community but to also stay safe.”

While no stranger to takeout and delivery, Albanese noted his delivery orders have spiked with his eatery now offering prepared to-go meals, meat and fish boxes, daily family meal options and quart-sized margaritas and Bloody Marys. Regular menu items are also available.

Like Albanese, restaurants, along with other small businesses throughout Westchester County, are altering their guidelines to accommodate community needs while also striving to bring in enough revenue to survive. Outside the food industry, places like Freyer’s Florist and Gifts and Pet Supplies Plus in Yorktown are both offering curbside pickup, with the former also delivering.

Aggie Shah, owner of A Maze in Pottery in Briarcliff Manor, said that while she closed her storefront with non-essential businesses mandated to shutter, she’s been running her business out of her home by offering interactive, do-it-yourself pottery kits for delivery.

Next week, she plans to host pottery classes through social media outlets.

Free delivery is currently offered for every order. Shah is delivering within a 10-mile radius on $50 orders, up to 15 miles with a $70 order within 20 miles on $100 orders. Supplies will also be delivered to those who sign up for classes, Shah said.

While her business mainly survived on large gatherings and special events, Shah noted the obvious struggle and financial burden she’s faced since shutting down two weeks ago. With rent due, along with incoming bills, she hopes to provide some income to her employees, despite them being temporarily laid off.

“It’s hard because my business is small, and I’m offering deliveries now because I don’t know how long this is going to last,” Shah said. “It’s crazy the decisions you have to make now. Everything is complicated.”

With business owners like Shah transitioning to social media-based interactions, gyms, movie theaters and dance studios are also implementing similar methods.

Pleasantville gym Athletes Warehouse is currently offering remote training programs, with the Jacob Burns Film Center making virtual screenings of new films available for rent. Arc Stages is also hosting an array of virtual workshops throughout the week, including a virtual open mic night on Fridays at 7 p.m.

Additionally, the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains is refusing to let the music stop amid recommendations to social distance. Through virtual lessons via interactive video platforms like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime, the organization believes students should not only continue to make progress but regain a sense of normalcy by maintaining their regular musical educations.

“Music has always been a source of inspiration, joy and comfort in all types of circumstances,” said Jean Newton, the conservatory’s executive director. “It is especially important in times of crisis. Music brings people together, and in today’s world we’re so lucky to have the capacity to do this even if we can’t all be in the same room.”

While businesses face a level of uncertainty moving forward, local owners are urging folks to stay safe but also shop and eat local to ensure small businesses can persevere through the current health crisis.

As Pappous Greek Kitchen owner Rui Cunha continues to see increased volume with takeout and delivery already a bulk of his Yorktown business, he doesn’t want to see neighboring restaurants and businesses close for good. Shopping local keeps them afloat, he said.

“It’s a rough time, especially for food places,” Cunha said. “Some of these people might not come back and that’s the scary part.”

Flour & Sun Bakery owner Cait Dwyer said she’s trying to stay open long enough to support not only herself and the community but her employees. The Pleasantville bakery is still producing cake and special orders but is now offering do-it-yourself baking kits. Home deliveries is also an option.

Dwyer said supporting her business, along with countless others throughout the county, provides an opportunity for both communities and its members to thrive. Keeping everyone employed and having money to complete your daily activity is important, she said.

“I don’t want my customers to think I’m taking advantage of them, but you’re supporting me and my employees,” Dwyer said. “You’re not just supporting my business; you’re supporting members of the community.”

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