Covid-19 Hits Hard in NYC, How Have Businesses Bounced Back?
How local NYC businesses have dealt with Covid-19 and what they are planning to do next.
As many already know, Covid-19 has hit the United States very hard and New York has certainly been a hot spot for cases. As of June 7th, New York state has 367,000 cases and suffered from 24,175 deaths. New York City alone is responsible for 207,000 of those cases, which is more cases than any other state. Although the situation has been difficult, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. After talking with New York City local businesses, we got to learn about their story and their call to action.
If you don’t already know, Saint Seneca is a New York City business that offers aesthetically pleasing items and home goods for local New York residents and visitors. Saint Seneca has been in business will have been in business for 5 years this November and is owned by the hard working owner Yuka Anziano. Yuka Anziano says that this is “very symbolic because they say that 80% of businesses fail within that time so [she] know[s] now [she is] on the right path”. Yuka has enjoyed her entrepreneurial journey, despite the stress and challenges. She is also passionate about her business and store. Yuka says “It has this kind of calming affect like a safe haven filled with beautiful products that you can actually take home.”
During these difficult times many businesses ran into challenges. For instance, Yuka says that the company had to let go some employees, her widow washer had to stop too working due to Covid-19, and she was forced to cancel her purchase orders from smaller marketers. Yuka also says,”It’s not just loss for revenue for me, but this loss touches a lot of different people that my small business supports.” Although times are tough, Saint Seneca has used time to give more valuable service to their neighborhood and connect with the community. Saint Seneca has generously started no cost contact-free delivery to their local community and taking photos of their deliveries for their instagram feed.
As restrictions in New York City began to loosen up, on June 8th Saint Seneca was able to start curbside pick up for their customers. With more opportunites for shipping products, customers should look forward to being able to order products as large as furniture. In the future, Yuka explains that it will be a challenge when they are able to invite visitors inside their shop — again as the shop is only 200 square feet. Nevertheless, Yuka is thinking of ways and layouts to allow for more distance in the shop. Yuka says that “[She is] excited for whatever the future holds for Saint Seneca.”
Mad Batter Brownies
Mad Batter Brownies is a local New York City business that is known for its hand-painted vegan and gluten-free brownies. Each brownie is hand-painted by the talented owner, Risa Honablue, who can do almost any design, including a portrait for her customers. Mad Batter Brownies has been in business for two and a half years and is currently still open.
Despite Covid-19, Mad Batter Brownies has still been able to operate. Since they have no physical store open yet, Mad Batter Brownies offers deliveries to Manhattan and supplies Manhattan hotels and cafes with brownies; however, because these businesses have been closed, orders had to be put on hold. Mad Batter Brownies has adapted to the pandemic by shipping out brownies nationwide as an alternative to hand delivery. They have also added more to their menu, including gourmet cookies which are easier to ship and more of an everyday snack than hand-painted brownies. Risa also says that she is able to work in the kitchen by herself and that their social media manager continues to work from home as well.
In the future, customers should look forward to new items on the menu such as gourmet cookies, and new flavors and designs of their Baby Cakes. Additionally, Mad Batter Brownies can now offer hand-painted brownies to customers across the country in California. Risa says, “The lockdown became a blessing for the business”. Risa loves her business and how she gets to bake and paint for her business. Risa expresses her passion by saying,”My job is not a chore, I can stay up until 4 am doing an order and wake up at 7am to deliver this order without complaining about it. I am very happy I decided to pursue Mad Batter Brownies.”
For those who are new to New York City, Casa Barilla is a “fast-causal pasta kitchen concept from the lauded Barilla pasta brand” located in the center of New York City: Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood. The Italian restaurant has been in business since November of 2013. The Casa Barilla’s team goal is to provide affordable Italian food for local New Yorkers or visitors. In addition, the team wants to ensure that their restaurant is a welcoming environment where friends, families and co-workers can enjoy a delicious meal. Casa Barilla is also very passionate about the environment, so they offer “sustainable alternative meat” (An example is Spaghetti Beyond Meat) while reducing the amount of plastic used in the restaurant. Casa Barilla is aiming to become completely plastic free.
Unfortunately, when Covid-19 hit New York City, Casa Barilla was forced to temporarily close their doors; however, that did not stop them from operating. The Casa Barilla team has created Safety Guidelines in order to keep customers and employees safe and healthy, with help from the Barilla Food Safety experts and NSF (“an independent, non-profit organization that certifies food safety”). Casa Barilla says, “Our first priority will be to guarantee the safety of our customers and employees, strictly following the health and safety guidelines.” The main guidelines consist of “following the CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting guidelines, including regularly cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces, hiring a professional cleaning service to intensify our sanitation procedure, and providing hand sanitizer throughout the restaurant.” They continue check[ing] daily for signs and symptoms among their employees and urging them to stay home if they are feeling sick. They kindly ask the same of their guests. Encourag[ing] social distancing between team members and have positioned tables to be 6ft apart. Employees are also required to wash their hands regularly, in addition to wearing face masks and gloves.” and in addition the Casa Barilla team says they “are now cashless to limit interaction, and offer pick up, curbside and delivery options”. Fortunately for Casa Barilla, they were able to keep all of their employees during these hard times, with the help from the Barilla brand. Not only that, but the Casa Barilla team has used this time educate their own employees about restaurant business.
Although Casa Barilla is currently closed, they are looking forward to opening their doors in phase three, when limited-dine in services can operate. The Casa Barilla team simplifying their menu, so they can offer the best-selling meals. Also, the team has been and will continue to communicate with customers to understand diet needs and create the best meals for them. On top of that, the team has been partnering with local organizations to help provide food to those in need and kindly gave a 25% discount to healthcare workers. The Casa Barilla team says that”they are eager to return and cook a delicious plate of pasta for [their] beloved customers.”
Aquavit is a premier Nordic restaurant located in the heart of New York City, Manhattan. Aquavit has successfully received both two Michelin stars and three New York Times stars “under the leadership of Emma Bengtsson, who is one of the world’s leading female chefs”. The Nordic restaurant offers food from Northern Europe and has been in business since November of 1987. The owner, Hakan Swahn is from Sweden and says he “quickly [fell] in love with New York and its diverse culinary scene in the early 1980's.” Swahn says “opening a Nordic restaurant seemed like the perfect reason to settle here for good .” Hakan Swahn continues to appreciate the New York community by saying, “Being young, inexperienced and with no restaurant background my vision of owning a restaurant in New York was very simplistic and uninformed. Good timing and genuine support from New Yorkers made it possible for a novice like me to be successful. Only in New York.”
When Covid-19 hit New York City, the owner of Aquavit, Hakan Swahn said that his “instinct on the business side, when faced with the unknown, was to quickly slam on all the brakes until we could gain some more knowledge.” Aquavit had cut their expenses and applied for offered help on both a federal and local level, as well as to opening again gradually and analyze the steps to reopening. Aquavit’s goal is to bring back all of their staff, which is made up of over fifty members, and to secure the safety of both the staff and customers. A few weeks ago, Aquavit has successfully started take-out and delivery and during phase two Aquavit has offered its lunch items again for take-out. During phase three, Aquavit is prepared to serve larger numbers of guests with an ample distance apart. Aquavit has a dining room, bar, and two large beautiful rooms, which are normally used as function space, but can be used for dining. In addition, there are seating areas outside of Aquavit; however, there are no tables and chairs set up as of yet. Aquavit hopes the landlord will be willing to provide tables and chairs, as it would be a great place to enjoy meals.
In the future, customers should look forward to an a-la-cart menu full of comfort food and the fine dining, which will be available three times a week. Additionally, Aquavit finished thorough renovations right before the closure, which included a new kitchen. Owner, Hakan Swahn says that “with a brand new kitchen we know that we can provide a meal at the highest hygienic standards, which is so important right now”. Hakan Swahn also says that their ventilation is “also state-of-the-art, which is so important for the safety of all”.
For New York locals or visitors, Olmsted an award-winning restaurant located in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Olmsted has successfully been awarded as one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America, Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America, Food and Wine’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year, The New York Times “10 Best Restaurants in 2016”, and more. The restaurant is lead by chef-owner Greg Baxtrom and partner Max Katzenburg. At Olmsted, the menu is full of creative and seasonal vegetable meals.
When Covid-19 emerged in New York City, Olmsted stopped operating as a dine-in restaurant, and took a clever, creative approach. Olmsted is now operating as a food bank and Trading Post market by using the dining room and private dining room. The Trading Post marketplace rotates food choices daily. At the marketplace customers will find organic produce, pantry staples, wine, pre-batched cocktails, fresh baked foods, cage-free eggs, humanely raised meats and more items. Olmsted gets its organic produce from Norwich Meadows Farm and Smallhold Mushrooms, it’s baked breads and pastries from Pastry Chef Alex Grunet, the wine is selected by the Wine Director, Zwann Grays, and the pre-batched cocktails are from both Olmsted and Maison Yaki, a French Yakitori restaurant. Cassandra Chamoun, the director for brand relations says that the marketplace is “perfect for picking up a quick meal, stocking up on pantry items or grabbing a few bottles of wine.”
Customers can also enjoy popular dishes from Olmsted and Maison Yaki, like Kale Crab Rangoon and Frozen Lavender Yogurt, as well as home-made pantry items like tempura mix, sweet and sour sauce, seasonal jams, Olmsted’s Aji Dulce Hot Sauce and Maison Yaki’s Duck Rillete. Coffee, tea, and hot meals like Chicago Style Roast Beef Sandwich are also available on the menu. Olmsted’s trading post is currently open Wednesday through Friday for pick-up from 2pm to 7pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7pm. The Olmsted team says they will continue to expand and that delivery will be available. As for the food bank, Greg Baxtrom and Max Katzenburg are working with The Lee Initiative and Marker’s Mark and have successfully served thousands of free meals.
Saint Seneca “Saint Seneca” https://saintseneca.co/
Mad Batter Brownies “Mad Batter Brownies” https://madbatterbrownies.com/
Casa Brilla “Casa Brilla” https://www.casabarilla.com/
Aquavit “Aquavit” https://www.aquavit.org/
Olmsted “Olmsted” http://www.olmstednyc.com/
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