It appears local stores are back to seeing a more customary amount of customers during the day. As roughly 78 percent of New York state residents are fully vaccinated, people have become more comfortable, and even more excited, to go out on the town and shop locally.
Summer is normally a financial slump for many local businesses in Sea Cliff, as residents leave Long Island to go on vacation. This hasn’t discouraged stores like The Village Wine Merchant, where employee Paul Ryans said it’s common to see a seasonal decline in business.
“We’ve had some ups and downs, but it’s traditionally kind of slow because a lot of people in the area go away,” Ryans said. “Definitely a little bit better than the previous summers.”
Although the Covid-19 impact on business has lessened, some businesses like the deli Catering
hole new series of issues. Arata’s owner Ron Collura explained how inflation of the past year has raised the prices of basic foods like beef and butter, increasing his overhead costs and forcing him to raise the prices on many of his sandwiches.
This rise in basic foodstuffs has been felt by many businesses and families across the country. According to the Consumer Price Index, the cost of food services rose by about nine percent on average across the country. Collura maintains retail prices of some items, like chicken, have risen by as much as 300 percent.
“The cost of everything in our store went up by a lot, not just a couple of pennies,” Collura said. “A case of butter that was maybe $59, $60, $69 at the high end, is now costing us $140.”
Collura explained Covid affected the work culture in the area, causing a ripple effect to his industry. He emphasized that since so many businesses now allow employees to work from home, the commuter breakfast crowd has basically dried up, and he said he was skeptical it would ever return.
Covid cases increase in the fall as people spend more time inside and students return to school. This time around, businesses seem far less worried that this might mark a cut in their business income.
Some stores, such as Frost Ceramics and Mercantile, which opened in November of 2020, were able to maintain a decent amount of clientele even during the darker days of the pandemic by strictly adhering to the state mandates on masking and hygiene. In some ways Covid helped jumpstart their business, as people stuck at home looked for new hobbies like ceramic-making.
Christopher Frost, co-owner of Frost Ceramics, explained that having weathered the worst days of Covid already, they were prepared for whatever the fall had to offer. He also said that even a re-tightening of mask mandates wouldn’t impact their business too much, as they have learned from experience how to handle what was once considered an unprecedented situation.
“Of course, we’re always concerned about the health of our customers and our own health,” Frost said. “But we were always very strict with the guidelines so if we have to go back to that we’ll go back to that.”
Ed Lieberman, former Sea Cliff mayor and president of the Gold Coast Business Association, maintains that despite the hurdles of the last few years, business in the community is looking up again for the first time in a few years.
“I can’t speak for all of the businesses, but of the ones that I’ve been attending, it seems they’re on the whole doing very well at this point, but with the caveat that business could always be better,” Lieberman said. “And that’s something that’s an important part of our business association, to network and to get people to patronize these establishments.”