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Sea Cliff Avenue business owners innovate to stay afloat

Community is vital in supporting local business

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Downtown Sea Cliff Avenue remains one of the most popular shopping and dining destinations on the North Shore. Restaurants, boutiques and shops overlooking Hempstead Harbor are open for business. Behind the storefronts are business owners, all with their own unique stories of how they have survived the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a national financial crisis.

Kathleen DiResta opened K. DiResta Collective in 2012, selling jewelry that she has created, as well as artwork and other items crafted by local artisans. She said she has had to shift her business practices during the pandemic.

“When the store first closed, it felt weird to have to close our doors after all the hard work I put into it, not knowing if it could reopen,” DiResta said. “I quickly shifted to see what I could do while not seeing clients, and I started improving my online website and posting more pictures, cleaning up a little.”

Once DiResta starting seeing clients in the store late last spring, she said, business picked up. “We had a great Christmas holiday season because people really wanted to shop locally,” DiResta said. “They knew they could shop safely, and with all the other shops along Sea Cliff Avenue, it’s been great.”

DiResta is looking forward to Valentine’s Day because it is another popular gift-giving holiday. She plans to offer more online promotions, including with local Facebook groups. The outpouring of local support, she said, has been welcome, with many people from across the North Shore recognizing the importance of supporting small businesses during the pandemic.

DiResta said she thinks business may slow again in the coming months, but she remains optimistic that her regular clients will continue to text her and find her online. And she will continue to keep the windows of her shop stocked to prompt passersby to consider purchasing her products.

For now, the store can remain open, for which DiResta said she is grateful. However, if pandemic restrictions tighten and she must close or see customers individually, she would comply with the mandates.

DiResta’s husband, Dan Roth, co-owns the gastropub Still Partners, which is across the street from her shop. Like DiResta, Roth said he has also had to improvise during the pandemic.

“We used to have music four times a week,” he said. “Sometimes three, as at times there was an open mic. That’s all gone, and in general people are pretty scared to come out right now.”

Roth said business has been quiet, a far cry from what Still Partners was before the pandemic. However, a successful lunch service on Jan. 9 could serve as a sign of good things to come.

The community has been supportive, Roth said. A fundraiser in August, which was organized and promoted with Sea Cliff residents Jaime Teich, of local nonprofit Love Your Neighbor, and Jennifer DeSane, helped keep Still Partners afloat.

The fundraiser featured five musical acts, who set up in Roth’s living room and live-streamed their performances on the Still Partners Facebook page. A GoFundMe page accepted donations during and after the show. 

As of press time, almost $60,000 had been raised. Roth said proceeds would catch Still Partners up on its expenses. “Our fundraiser was incredibly successful,” he said. “We might do another one very soon. It helps keep us going.”

For now, Still Partners is offering take-out and dine-in, with 1990s and early 2000s rock playing on the loud speaker, making it almost impossible not to sing along. “We’re doing what we can to try to get by,” Roth said. “February is going to be a tough time.”

When Covid-19 is no longer a threat, Roth said he hopes that “it will be like the roaring ’20s,” with the crowds returning again in person for live music.

Farther west on Sea Cliff Avenue is Hummingbird Boutique, owned by Suzette LaValle, who said she too has increased her social media presence. She has also worked to improve her store’s ambience by burning candles and playing an assortment of music. This, she said, has helped comfort her customers at a time when shopping is particularly stressful.

“I’m very aware of good customer service and making sure your customers are treated very nicely,” LaValle said, “and also to give them a place where they can feel comfortable and relaxed.”

LaValle said she has also hosted several events at Hummingbird to help her business and benefit the community. One such event was a fundraiser on Nov. 5, when more than $500 was raised to support the Sea Cliff Elementary School Parent Community Association. The event was so successful, she said, she is donating 5 percent of the rest of her 2020 earnings to the PCA. At press time, $725 had been raised for the organization.

“Staying in touch with the community during these times is really important,” LaValle said. “You can’t lose sight of how your community feels.”