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Baldwin business owners reflect on year-long pandemic

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As the world marked the first anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic this month, many business owners in Baldwin said they have been reflecting on how they have fared the last 12 months. Some have been left wondering what the future will bring and if the end of the pandemic is in sight. 

Natasha Naton, the owner of Sak-Pasé in Baldwin, said the last year has been confusing, as she did not expect the pandemic to last as long as it has. However, she added, she has learned ways to adapt.

“I learned ways to better protect my business and ways to make people trust my business more by making sure that I stay on top of the Centers for Disease Control news, so that I can provide a restaurant environment that is a place of security and cleanliness,” Naton said. “The beginning of the pandemic was harder for us, but we never gave up, and we did what we had to do. We kept coming in and opening every day, and it has paid off because we are still here.” 

When the pandemic first hit, Naton started using Grubhub and Uber Eats to take orders. She lost money, though, because of the service fees that the two charge.

“We’re hoping our small business will be able to survive, and I know I just have to keep working and providing for the community because we love what we do,” she said. “I was going to apply for stimulus money, but I’m waiting for my accountant to tell me what to do to get stimulus money. I’m hoping that I can get stimulus money soon before it comes to an end. We’ll try.” 

Dina Adams, owner of La Petite Bouchée Caribbean restaurant in Baldwin, said she opened for the first time seven weeks ago. Because of the pandemic, business at the eatery has been slow.

“The pandemic is taking a toll on all businesses because people aren’t going out a lot, and I definitely think if it wasn’t for the pandemic, we would be doing better,” she said. “Even though business is slow, the good thing is that we have a few repeat customers because they have tried us out, and they have continued coming back for more of our food.” 

Despite the slow start, Adams said, she is hopeful about the future. “I have faith that business will get better and that the virus will slow down,” she said. “Lately, I have been very afraid of catching the virus from touching the money or change that customers give me . . . I’m looking forward to the day when the pandemic ends and I can stop living in fear.” 

The owner of All Star Cuts Barber Shop in Baldwin, Josh Lee, said the past year has been hard on his business. “Business has been slow, and we just hope it starts picking up soon so that we can grow,” he said. “I would say the hardest part is getting the clients and business, but I’ve been trying to do more promotion for the business online and on social media.”

Basil Leaf Grill Cuisine and Lounge in Baldwin opened last March 5, just as the pandemic was spreading. “It was a bit scary opening and not knowing if the pandemic would cause us to fail as a business,” said Wayne Wang, the eatery’s manager. “Business has been slow, and sometimes I wonder if business would be even better if it wasn’t for the pandemic. We hope business picks up soon.” 

While many Baldwin businesses are struggling to bring in more customers, Linda Ericsson, the owner of No Good Burger Joint in Baldwin, said hers has done well. “It’s terrible that this pandemic is still going on, but we are really happy that people are still supporting us,” she said. “We are taking every precaution necessary to make sure our business continues to be a safe and healthy environment for people to frequent, and even though we have been doing good, we still hope that in the near future we can grow and be even more successful as a business.”