As NYC Restaurant Week kicked off in New York City on Monday, the West Hempstead Chamber of Commerce plans to hold a similar event of its own, Taste of West Hempstead, July 25-31. It will highlight a number of eateries in the community, with the hope of promoting local business.
“We’re hoping that this will give people the chance to sample some of the vendors that we have,” Chamber of Commerce President Marshall Myers said.
Myers added that he had hoped the chamber could launch the event last summer, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the group to postpone it. With many local businesses still suffering from the effects of the pandemic, he said, the weeklong focus on restaurants will be even more relevant.
“As things are approaching a better state of normalcy, people need to be aware of the local businesses that are available to them,” Myers said. “We want to make sure that the money they’re spending is staying within the community.”
Myers and chamber Vice President Sagine Pierre-Charles will visit a different restaurant each day (see box) and record a short video to highlight it on social media. Each restaurant will have special offers throughout the week.
Pierre-Charles, owner of Sage & Angie Boutique, said that because West Hempstead doesn’t have a downtown area like Malverne or Rockville Centre, it’s a bit more difficult to create a feeling of togetherness in the community. “This is a great opportunity for us to bring residents together and patronize the local restaurants in the community,” she said. “There are some fabulous restaurants in West Hempstead, so why not take the time to get to know your neighbors, your business owners and have a good time? You never know — they might find a new love for a restaurant that they’ve never been to.”
Pierre-Charles said that businesses also have to do their part to develop relationships in the community. Part of what kept her business afloat last year, she said, was staying in touch with her regular customers. “Sometimes, retaining the customers that you already have is just as important as trying to reach new ones,” she said. “The word of mouth is still very powerful, so by coming out to the different events in the community, you can help spread the word. I feel like no crowd is ever too small to reach out to.”
Myers said he hoped that events like Taste of West Hempstead and the Chamber’s annual Fall Street Fair, which was also canceled last year, would inspire more businesses to promote themselves. “We’d like for our events to bring back a sense of community that kind of got lost in the sauce last year due to the pandemic,” he said. “It’s a way to let the business community know that we need them as a member. We need their voice, ideas and energy.”
Myers added that with major developments in West Hempstead, such as the Heatherwood Luxury Rentals on Hempstead Turnpike, now is the time to encourage foot traffic in the community. Last September, Heatherwood executives proposed the construction of three four-story apartment buildings on the turnpike, with 420 apartments, and estimated that the project would take about three years to complete.
“Ultimately, the goal is for those empty storefronts on Hempstead Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike to be filled with viable businesses that can take advantage of this new development,” Myers said.
I think that when you’re running a business, you reach some kind of comfort level where you think everything’s fine,” he continued. “But if there’s anything that this pandemic taught us, it’s that things can change at any moment. This pandemic has changed the way we think about business.”
Taste of West Hempstead will kick off at the Cherry Valley Shopping Center on Sunday, from 3 to 7 p.m., highlighted by live music.