In Early 2020, as the number of positive covid tests began to rise all over the world many local small businesses in the Bronx were forced to close down for some time. Now a year later, continuing to follow COVID regulations small businesses in the Bronx, NY begin to get back on their feet.
When Business owners were initially forced to close, nobody necessarily knew when everything would open again. Local small businesses were left in the unknown and had no choice but to close their businesses blindly without being sure if their businesses could survive the pandemic.
One local small business that is currently moving forward with hopes of getting back on their feet after being negatively impacted by COVID-19 would be Blanquita Restaurant in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx. Blanquita Restaurant Is a family business owned by Mexican immigrants Katia and Mario Martinez along with the rest of the Martinez family. Serving a variety of both Mexican and Dominican food, Blanquita’s has become a staple in the neighborhood since it first opened over 10 years ago.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember asking my husband about what we were going to have to do if we ever needed to close the restaurant for good”, said Martinez.
“Our kids help us work here too so, at first we didn’t really know if conditions were safe enough for them to keep coming to work with us. We needed the money, so we had to just come back to work and follow the guidelines the governor asked us to.”
Blanquita Restaurant has remained open during the pandemic except for the first few days of lockdown where everything was still confusing for the family as far as where their next steps would be if COVID put them out of business. Since they first reopened, the restaurant has been following strict guidelines in order to stay open. Some of these guidelines include limited store capacity, change in hours, take-out/ delivery service only and of course social distancing.
“I mean, we’re glad we were able to stay open and keep our jobs but, these rules we have to follow make people not want to eat out anyway. We’re still trying hard to get business back to what it was. We’ve been doing good so far we’re not too worried anymore”, said Martinez.
Research done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) ensures how negatively COVID-19 impacted small business within the first week of the pandemic. The research shows that although small business are most times overlooked, they make up for about more than half of jobs all across the United States.
Which explains why as small businesses began to close, unemployment rates in the U.S. greatly escalated.
Another local small business that is currently working towards getting business back to what it once was is Pasarella Salon in the Bronx. As Governor Cuomo demanded all non-essential businesses to close, the salon had no other choice. Pasarella is owned by Lizbeth Cruz, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Cruz explains how as a new business owner when she first opened her hair salon 8 years ago, she would’ve never expected to have to deal with something like this.
“Who would’ve thought? This wasn’t really something I could’ve kept away from my business. I tried to not stress myself too much about it because as a business owner first hearing about this, there was really nothing I could do but follow rules and close down”, said Cruz. “Business isn’t exactly booming but compared to how we were doing the first week salons were given permission to open again, we’re doing much better now.”
Although the pandemic has taken such a negative toll on small businesses, a year later since the beginning of the pandemic there have been resources and relief funds set in place to help business owners recuperate their business after such major loses.
The Empire State Development site lists out some covid-19 assistance programs, loans and grants that were set in place to help out those businesses who were severely negatively impacted by the pandemic in New York State.
Some of the help resources available to small businesses include the Paycheck Protection program (PPP), shuttered Venue Operators grant, Restaurant Revitalization Funding Program, Economic Injury disaster loan (EIDL) program and the New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF).
Overall, when Governor Cuomo first announced that all businesses except for essential businesses had to close, business owners were left in the dark as far as knowing when they would open again and how they were going to operate. Since then, as research predicted small businesses have been greatly negatively impacted by COVID-19 which led to the rapid increase in unemployment rates.
Some local small businesses that are currently slowly but surely getting back on their feet since the beginning of the pandemic would include Blanquita’s Restaurant and Pasarella Salon. These are simply two of the many of small businesses that are still working on increasing their clientele once more since they were mandated to take desperate measures. To help many other small businesses like Blanquita’s and Pasarella, New York state has set forward resources for small business to get themselves back on track.
As of right now, business owners continue to look forward and be optimistic for what’s to come in the best interests of their businesses. Since the beginning of the Pandemic small businesses were vulnerable to the effects of covid-19 and as some businesses are currently succeeding in getting their business back in order, some weren’t so lucky and had to close for good.