Return to campus eases 18 months of financial hardship for local businesses – Washington Square News

Bagel Bob’s, Irving Farm, and many other businesses near campus are household names at NYU. At the height of the pandemic, however, they almost disappeared for good.

The family of Peter Karounos owned and operated University floral design on University Place since 1928. But in the months since March 2020, the pandemic has caused almost irreparable financial damage to the florist.

“A major loss has been closed for so many months,” Karounos said. “No income and the bills were still coming. … Whatever work we could have or would have done during this period of closure, all of that is not replaceable. We will never catch up.

The pandemic devastated New York City’s economy, which relies heavily on industries like retail and tourism that are struggling to operate under public health restrictions. Lower Manhattan – including NYU’s Washington Square campus – see you retail jobs than any other neighborhood in New York City.

Naturalee Cleaners is a dry cleaner located at 46 University Pl. (Photo by Camille Harvell)

Oscar España, who has worked at the Naturalee Cleaners dry cleaning business on University Place since 2015, said Greenwich Village was a ghost town during the pandemic shutdowns. He said the business has struggled to find customers since reopening.

“This business is about people dressing up, but there are no holidays, no celebrations and no work,” España said. “There were only a few people who were there and they were working from home, so when they had a meeting they had to wear a shirt. It’s the only business we would have.

When the pandemic hit, populations in affluent neighborhoods like SoHo, Gramercy and the West Village plummeted as residents fled the virus, according to to data compiled by the New York Times. This has left retailers in these regions struggling to find customers.

Now with over 60% NYC residents and 99% of NYU on campus students fully vaccinated, local businesses are slowly starting to recover.

Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio is an eyebrow bar located at 51 University Pl. (Photo by Camille Harvell)

Joey Healy, the owner of Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio on University Place, said his business closed in mid-March 2020 and reopened July 6, 2020. But the vast majority of his customers — many of whom are NYU students — have not resumed using its services until March 2021.

“Even after reopening, it took us six months to find our way, especially because we’re a full contact service,” Healy said. “[NYU students] come from all over the world. They are truly unique, interesting and diverse. I feel like they all have different eyebrows.

Other local businesses, like Bagel Bob’s, have been able to stay open throughout the pandemic thanks to the loyalty of their regular customers, according to an employee Raouf Ch. Bagel Bob’s was able to stay in business by focusing on deliveries.

Although NYU’s return to campus has brought some business back, Ch added that serving college students also has its downsides.

“They’re cool, they’re nice,” Ch said. “But sometimes they ask too much and they never tip.”

With NYU fully in-person for the 2021-22 academic year, many businesses around campus have reported a marked increase in customer numbers and foot traffic.

“Since the students have moved back here, the whole neighborhood looks a lot better – just livelier,” said John Fuoco, an employee of Devonshire Optical on University Place.

Students who were on campus last year also noticed positive changes in the vibe of Greenwich Village. Steinhardt’s sophomore Grace Moser noted how many businesses are reopening after being closed for the entire year.

“There are places that arise [now]”, Moser said. “I would say most places last year were just very cautious with COVID, so it was difficult to create a friendly atmosphere.

Bowllin’ is a Korean barbecue restaurant located at 27 Waverly Pl. (Photo by Camille Harvell)

Xingyang Wu, who works for Bowllin’, a Korean barbecue restaurant on Waverly Place, has already started connecting with student customers.

“Because our cashier and I are Chinese, and our new cashier is Korean, we talk with Chinese students and Korean students,” Wu said. “We normally ask them if they like our food or if we need to change something in the future.”

Irving Farm New York is a café offering breakfast and lunch at several locations in New York City, the closest to campus being 78 W 3rd St. (Photo by Camille Harvell)

While serving coffee to students in the morning, Johnny Stuzman, a barista at the Washington Square location at Irving Farm, said he loves that his job allows him to interact with students every day.

“There’s a kind of youthful sincerity that comes with students,” Stuzman said. “Being successful in New York isn’t easy for everyone, but I feel like there’s just this energy that everyone is just very friendly and excited to meet people. It always makes my day. better at work.

Contact Api Dhadda at [email protected]

Sarah J. Greer