Story by Jennifer O’Connor
Once thriving small businesses in the Town of Warwick are now facing difficult challenges and uncertainty due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To stop the spread of the highly contagious disease, public health officials recommend “social distancing” in which people are to stay at least six feet apart.
With the disease spreading rapidly in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order mandating that as of Sun., Mar. 22, 100% of the workforce must stay home except for essential services.
All non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size are temporarily banned. Casinos, gyms, theaters, retail shopping malls, amusement parks, bowling alleys, piercing salons, nail salons, hair removal services and related personal care services are closed to the public until further notice.
Bars and restaurants are closed however takeout may be ordered during the period of closure. Popular hang outs and eateries like the Tuscan Café, located at 5 ½ South St. in Warwick, are currently empty and yet attempting to continue to serve customers by serving take-out only.
“This has been beyond devasting to my staff, my business, myself, and to many other people,” said Cristie Ranieri, owner of the Tuscan Café.
Ranieri laid off all five of her employees who are now seeking unemployment services. With the help of her boyfriend, Mark Jamsek, she is managing to keep the business afloat. She adjusted the café’s hours to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week.
Also adjusting are John and Peggy Christison, owners of Yesterdays restaurant, located at 29 Main St. in Warwick. They are also offering takeout orders.
“We are all in this together,” said John Christison, who is doing his best to stay positive. “I am grateful to my staff and my customers who have reached out to me and my wife, Peggy, to offer their support.”
Having support from the community and local leaders is giving small business owners the strength and hope they need to keep going.
“The one thing that makes me feel better is that we have a Mayor who cares,” said Ranieri in reference to Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, who held a meeting addressing the issues facing small businesses.
The meeting was held on Thurs., Mar. 19 at Yesterdays restaurant with a few business owners in attendance and streamed live on the Warwick Merchant’s Guild Facebook page by Corrine Iurato, President of the Guild and manager of Peck’s Wine & Spirits.
“We are a community of business-people and on a government level we understand and appreciate what you do for us on a daily basis especially in times of crisis. The community wants to support you in every way, but it has become difficult with ‘social distancing’ and the closing of our doors. This is a time we need to be creative and share ideas,” said Mayor Newhard. “And I don’t want people to think our community is shut down. We are active, alive and working hard.”
During the meeting Mayor Newhard provided information and resources for businesses. He said that at some point soon disaster relief should be available for Hudson Valley businesses such as deli’s, restaurants, and other small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Businesses can register for relief by calling the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center at 802-9150 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For anyone who is looking to file a claim or to apply for a loan it’s very important to document with facts an actual loss. It needs to be backed with receipts or with financial, bank or credit card statements to provide some context in which to evaluate your claim,” said Jerry Schlichting, of Frazzleberries Country Stores, who is an accountant by trade.
Resources for Businesses
Mayor Newhard informed everyone that there is a “Restaurant Take Out and Delivery Information” tab on the Village’s website at www.villageofwarwick.org.
The Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce is in the process of compiling a list of business and organization updates that will be posted on their website at www.warwickcc.org.
The Mayor also provided other resources. Small business owners can direct questions to the Orange County Office of Economic Development by calling 360-0231 or visiting https://www.orangecountygov.com/812/Economic-Development.
Business owners can also contact the Orange County Department of Health with specific questions regarding their operations by calling 291-2330.
Mental Health Support
For mental health support and questions or assistance about obtaining supplies such as food or prescriptions call the Orange County Crisis Number at 1-800-832-1200.
To report price gouging call the Orange County Dept. of Consumer Affairs at 360-6700.
For up-to-date information from Governor Andrew Cuomo including executive orders and temporary suspensions and modifications of laws relating to the coronavirus visit www.governor.ny.gov.