The restaurant business can be challenging and competitive in the best of times.
And with times not so good for many small businesses, several restaurants in Southeast Queens have pulled together their customers and each other.
Ten restaurants from Rosedale to Jamaica have teamed up on the Blaque List, a collection of restaurants listed on the Blaque Resource Network that want their customers to know they are open for delivery and takeout for regulars and new guests alike who are “on pause” and want a break from pizza and fast food.
“We’re promoting black-owned restaurants in our community” said Dawn Kelly, owner of The Nourish Spot, a health food restaurant on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica. “We’re not really competitors — many of the places in the community offer fast food, food that is not necessarily the best for people. We’re businesses that are providing the community with healthier options and food you can’t get other places.”
Kelly said The Norurish Spot offers takeout for those who call ahead and will provide curbside service. It also delivers through Uber Eats and Seamless for those who want their wraps, salads, soups and smoothies.
Darren Downes, owner of Glacé on Farmers Boulevard in Jamaica, said his business didn’t have to make too many adjustments to app commerce once his regulars knew he was remaining open during the coronavirus crisis, and that their favorite gelato, chicken and waffles and other tempting treats were just a phone call or an email away.
“We already deliver on all the platforms,” he said.
Steffen Alexander, who offers a full menu of vegan fare at A Live Kitchen on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton, also said the apps and delivery services have been vital, as traffic did go down after Gov. Cuomo’s order last weekend that shut down much of the state.
More formal business organizations also are trying to mobilize to assist small and independent operators.
“What we’re doing is just looking for information,” Glenn Greenidge, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District, told the Chronicle this week. “Some things are moving so quickly that it’s hard to calibrate where we are week-to-week.”
Greenidge said the city’s Small Business Services office is providing information on some grants and loans for which business owners might qualify, along with other COVID-19-related matters, on its website at nyc.gov/site/sbs/index.page.
The SBS Employee Retention Program, for businesses with four or fewer employees, “is for smaller, mom-and-pop businesses,” Greenidge said. The Small Business Continuity loan fund is for somewhat larger operations.
Folks at the Sutphin BID, he said, were awaiting results of a federal bailout deal as eagerly as anyone.
“The [U.S.] Small Business Administration has been talking about some pieces of legislation, but we’ve heard no details,” he said.”
In a statement from the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, Executive Director Jennifer Furioli recommended that small businesses not try to fight through the coming months alone.
“My first piece of advice for any small business right now is to reach out to your local economic development organization, whether that be a business improvement district, chamber of commerce, merchants association, local development organization or any of the above,” Furioli said. “Our profession is in full-gear right now tracking all of the federal, state, and city directives, along with the grants, loans and other business assistance packages being rolled out right now.”
Furioli added it is important for businesses to communicate with their advocates about their specific needs and their reactions to the types of help that are and will be made available. She said that is information that the BID and other business groups can take to elected officials.