Many times during the Covid-19 pandemic the Queens Chronicle was forced to report on business closures that hit hard, of longtime restaurants that were staples of their neighborhoods, for example, or other operations that ran on shoestring budgets and found the shutdowns that began in March 2020 to be the final straw. Think the Avenue Diner in Woodhaven, Sushi Village in Bayside, The Secret Theatre in Long Island City and numerous other mainstays in between.
But along with the losses came many success stories, of businesses and nonprofit organizations that somehow made it through, and a number of them are getting the spotlight in this week’s paper, in our 24th annual Celebration of Queens special edition: Back to Business.
Here you’ll find stories of how select individual shops and medical offices survived, how major institutions already facing major challenges in the from of gut renovations pulled through, what business improvement districts are seeing now and much more.
We start off the Celebration of Queens, a pull-out supplement included in all nine editions of the Queens Chronicle, by hitting one of New York’s favorite places: the pizza joint. One place in Flushing was the only business open on its block, yet it persevered as foot traffic disappeared. Another one in Bayside, relying largely on Bell Boulevard’s nightlife, did well enough to open an Astoria location during the crisis. And in Ridgewood, one pizza spinner believes he’s seeing more faces because area residents are checking out more of their own neighborhood, since they’re not going into Manhattan as much.
Ah, but Queens Chamber of Commerce President Tom Grech reminds us in an exclusive article of his own that Manhattan must recover in order for this borough to do so. Even with all the jobs and growing opportunities that are available here, we remain inextricably linked. While one city study showed that 43 percent of Queens residents work here, 36 percent work in Manhattan.
Still, we focus on Queens concerns. After your slice of the pizza joints, you can get lost in the world of reading, at places like Kew & Willow Books in Kew Gardens and the Austin Book Shop in Richmond Hill. They relate how they survived largely through a combination of technology and customer loyalty.
Those were common themes among the businesses and other institutions we spoke to for this special edition. Technology enabled new clientele to show up — for, say, Zoom events that substituted for old in-person gatherings — while loyalty was key when physical patronage became possible again. The latter was one key factor that kept gyms afloat, though they faced some of the strictest virus-related regulations. Now they’re pumped again.
In our Celebration of Queens you’ll see how comedian, author and entrepreneur Kambri Crews not only kept her QED cafe in Long Island City alive but gave voice to others in her niche. You’ll learn what it was like for the Alley Pond Environmental Center and Queensborough Performing Arts Center to both be in the midst of major renovations when the shutdowns hit. You’ll find out how historical houses run by nonprofits got through when there was no revenue from programming, parties or anything else coming in.
All this and more is yours in this week’s special supplement, and we hope you’ll celebrate with us — and also with the places we wrote about and the countless others here that deserve your business. You are, once again, free to roam about the borough. Let’s do it!