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Supporting Small Businesses in Seclusion

Behind closed doors, longing for some semblance of normality, we miss out on many of the little things that were once instinctive parts of our daily schedules: iced coffees from a neighborhood cafe; bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches from the local bodega; or yoga classes at the small studio around the corner. Many probably assume that these elements of our former lives will re-enter our routines just as quickly as they left, but the reality may be slightly more complicated.

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an economic recession, affecting companies and individuals around the globe. But small businesses, which rely on the patronage of their local customers to survive, are arguably feeling the most serious financial crunch. This is especially true in New York City, the epicenter of the virus and the city with the most small businesses in America.

Lassen & Hennigs, a deli and bakery with locations in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo, is a Packer favorite, with its towering cake display and extensive sandwich options. The store hasn’t closed in response to coronavirus, but the way business is carried out has definitely shifted to address the growing health concerns. Perhaps most indicative of the toll that the virus has taken on the store is the fact that it was closed on April 13th, the first-ever closure in its 70 years of business.

In order to remain open for the rest of this period, employees of Lassen & Hennigs are required to wear masks and gloves, which they are instructed to change frequently. The store has always offered pick-up and local delivery, so employees haven’t had to adjust too much in that regard, except by offering contactless options.

Store Manager Nick Calfa has been thinking a lot about how the coronavirus crisis could have lasting effects on the business. He predicts that some businesses will encourage employees to work from home more often, which would likely lead to less of a “lunch rush.”

Lassen & Hennigs also receives frequent catering requests, which generally include large sandwich platters and buffet-style hot food.

“I think in the wake of all of this people will be more inclined to want an individually packed meal,” Calfa said. “They will definitely be more aware of sanitary measures taken and the way their food is being prepared and handled.”

Perelandra, a grocery store selling organic and natural foods, is another popular lunch spot for Packer students due to its manifold smoothie offerings and vegan baked goods. Perelandra’s employees are evidently passionate about the importance of supporting small businesses, as their website reads, “In a world where corporate chains dominate the marketplace, we believe that just as organic foods are better for our bodies and the environment, a small business is better for the economy and our community.”

Like Lassen & Hennigs, Perelandra has remained open throughout the pandemic, implementing extensive sanitary procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. The store has been offering home delivery for close to 15 years, but in recent weeks the sheer magnitude of orders has increased drastically.

Like Calfa, Perelandra Co-Owner Allison Buckingham expressed some concerns about the long-term impacts caused by the health crisis.

“A lot of our weekday business comes from people who work or go to school in the area and as that is currently absent, it’s negatively affecting our sales quite a bit,” she said. “No one knows when schools will re-open or if/when people will return to work in large numbers, so it’s hard for me to plan for the future the way that I typically do.”

While Lassen & Hennigs and Perelandra have both been able to stay open during this health crisis, many other small businesses have not, and some have already been forced to close.

“I think it’s incredibly important to continue supporting small businesses during this time because they will all be affected financially as we come out of this crisis and many of them will not survive,” said Adda Jones (‘21). “If you’re considering ordering takeout, try to get food from a small business in your neighborhood, rather than fast food or a chain restaurant, because those will have a much greater chance of continuing their businesses once restaurants fully reopen.”

As Adda urges, we should try to support small businesses as much as possible in this era, especially if we want those little things that once brightened our days to continue providing light once we return to our old routines.

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