Doing business is difficult in the age of COVID-19

John Lefsky closed his record store in New Paltz following three decades a a staple on Main Street

MID-HUDSON – It was sunny and warm on a recent weekday afternoon on the Rondout waterfront in Kingston.

But the activity on the street, from a year ago, was somewhat muted as the region looks for some normalcy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s not even half of what it used to be,” said Lauren Stein, owner of Enchanted Cakes.

Stein’s small bakery space is usually lively with music during the many festivals that take place here every year, until now.

Business is picking up for Lauren Stein now that the region is in stage four of reopening

“There is no Fourth of July. Who knows if we are going to have the Hooley, an Italian festival and things like that. Memorial Day weekend is usually a huge boat day,” she said.

Stein has kept her business going by making desserts for nearby restaurants. Now as the state is reopening, glimpses of normalcy are coming to Stein and others.

“Since we hit the later phases, it’s becoming a lot easier for me,” she said.

In New Paltz in April, John Lefsky closed his record store, Jack’s Rhythms, when he realized his business survival was in doubt. Lefsky closed his store, located near the corner of Main Street and Route 32, to the public following the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

It was the last time I was open,” said Lefsky, “because it was the last time I was allowed to be open.”

Following the store’s public closure, he still went to work processing online orders for a while.

“I think I hesitated on closing for good for about a month. “I was still going to the store selling things online because I had a computer hooked up there and after about a month I realized it was going to go longer and I just couldn’t afford to pay the rent on the building that wasn’t making any money. Online sales were not enough,” he said.

Restaurants, a main attraction in the village, offer curbside dining or take-out. But small retail shops are limited to a handful of indoor customers at one time as the community is empty of the thousands is students who attend SUNY New Paltz.

“It just makes things very quiet,” said Lefsky, of the lost college students. “If I had my store open, I could not have had more than two or three people at once.”

At Double-A Groceries on Main Street in the hamlet of Highland, Ahmad Ahmad has tried to survive during the downturn.

“Business got really slow when COVID started,” he said.  “In the community, in general, it has affected everyone.”

Ahmad said business is down about 50 percent for a couple of reasons.

“Some don’t have money, otherwise we lost a lot of traffic because of the schools. People don’t want to send their kids outside so in general, traffic from all ages has dropped,” he said.

Much of Ahmad’s business came from students from the nearby Highland Middle School.For those businesses that have reopened, there are the new rules of the COVID-19 era including wearing of facial coverings by patrons and merchants, and fewer people allowed in the stores at the same time.

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