Curbside dining and shopping has become increasingly popular along Ridgewood’s new pedestrian mall. From an outsider’s perspective, businesses seem to be doing well. Although this may be true, what happened to our favorite restaurants and stores in town during the pandemic? It turns out restaurants in Ridgewood have done exceptionally well under these unfortunate circumstances. Paul Vagianos, owner of It’s Greek To Me says the key to handling the pandemic was “being able to pivot when things changed”. Paul has done just this. When Covid-19 prevented people from dining at restaurants, many restaurants in Ridgewood including It’s Greek To Me “switched to contact free curbside pickup models” where people had to “call in orders on the phone [and] pay with credit cards” says Paul. These restaurants are constantly adapting and changing to the situations they are in. On short notice, restaurant owners were able to switch from contact free pickups to outdoor dining. This was incredibly difficult because many did not have outdoor dining and liquor licenses that extended outside so they needed to improvise.
Winter is almost here and this is yet another obstacle for restaurants. Vagianos has come up with a heated outdoor dining area to combat this issue. He has also purchased a “six by six greenhouse… [and is] hoping to install small space heaters”. Vagianos and many others’ creative thinking is one of the main reasons why restaurants have handled the pandemic so incredibly well.
Unfortunately, stores in Ridgewood have not found the same success as restaurants. This is mostly due to the fact that there hasn’t been the same appetite for shopping as there’s been for eating out. During this difficult time, people didn’t prioritize buying clothes or games. Additionally, many stores in Ridgewood don’t have a website or an online alternative which made it incredibly hard to turn a profit from March through June. Anna Anagnos, owner of Eat Your Spinach, a children’s clothing store, says “It’s not the same business anymore. People aren’t rushing to shop”. Anna has been “praying a lot” and hoping Eat Your Spinach survives the pandemic. This shows the struggles and hardships many business owners in Ridgewood have had to deal with. Stores like Eat Your Spinach, that don’t have an online store, have had to come up with creative ways to sell clothes. One of the solutions they came up with was heavily marketing their stores on social media. Due to increased use of social forums, online advertising became the ideal marketing strategy. For stores like Eat Your Spinach, social media was a life saver.
All in all, small business owners in Ridgewood handled the pandemic to the best of their abilities and they each deserve immense praise.
Ryan Sullivan & Braden Kim
Graphic: Ridgewood Moms and Dads