During the unprecedented health care crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been checking in with our local business community to see how they are doing since the city has closed down many businesses. We are privileged to report their stories and inform you about how you can continue to support them at this time.
Last week, right after the mayor ordered restaurants closed for all but takeout, delivery, and drive-through service, we spoke to Steve Cohen at Village Pizzeria, who was just gearing up for take-out only service. Drawing on his 24 years of experience operating on Larchmont, Cohen told us that since he has closed his dining room and patio, he was reducing his operating hours and reworking staff schedules, hoping to save enough on his payroll to avoid laying off any of his employees.
Cohen told said neighbors have been very supportive so far, ordering takeout and buying gift cards or gift certificates for use at a later time. But he also said he is concerned to see people out and about, and he worries that some people haven’t got the message that the pandemic is serious and they need to take it seriously. And, he said, he’s afraid Larchmont will be changed because not everyone will make it through the crisis.
This morning Cohen proclaimed “Take-out Tuesday” on his Instragram feed, letting customers know he would start taking orders at 1 pm for food to be ready starting at 1:30 or 1:45-“ish,” and he’ll keep taking orders until 7:30 – 8:00 p.m. He’s also asking everyone to be patient as he tries to adjust to the fluid situation. Check his Facebook page and Instagram for updated hours too.
Le Petit Greek has also converted to take-out only and the owners are similarly thankful for neighborhood support.
“Efharisto Poli! That is Greek for Thank You Very Much!” posted Nora Houndalas, owner of Le Petit Greek, on social media. “We continue to thank you for your patience and support as we work through this. You have been a tremendous support as we struggle to stay open.”
In fact, Houndalas said they are doing so well so far, they were able to bring back another employee. Apparently, the number of takeout orders has swamped their skeleton staff, so food was taking about an hour to prepare. Houndalas told us everyone was ordering around the same time. But we heard from one clever neighbor who placed their order around 5 pm, and it was ready exactly on time.
“Lunches are much slower than dinner, so that is the best for those that need faster service,” wrote Houndalas. “We are all in gloves and special cloth masks, so as to not take disposable masks needed by medical staff nationwide and those with underlying health issues. This is in compliance with CDC who is reporting shortages.”
Today, Houndalas posted on Facebook that the restaurant will be open “Tuesday and hopefully remainder of week from 4:00 – 8:30 p.m. We decided to not open for lunch. Dinner had a stronger take out response so we will channel our energy there. We are still able to keep the remaining employees we had last week with the tweaked schedule.”
The restaurant has also revised its menu to focus on the most popular items, and can also now sell closed bottles of beer and wine (for those 21 years of age and older) with food.
Unfortunately, not everyone can convert to take out. Steve Vernetti told us he decided to shut down his restaurant for now, to help save the funds he has, and hoping he will be able to re-open when the crisis is over.
“I’m in shock,” said Vernetti when we spoke to him last week. “I honestly don’t know what to do.”
“We are just not set up to offer take out,” said Vernetti. “We are a dine-in restaurant.”
He explained the challenging logistics of ordering enough food, having staff and not being certain that you can actually sell it. So instead, Vernetti said, he spent the last few days cleaning the restaurant and giving food to his staff, all of whom he had to lay off. He told us he’s going to ask his landlord for help on the rent, but said he isn’t optimistic and he’s watching to see what small business assistance comes from the federal and state government, and hoping that he’ll still be around when life returns to normal.
Vernetti opened five years ago, after to operating for 18 months as Girasole.
If you are a business and have a story you would like to share with us, please contact us at [email protected]. And if you know of a business we should write about, please contact us too.