Thousands of people are risking their lives every day during the COVID-19 epidemic. One of those heroes is Miguel Garcia.
Garcia, 58 has owned Big Deal Foodtown, 1018 Morris Park Ave, for 20 years with his wife Gretty, father Sal and brother Aurelio and has never experienced anything like this.
The New Rochelle resident worked post 9/11, after Hurricane Sandy and the recession, but this is something else. With a skeleton crew and being one of the only stores open in the area, things have not been easy, Garcia said.
“Nothing compares to what we’re going through now as a community,” Garcia said. “It’s just insane. We don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. People are scared.”
Garcia explained closing was an option, but realized there are too many people that rely on his services and who don’t have the luxury of being able to order food every day.
He noted that many seniors in Morris Park come there on a daily basis, so he had to be there for them. With many employees home, he and his wife have been working seven days. In this case, the end justifies the means, he said.
“I could never do what nurses and doctors are doing,” he said. “I am very nervous.”
A few of his employees were quarantined for two weeks and he told a couple of his cashiers who are over 50 to stay home until the crisis ends. Garcia has less than half of his staff working and changed the hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The inside of the store is marked with cones for social distancing and there is a newly installed sink and paper towel dispenser in the front for customers. Additionally, the entire store is sanitized once a week.
“I consider myself lucky that we still have a staff,” he said. “We have taken all the precautions.”
Garcia sees the shuttered stores in town and it hurts him. While he understands why the stores are closed, he isn’t sure they will reopen.
According to Garcia, while he is doing some business, all of his neighbors rely on each other. Garcia said places like Morris Park Flooring, 1008 Morris Park Ave., is closed and wonders how it survives.
“How does someone like that turn around and make any revenue without any sales,” Garcia commented.
Fortunately, his customers have stayed loyal and continued to come.
“They’re very thankful for the fact that we’re still here,” he said. “You need to let them shop and buy food.”