City Island Businesses Cope with Corona

Clipper Coffee in City Island, which is now closed due to the corona virus.
Photo courtesy Peter Gennari

COVID-19 has hurt many restaurants in New York, forcing some to close their doors, while others are doing takeout and delivery only.

Two business owners spoke with the Bronx Times about how the pandemic is affecting them.

Clipper Coffee, 274 City Island Ave., has been closed since March 21. Owner Peter Gennari, 41, worked on Wall Street from 2000 to 2016 and witnessed 9/11 and the recession first hand, but explained this is different because he runs a store now.

“When you have your own business it’s much more hands on,” he said. “On Wall Street you depend a lot on the economy and what’s going on there.”

At first he was going to remain open, but quickly realized health was more important than money. Fortunately, his employees are financially stable and could go few weeks without a paycheck, he said.

Gennari said it’s tough because he has a lot of loyal customers since he opened a few years ago.

“I have to worry about my customers and make sure they’re safe and taken care of,” he said. “I think we all joke about a complete lock down. I don’t think me or anyone else believed it would come to this.

He stressed he plans to remain closed until he hears word from the governor, mayor or medical professionals that it’s safe to open. However, Gennari is worried that many places will stay permanently shuttered.

“You could see it wipe out a lot of smaller business,” he said. “There’s a real underlying sense of support that the people of City Island have for the businesses here.”

One place that has stayed afloat is the City Island Diner. Owner Susan Hayes said it is only doing take out or delivery using a “skeleton crew,” but business is down 50 percent.

She has had the eatery for 22 years, so it has gone through rough times like 9/11 and the recession in 2008, but today no one knows when things will return to normalcy.

“The community’s been great trying to support us,” Hayes remarked.

Hayes explained when she first heard about the virus, she didn’t know what to expect. She understands it’s a risk to stay open, but feels it’s important to be there for the neighborhood.

“The people need it,” she commented. “City Island is a one and a half mile island. We’re basically the only food and diner on the island.”

She told the Bronx Times they are in the process of putting up a website so people can order online. With so many loyal customers, especially the elderly who come for their coffee and breakfast, it would have been tough to shut the doors, she said.

“I’m just hoping it ends sooner rather than later,” she said. “They’re very grateful that we’re open. What’s more important is that everyone does what they’re supposed to do and do the social distancing and stay at home.”

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