Morris Park businesses ‘shockingly healthy’ despite challenges of COVID-19: BID

Locally idolized Italian restaurant Emilo's of Morris Park.
Photos by Alex Mitchell

It’s hard to believe, but there has been great news for the Bronx’s local economy in the past year.

Morris Park’s business community has remained “shockingly healthy” despite all adversity presented by COVID-19, according to Morris Park Business Improvement District executive director, Dr. Camelia Tepelus.

She told that 12 business in her district have opened since the pandemic began, five of which came in October of 2020 in a trend polar opposite elsewhere around New York City.

Even two business which went under during 2020 were promptly replaced, according to the executive director, who has been hearing harrowing stories from fellow BID operators in recent weeks and months.

A Morris Park BID banner on Morris Park Avenue.

Overall since the BID was incepted two years ago, Tepelus said things have been “going really, really well,” Tepelus said.

She continued to explain that a pre-pandemic city planning survey found both Morris Park and Kingsbridge of the west Bronx to be some of the city’s most resilient business districts with the highest rates of survival, something she credited to “organic demand” from the almost entirely family owned shops.

Premium Choice Realty opened on Morris Park Avenue in October of 2020.

That unique, local need and frequent foot traffic was maintained to be the “bread and butter” of Morris Park businesses these past few months, something Tepelus finds exceptional considering the area’s lack of mass transit besides a single 5 train subway station on Esplanade.

Some of those newly opened businesses in the area include a spa, real estate office, along with two tax offices, which Tepelus says will likely see a socially distant flood of clients as April of 2021 approaches.

Even a new cafe has managed to open its doors in Morris Park near White Plains Road during 2020.

Boon Cafe recently opened on Morris Park Avenue.

Though, the director did express concerns over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s now weeks long sequel halt of indoor dining, saying, “I don’t think this is sustainable in the long run.”

Next to Arthur Avenue, Morris Park Road is one of the borough’s most vibrant, Italian restaurant corridors which has naturally faced the challenge of serving only in outdoors in frigid temperatures and a past blizzard.

An outdoor dining setup done by Patsy’s Pizzeria in Morris Park.

Along with many others, Tepelus fails to see Cuomo’s justification in the indoor dining crackdown, citing evidence that only 1.4% of COVID-19 infections are restaurant borne.

“It’s very hard,” she said, adding that restaurants are not only concerned, but do not see value in collecting PPP funds if they can’t sell food or operate under decent circumstances.

Despite the ongoing challenge for all restaurants, the considerable success of Morris Park’s economy in 2020 was recognized in the Wall Street Journal.

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