Despite experiencing significant drops in revenue, some Collegetown businesses have chosen to stay open to continue providing products and services to students.
Almost 400 employees were laid off across CTB’s five locations due to the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, CTB co-owner Gregar Brous previously said.
CTB did not have to dismiss any additional staff members since those layoffs. Instead, the bagel spot brought back some workers as the stores ramped up deliveries and curb-side pickup services, according to Brous.
However, the business continues to face operating challenges.
“Even with revenues growing a little bit, our costs are significantly higher because our overhead costs don’t change,” Brous said.
Brous added that another challenge is staying connected to customers when they are not coming physically into the store. In light of the pandemic, the business has resorted to using its website and Facebook page to keep customers updated on the latest product offerings.
Green Castle Asian Market, a small grocery store on Eddy street offering a variety of Korean and Asian food products, also chose to stay open.
The grocery stayed open to mainly serve students who are still in Collegetown, according to Harryette Kim ’12 MBA ’20, whose family owns the store.
Kim explained that many of the store’s main customers are international students — who have not returned home, worried that they will be unable to reenter the U.S.
“Students who are still here don’t really have a lot of options in terms of getting groceries in Collegetown, so we want to make sure we are a resource for them,” Kim said.
Thanks to its small size and its classification as an essential business, Green Castle Asian Market was able to avoid laying off its employees. However, to ensure the safety of both its customers and staff, the market enacted strict cleaning and social-distancing procedures.
The counters and door handles are disinfected more frequently; in addition to mandatory mask-wearing, customers have to maintain at least a six-foot difference from each other while inside; when the shop gets crowded, customers are asked to line up and wait outside.
Business hasn’t been as strong as before, but Kim hopes her family business can “power through this crazy time.”
For CTB and Asian Market, uncertainty presents the biggest challenge. Whether Cornell will have virtual or in-person classes in the fall will significantly impact their businesses.
Construction for the new Sheldon Court location began, but was put on hold as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) issued an executive order to shut down non-essential construction in the state.
“At this point, we are not quite sure about timing,” Brous said. “We do not know when construction will be complete. It will be dependent on how long the COVID-19 virus will last and when construction can restart again.”