Year in Business 2021: Hiring a ‘nightmare’ as businesses recover from the pandemic


Across North Fork, business was unusual again in 2021 as COVID-19 continued to influence the local economy.

In the spring, relaxed restrictions allowed businesses to reopen en masse, and many people hung up their sweats and returned to the office as vaccines became more widely available.

From real estate to agritourism, business has exploded in the East End as the pandemic recovery continued.

But it didn’t happen without its share of challenges.

A year after businesses were hit by the pandemic, 2021 presented a new world of problems magnified by COVID-19, from staff shortages to supply chain issues.

Businesses once again relied on federal assistance. In March, the US bailout provided an influx of stimulus funds to small businesses, including a restaurant revitalization fund that provided more than $ 9 million to restaurants between Wading River and Orient.

In early May, then Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a “major reopening” of economic activity that lifted restrictions on restaurants and bar curfews and allowed various businesses to reopen, including including amusement parks and entertainment venues that were unable to do so in 2020.

The rush to reopen has strained local businesses looking to hire seasonal workers, and the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard.

A restaurant manager in Greenport described the summer hiring as “a total nightmare” and used incentives, like $ 50 gift cards, on anyone who was successful in recommending an employee.

A mix of factors, ranging from a lack of affordable housing to rising unemployment benefits, has contributed to the staffing challenge, which was difficult enough before the pandemic.

Childcare issues, retirements and new variations have also put a strain on the workforce.

In September, the chairman of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and newly elected city councilor Bob Kern told the Suffolk Times staff issues had persisted for several months. “In some companies, people ask for more money, which would increase the price of the goods. [Some] had to close their doors a few days a week either because of this or because they couldn’t find anyone, even when schools were closed, ”Kern said.

The Magic Fountain at Mattituck, for example, was forced to close two days a week in August due to understaffing.

“I lost seven people in middle schools and then school started and some of the kids have a lot of activities after school so they don’t want to work so I’m literally reduced to a team of nine people.” , said owner Chaudry Ali. explained in September. “Usually we have about 30 people and 25 in the fall.”

Warmer weather has also brought back events like Alive on 25 in downtown Riverhead and dances at Mitchell Park in Greenport. In Greenport, parklets were once again installed as an outdoor dining solution along Front and Main streets. Officials from the village’s business improvement district said they hope the parklets will become a mainstay of the village during the summer.

Data from the United States Bureau of Labor suggests unemployment on Long Island is gradually returning to pre-pandemic numbers. The preliminary rate for October 2021 was 4%, down from almost 6% in October 2020 and significantly lower than the 17.5% rate recorded at the height of the pandemic closure in April 2020.

Towards the end of the year, the new variant of omicron and an increase in the number of cases during the holidays has already taken a toll on businesses statewide. As of December 13, masks have been mandatory inside all businesses and indoor locations, unless they require proof of vaccination.

That mandate is in effect until January 15, when state health officials are expected to reassess based on current COVID-19 numbers.

Here are some of the top business stories that have made the headlines this year.

OPENINGS

• Peconic County Brewery open in Riverhead in February with Ten draft beers, view of the Peconic River and raised bar menu.

• Good price opened a grocery store in the former Best Market at TJ Maxx Mall in March.

• übergeek brewing opened in April in the former home of Mustache Brewing Company.

• Welfare of wild roots open in downtown Riverhead in the spring and offers yoga, meditation, and spa services.

• Center cuts, a popular butcher’s shop in Roslyn Heights, opened a second store in Mattituck in May.

• Cave Terra Vite opened under new owner in the old Diliberto winery after renovations in May.

• Splish Splash was able to reopen in May after an entire season closed due to COVID-19.

• Sounds, a Brooklyn-based design studio, has opened a pop-up in Jamesport next to Jamesport Farmstead.

• North Fork Seafood opened a kiosk under the Anker Restaurant in Greenport in May.

• Peconic Bay Vineyard reopened under new owner in May after being closed for eight years.

• Lidl, a German discount grocery chain, opened in the former Toys R Us building along Route 58 in June. The retailer has 11,200 stores in 32 countries.

• Cafe Antigua, a Latin American bakery, bar and grocery store, opened in June at the former Blue Duck Bakery on Main Street in Riverhead.

• Hobby lobby opened a craft store in Riverhead in June. The new 55,000 square foot store located on Old County Road and Osborn Avenue is the chain’s 21st store in New York City and joins more than 900 Hobby Lobby stories nationwide.

• Privet consignment warehouse opened in downtown Riverhead in June, selling home furnishings from the Hamptons estate sales.

• Hook and net, a new clam shack in Greenport that is an extension of Alice’s Fish Market, opened in July.

• Alpina, a cozy wine bar with a Swiss chalet vibe, opened in the former Industry Standard space in Greenport in July.

• Suffolk Theater reopened in August at full capacity for fully vaccinated guests.

• General Southold opened its café and market in Einstein Square in August.

• Blue water fish seafood market open in Wading River in September, offering freshly caught fish and ready meals.

• Cafe D’Latte in Greenport reopened after a long hiatus in November.

• Eastern food market, formerly Riverhead Farmers Market, found a new home on the former Homeside Florist site in Riverhead and opened in November. The market will be open seasonally until the end of April 2022.

• Insatiable eats open in December at old Michelangelo’s restaurant in downtown Riverhead.

• Body Shok Fitness opened a 2,000 square foot training facility along Main Road in Mattituck in December.

CLOSING

• Sunny’s grill restaurant closed in August, citing the challenges of closing COVID-19. The space is currently under renovation and Marc LaMaina, who owns several Lucharitos restaurants, is considering opening a Cuban-inspired restaurant soon.

• PeraBell Food Bar closed its restaurant in downtown Riverhead in July and sold the building to a developer. They opened in Riverhead in 2015 and their Patchogue location remains open.

• that of Michelangelo in downtown Riverhead closed in early 2021 after a brief stint: it had opened just months before the coronavirus closed businesses in 2020. Chef Marco Barrila recently opened Insatiable Eats Creative Kitchen in the restaurant .

• Sweet indulgences closed in November after 29 years in Greenport.


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