Local businesses close amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 3/25/20

As the Coronavirus spreads across the country and around the world, its impact is being felt locally in the Highland and Marlborough communities.

Carol Smith, who runs Frieda’s Bakery and …

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Local businesses close amid COVID-19 pandemic

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As the Coronavirus spreads across the country and around the world, its impact is being felt locally in the Highland and Marlborough communities.

Carol Smith, who runs Frieda’s Bakery and Cafe in Milton, said the virus has affected the business. The dining room is closed and they are doing only take-out and some deliveries.

“You can’t sit and dine, you have to get it all to go,” she said. “I would think that we’ve gone down by at least a third of our customers.”

Smith said they are open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. but are considering staying open later for dinner deliveries.

“We’re delivering to anybody who wants it and if they need anything, we’re here for them,” she said. They can be reached at (845) 795-5550.

Vivian Lanzarone, of Vivian Photography in Milton, has been in business for 30 years and has never seen a downturn like this before.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen. Nobody is having pictures taken and any event that I did have scheduled is canceled for the next two months,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to go beyond that because my first wedding is June 22 so we have time to play around with that and see how we do. But as of now I have absolutely nothing going on.”

Besides weddings, Lanzarone has photographed real estate properties, done head shots, award dinners, senior portraits and does commercial and product work.

“Usually every week I get calls but now I’m getting zero phone calls,” she said.

Erin and Jeremy Intonti own Underground Coffee and Ales in the hamlet of Highland. They have just started take out after closing the inside seating area of their business.

“We didn’t have a lot of take out business before so this is all new to us,” Erin said. “We’re just trying to work with it so we can give our employees hours so we’re going to see how the next couple of days go.”

Erin said she has about 12 employees, with 6 counting on her shop for their primary income. She has take out and curbside delivery available Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. by calling (845) 834-3899.

C.J. Hartwell-Kelly is the General Manager of Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa that is now officially closed to the public. They have laid off nearly all of their workforce, “which is anywhere from 95 to 105 people...We’re really trying to keep the morale for our team up and keep things going, but it’s been a heartbreaking couple of days.”

Hartwell-Kelly said once the Coronavirus hit New York City and New York State, “it was just an onslaught of cancellations after that [at the inn]; it was like a bloodbath.” She said many of her immediate weddings in April and May have been rescheduled, “but that’s something that we’re not quite sure what the fallout from that is going to be, but some couples are pushing back to next year.”

Hartwell-Kelly said they have had no confirmed cases of the virus at the Inn, “but with all of the social distancing recommendations coming from the county, the Governor and the CDC we realized that it is really our responsibility to make sure we’re doing our part in stopping the spread of the disease as well. It’s not only the piece of losing the business but it is also doing our social responsibility for folks that are looking to travel to say maybe you should hunker down and stay home and we’ll be here for you, hopefully, in two weeks.”

Hartwell-Kelly said they tried curbside delivery with their on-site restaurant Henry’s but, “we didn’t get any takers and mainly with the nature of Henry’s dining structure we decided to close. Even if we got a dozen orders a night it would not be enough to keep the labor going.”

Hartwell-Kelly said they are open to booking future business and predicts that, “we’re 100% arm-swinging coming out of this.”

Danielle Carter is a bartender at the popular Sal’s Place bar/restaurant in Highland.

“Since Monday [16th] we’ve been doing food-to-go; nobody’s been allowed in here,” she said.

Carter said Sal’s Place has many loyal customers.

“It’s curbside and deliveries. We have home style dinners that we’ve been doing for families. It’s only $10.99 a person and you can get a whole meal instead of just a burger,” she said. They can be reached at (845) 691-2811.

Carter said they are operating from noon to 7pm but business is the slowest she has seen in 10 years.

B.J. Mikkelsen, owner, tour operator and travel agent of the Milton-based Great Dane Journeys, said he specializes in selling niche travel for, “the more unusual trips around different parts of the world, primarily by train or expedition trips [from the] Arctic to the Antarctic.” His popular Beijing to Moscow train trips were the first to suffer cancellations.

Mikkelsen’s cancellations began in February, “and it took three weeks for the books to be wiped clean.” He had $780,000 in bookings for various trips that involved about 70 people, primarily from May through August 2020.

“Because of the uncertainty nobody in the whole world knows when this is going to go away, so the people that talked to me about traveling in 2021 are not even talking anymore because what’s the point, nobody knows when we can travel again,” he said.

Mikkelsen typically collects deposits of 25 percent but has returned nearly all of it, minus an administrative fee of $100 for each booking.

Mikkelsen said “on paper” solutions posed by the government look “fantastic” but added, “It is a lot of talk, let’s see the action.” He said the world has not seen anything like this since the 1918 flu pandemic that ran its course from January 1918 through December 1920. It infected 500 million people, then a quarter of the world’s population, and estimates put the death toll between 17 million to 50 million and possibly as high as 100 million.

Mikkelsen summed up his current thinking on the current virus.

“It’s nice psychologically to say to people that you are optimistic but I don’t really believe that this is going to turn around any time soon,” he said. “Now I think we’re all fumbling in the dark; we have no idea where we are going.”

Stephanie Calabrese, owner of The Studio at Stephanie’s Salon & Spa in Milton, decided to close because of the mounting fear of the virus from her staff. She has been in business for 21 years and employs 13 mostly part-time stylists.

“They are extremely fearful of becoming sick or possibly making anyone in their family sick so my decision was to close and I don’t have any timeline of when I’m going to reopen. I am hoping for guidance from the state to direct us,” she said. “The worry is the biggest thing [and] I just pray that this whole circumstance will be behind us soon enough. My community has always been a huge supporter of my salon and my salon family. We want everyone to be well and we look forward to everyone getting back to work.”

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