By Leah S. Dunaief
Local businesses continue to struggle and local employees continue to worry about job security. None of this is new, but perhaps we should stop simply waiting for matters to improve with a rebound in the economy or more stimulus help from Washington and take a more proactive role.
The word is: pivot. Some already have. Here are two examples to share with you. One is a restaurant in Stony Brook village, the other is action taken by two people in their 20s.
Many restaurants already have moved in collateral directions. They have developed take-out orders for curbside pickup, and while that represents only a small fraction of the volume they would normally do, we have given up on the word “normal.” With diners unable to come inside, restaurateurs have sent meals outside.
Then many took the further step, and made the additional investment to create outside dining areas as the world came to learn that eating outside was a lot safer. They built tents, leaving one side open to qualify as “outside,” so as to serve meals in the open air, and local governments cooperated by allowing tents to mushroom in parking lots.
Residents discovered the pleasure of eating “en plein air,” much as artists have when painting. Now some restaurant owners are hurrying to add heating devices to the tents so that patrons will continue to come and be able to eat in comfort despite cooler weather. European cafes have long ago mastered this arrangement.
While these are examples of rearrangements around cooking and serving food in order to survive, Pentimento Restaurant has made a true pivot. In addition to patio dining, which they are fortunate to offer behind their intimate restaurant, they have taken out the tables and chairs in one now unused room and turned it into a marketplace instead.
Featured by the owners are fresh produce, attractively displayed, and all manner of unusual high end foods in jars and cans, many from other countries. There are also prepared foods in the freezer to take out and even some delicious ice cream. Those who dine on the patio are a “captive” audience of potential shoppers as they pass the new offerings on their way out, and they seemed delighted by the selections.
The other example involves my oldest grandson. He is known to some of you as the filmmaker of the historic “One Life to Give,” telling the story of Nathan Hale, Benjamin Tallmadge and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring that was shown at the Staller Center and is being viewed in school districts.
He had moved to the West Coast to continue his chosen career. After some initial success, but with Hollywood now locked down, he and a friend cast around for something else to occupy their creative energies and to pay the rent. Fanciful stickers caught their attention, and they started out by applying them to work calendars and back packs, taking orders to customize such utilitarian products.
They really hit their stride when they customized 32-ounce clear plastic drinking cups, the kind with covers and straws featuring stickers displaying different themes. These they then mailed to initial customers. Putting together their skills, they made a video of themselves creating the stickers and decorating the cups, then showed the video on the internet. A few orders trickled in, then their business took off.
He still intends to return to his dream career, but until then … bottoms up!