New York: Business Signs Tell Story of Long Island Town Responding to Coronavirus

Our special reporting on COVID-19 may focus on communities outside Philadelphia, as many of our student journalists are now located outside of the city. Instead, our reporters will cover how the coronavirus is impacting their own communities from across the country and around the world. We will return to hyperlocal coverage of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods as soon as possible.

Bay Shore, New York, is a town usually full of spirit, especially as spring begins and vacationers start rolling in. Less than a mile away from the edge of Long Island’s south shore, Bay Shore’s Main Street is a strip full of restaurants serving fresh seafood, people squeezing past crowded tables, and live music playing into the early mornings nearly every summer weekend. 

There are dozens of local and family owned businesses along this strip as well, where the chances of neighbors running into one another while waiting at the cash register is common. 

But the coronavirus has kept beachgoers away and driven customers out of the main district. There are more than 60,000 cases of COVID-19 on Long Island, with more than 600 cases in Bay Shore itself. Restaurant tables are empty, there is no live music heard for miles, and all retail stores have locked their doors. 

“We need our customers,” said Lisa Cellura, who owns Southside Family Vision, an optometry practice near Fourth Avenue and Main Street. 

Businesses have their doors shut and their website URLs pinned to the windows in big bold letters, desperate for online visitors.

(Photo credit: Lianna Golden)
Joe Mele sells beer out of the to-go window at Coastal. (Photo credit: Lianna Golden)

Coastal, along with dozens of other restaurants, can’t allow customers to sit inside due to New York State’s lockdown regulations. However, these local hotspots are doing their best to keep chefs busy with takeout orders and phones ringing for deliveries. 

Whether it’s a homemade poster, printed sign, or written note on a chalkboard, each place is showcasing their own kind of creativity to combat any negative business effects due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

The same goes for several businesses trying to do the same at this time.

Northwell Health Nursing

Shore Drug

One of Long Island’s hospitals, Southside, also located on Main Street, is housing both regular patients and COVID-19 patients. 

Signs have gone up around the town and near the entrance in support of the health care workers going in and out everyday. 

Another staple of Bay Shore are the Fire Island Ferries, founded in 1948. 

People come from all over the island, city, and state to spend sunny days on Fire Island, a 30-mile long barrier beach off the coast of Long Island. 

Although the main season doesn’t begin until after Memorial Day, many locals and Fire Island residents use ferries to go back and forth from the island. 

The ferries are also following COVID-19 precautions. A parking lot that is typically full is now rather barren, and ticket counters are quiet. 

“It’s been really weird to see the streets this empty, like it’s never this quiet,” said Tessie Crisci of Fire Island Vines, a wine bar and cafe just down the block from the ferry. “I get it’s necessary and smart, but you know, it’s just scary.” 

Fire Island Vines had their grand opening only two weeks before the shut down order.  

“Especially as a new business, it’s scary,” Crisci said. “Who knows what’ll happen.”

Economic worry isn’t limited to the restaurant and hospitality industry. Cellura said Southside Family Vision has been open for just over two years, but the future of the future of the practice feels uncertain right now.

“We’ve been closed since March 19th and we’ll be closed for at least three more weeks since Cuomo announced the shutdown until May 15th,” owner Lisa Cellura said. “I just hope everything can go back to normal when we reopen.” 

In the meantime, Cellura said the store has tried to adjust to new modes of business. 

“I’ve been coming in twice a week to pick up glasses and contacts, and then I do home deliveries,” she said “People have been really patient and I’m thankful for that.”

Text and images by Lianna Golden.

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