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Surviving in New York during difficult times

- TIFFANY BAKKER

SOME may consider it insane to open a new restaurant right in the middle of a global pandemic, but that’s just what Aussie-turned-New York restaurate­ur Eddy Buckingham and his business partners did.

The 38-year-old, who was born in Melbourne and spent years in hospitalit­y in Sydney, forged ahead with plans to open Tyger, a Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant.

“We’ve had so many chapters, and so many challenges,” he said. “There was the experience of the shutdown, which, now looking back, I have a completely different relationsh­ip to.

“The shutdown at the time was devastatin­g – there’s no other word for it. The nature of my industry, we run on a week-to-week basis, the way our economics are modelled.”

Mr Buckingham, who opened downtown favourite Chinese Tuxedo (with cocktail bar Peachy’s below) in 2016, was ready for the challenge despite regulation­s and rules changing on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis.

“But Tyger has been an absolute barnstorme­r and Chinese Tuxedo is doing better business than we were at the same time in 2019,” he said.

“It’s been a horrible period, but there’s been such a bonding among New Yorkers.

“And while there’s still a long road to go until whatever normal is, we’re in an OK spot.”

Melburnian Justin Giuffrida has had a similar experience with his New York-based cafe group, Citizens.

“Even in this strange world we’re living in, people still want to get up and have their daily coffee,” he said.

Mr Giuffrida and his Brisbane-born business partner, Andrew Geisel, founded the cafes in 2016 determined to bring an Aussie breakfast experience to the Big Apple.

Four years, and four downtown cafes later, it’s working.

New Yorkers are flocking to get a good coffee, coconut yoghurt and avocado toast.

So much so, there are plans to expand to up to 40 cafes across the country.

“For Australian­s, I don’t think we fully realise how advanced our cafe segment is among the world until you travel,” Mr Giuffrida said.

“Opening these Australian cafes, they bring together so many elements that New York just doesn’t have – the innovative breakfasts, the beautifull­y crafted coffees and the beautifull­y designed cafe spaces with a lot of natural sunlight.

“They just hadn’t seen that concept before and because it was so fresh and so new, it’s just become a hit.”

Citizens shut down for a few months last year but customers returned when it reopened.

“We’ve been fortunate to not only survive, but to do OK, retain most of our staff, which I’m really proud of and hopefully (we can) start expanding again,” Mr Giuffrida said.

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Eddy Buckingham

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