Bodega owner: Cof­fee, food but no cus­tomers

Times Standard (Eureka) - - BUSI­NESS - By Deepti Ha­jela and David R. Martin

NEW YORK » The shelves are stocked, the cof­fee per­co­lat­ing at Deli-li­cious del­i­catessen.

The only thing miss­ing are the cus­tomers — the of­fice work­ers who would come by for break­fast or lunch, the neigh­bor­hood res­i­dents stop­ping in for a quick pur­chase of a drink or a snack.

But in the days of coro­n­avirus and shel­ter­ing in place, “it’s been a ghost town,” said Alex Batista, 28, who with his brother owns the bodega in the Glen­dale neigh­bor­hood of Queens.

These days, “you don’t get that kind of crowd,” he said. “Mostly we’re just stay­ing open, try­ing to help out the com­mu­nity.”

They have had one con­sis­tent source of busi­ness, sadly, as the virus has rav­aged the city, killing more peo­ple than were lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror at­tacks: “Funeral homes guys, they usu­ally come in too a lot. They’re busy, too, un­for­tu­nately,” he said.

They’ve short­ened the hours at the store, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and cut staff hours. When the oc­ca­sional cus­tomer comes in, they main­tain dis­tance, bump­ing el­bows across the sand­wich counter in­stead of ex­chang­ing hand­shakes.

The cat, a main­stay of many a New York City bodega, strolls around the store, no one around to bother it.

It’s been hard for Batista, who with his brother grew up watch­ing their fa­ther run a bodega af­ter com­ing to New York City from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic as chil­dren and be­ing raised in East New York.

“I’m the type of guy, I keep it busy,” he said. Nor­mally, he would be up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the store by 6:30 a.m. to open it up, and go­ing to the gym, go­ing to the whole­salers.

Now, “I go home, watch­ing the news. You get a headache from the news, you see the same thing over and over.”

He said the first week, sales dropped pre­cip­i­tously, around 60 per­cent. The week af­ter, it picked up some­what with de­liv­er­ies, but not enough to make it up.

It can’t keep go­ing on like this, he said.

“Three or four months of this, and that’s it, we have to shut down,” he said.

For now, he’s wait­ing, “just try­ing to get on with it, see what’s go­ing to come next,” he said.

“Hope­fully this is the worst it could get be­fore it gets bet­ter.”

BEBETO MATTHEWS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Alex Batista, co-owner of Deli-li­cious del­i­catessen in the Queens bor­ough of New York, makes a sand­wich on Mon­day.

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