North Fork Businesses on Looking Back, Moving Ahead, Saying Thanks

Photo: Barbara Lassen

Restaurants and wineries. Arts institutions and home improvement companies. Local government and nonprofit groups. Every single individual, business and organization on the East End has been touched and affected by COVID-19 in some way, and everyone has had to adapt throughout what has been a summer like no other in the Hamptons and on the North Fork. East End leaders, businesses owners and community members look back on this unprecedented season and year, reflect on how their lives have changed and what they see for the future, and give thanks to those who have worked so hard, and keep working, in order to make a difference.

Back in May, our operations teams at Sound View and Harborfront hotels rewrote how our hotels operate. Every single aspect of the playbook of operations was analyzed and adjusted to reflect the pandemic environment, “The New Normal.” From the simple, like placing distancing markers on the ground around the properties to allow guests to subtly gauge advised proximity to other guests, to the complete re-writing of all safety operating procedures as to how we interact with guests, the amount of work seemed never-ending. Then, once the tasks were completed and the staff had time to ease into the new operating environment, we could not be more pleased with the outcome as this has been one of our busiest years. Were there challenges since setting our “New Normal” operating standards? Yes, communicating with our masks on! Our staff is so amazing, and a lot of their amazingness is expressed through smiles which, sadly, you can’t see during these times. Note, we are okay with this sacrifice as we are fighting the pandemic and will continue to operate at the highest levels of safety until the pandemic is over. And per fall, business as usual—nightly sunsets on the beach in front of a fire, wool blankets on the laps of our guests while they sip the best cocktails out east via extended residency with Death & Co., and miles of smiles from our amazing staff who are creating a second-home feeling for our guests.
—Erik Warner, Owner, Sound View Greenport

My name is Tony Balzano along with my brother, Andy we own and operate Main Street Haircutters in Riverhead. My father started the business in 1960. Since opening the business, we have never experienced anything like this before. Being shutdown for three months certainly has taken is toll on our business. We have been opened for three months and still business has not returned to what you might consider “normal.” We now operate by appointment only to avoid a crowded waiting room for everyone’s safety. A mask is required to be worn by everyone at all times. All equipment is sterilized, counters and chairs are cleaned before and after every customer. Everyone’s temperature is taken upon entry, hands must be sanitized. Hopefully these practices will make our customers feel comfortable returning to getting their hair cut on a regular basis. Keeping our loyal customers safe is our main priority.
—Tony Balzano, Partner, Main Street Haircutters

Building up to 2020 with a calendar of interesting shows and events for the coming year took lots of planning, and I was very excited. My first show of the year opened in early February before the COVID health crisis surfaced. The opening reception was a huge success—the kickoff for the year was seamless. Soon thereafter, life as we knew it had changed. Months later the adjustments continue. The constant has been the unwavering support, determination and generosity of my artists, clientele and community. The North Fork has a strong core of loyal residents and hardworking small business owners. And since March the North Fork family has grown even stronger with an influx of art-centric home owners. From the beginning of the health challenges, I have known just how fortunate I am to be part of the East End of Long Island, and I remain determined to continue to grow my business.
—Mary Cantone, Owner, William Ris Gallery

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