BUFFALO, N.Y. — Despite discouraging news about some Western New York restaurants and other businesses closing because of the toll taken by the pandemic and related months of shutdown, some business owners have emerged to either start up or expand their operations.
For example, the owner of Chrusciki Bakery has worked with family, friends, and business partners to open up a new complex at the Eastern Hills Mall.
She did decide to pull out of the Broadway Market but kept their Lancaster bakery site. Now they have added Simply Pierogi for casual dining with Polish food and delicacies and the Sto Lat Bar and Restaurant in the new location.
Ania Duchon says she has more than 30 years experience in her successful bakery business but also points out, "If anybody knows who I am, I'm definitely a risk taker."
She says they were going to go through with this expansion in March but, "Everything just fell apart in days and it was scary. But we waited you know because we knew that there was going to be a time that we would be able to open and it would be under different circumstances for sure."
Now one of her business partners, Lisa LoVallo-Croyle, says it's almost surreal to see people out and dining again.
"People are coming in for lunch and then back for dinner. I've seen people twice already. We're only been open a week. It's amazing," she said.
Duchon says the open floor plan and outdoor patio space allowed them to handle COVID spacing requirements. But she credits her staff and loyal customers.
"We have seen so many businesses close, and it breaks my heart every time I see it, so I know we're blessed and extremely humble for having the support we have," she said.
In the Southtowns, 2 On Your Side found a start-up brewery business with two young entrepreneurs who opted to forge ahead into strong pandemic headwinds; 24-year-old Shane Stewart and 23-year-old Michael Maiorana are bringing their brewery dream to life in Orchard Park with First Line Brewing.
The restaurant opens August 22. Their expanded space is limited for customers, but they have added space for an outdoor patio. They have food service from an adjacent deli business, which is also their landlord.
Maiorana says First Line refers to their patriotic interest in honoring the military and first responders. They hope to do more charity work for them and others as their business grows.
Stewart says they began to try craft brewing as a hobby and became passionate about it.
"We really learned the craft and studied it and after we decided to take on this business," Stewart said. "We actually went and brewed with other brewers around the area."
Stewart says it wasn't easy for them as they planned to open earlier, but the pandemic stalled their plans.
"The liquor license, the whole process of that took us almost a full year, and I think a lot of the setbacks were due to COVID obviously," Stewart said.
Maiorana says it was difficult to contact various agencies and that things were constantly changing with little guidance, but they stayed the course.
"Constantly this business has been nothing but challenges. Uphill ... overcoming obstacles and obstacles," he said. "But we're just ready, and finally excited that no matter what's in our way, we're gonna persevere and just open up."