Sept. 18, 2020 By Christian Murray
Two Woodside residents opened a barbershop on Roosevelt Avenue on Thursday undeterred by the economic meltdown caused by COVID-19.
The opening was an anomaly and was the first ribbon cutting that the leaders of the Queens Chamber of Commerce had attended since the economy came to an abrupt halt in mid March.
“We have been shut down as a city since March 16,” said Tom Grech, the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “I’m very happy to be here for this opening. It is a great Queens success story, immigrant success story.”
The barbershop, located at 63-25 Roosevelt Ave., is called Bibi & JD’s Barbershop and is owned by two immigrants who are friends.
Jose Campos, a co-owner who was born in El Salvador, said he did not want COVID-19 to stop them from pursuing their dream.
He decided to put the business together after being laid off in March from his job as the general manager of the NBA store on Fifth Avenue.
“I always wanted my own business,” he said. He joined forces with Esmerlin Ramirez, who was raised in the Dominican Republic, to form the business.
The pair first met when Ramirez cut Campos’ hair.
“We decided that we would start working on a business instead of staying home,” Campos said. “We decided that COVID would not stop us.”
Their tenacity was recognized by those who attended the ribbon cutting.
“Congratulations to all of you for having the courage to open a small business,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the opening. “It is difficult to do it at any time but particularly right now.”
Grech said that he is seeing early signs of a bounce back, although business on the whole is suffering.
“We are seeing signs of life,” Grech said, noting that the chamber was going to a ribbon cutting at a real estate office in Queens Village that afternoon.
But Grech did say that the restaurant industry continues to take a beating.
“I have been talking since April that we have 6,000 restaurants in Queens County…and that half of them would not reopen,” Grech said. He said that his dire prediction is likely to pan out.
Grech said that outdoor dining has not been the panacea that the mayor has indicated.
Furthermore, the city’s plan to allow indoor dining starting Sept. 30 is inadequate, he said. Grech added that the maximum capacity for indoor dining is limited to 25 percent, which isn’t enough.
“We advocated for 50 percent on Sept. 15 and then two weeks later…if things go well 100 percent on Oct.1,” Grech said.
Many restaurants won’t make enough money at 25 percent capacity to survive, he said.
While their labor costs might be less, Grech said, most of their big expenses will remain the same.