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Coronavirus changes life for local businesses

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 26, 2020

 Emily’s Deli, 22205 Harper Ave., has been open for curbside delivery throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Emily’s Deli, 22205 Harper Ave., has been open for curbside delivery throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A lot has changed since March.

Driving through St. Clair Shores, signs pronounce businesses closed due to COVID-19 or open, but for drive-thru or pickup only.

As a city with more small businesses than big-box stores, St. Clair Shores seems to be a microcosm of Mainstreet, USA.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order closing dine-in restaurants and places of public consumption of food or beverage, as well as performance venues, libraries, museums and movie theaters, on March 16.

That directive led to some changes in operation at Emily’s delicatessen, 22205 Greater Mack Ave., but no changes to the menu or the quality of the food.

The deli, which specializes in Lebanese cuisine, has stayed open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, only offering curbside delivery.

“You call in your order. Once you get to the curb, you call us, give us your credit card number or cash — we take them both — and we run it out to the car,” Sam Hakim said. “Everybody that works for us have been working throughout the whole thing. We didn’t have to lay nobody off.”

After 50 years in the store, Hakim said he was fortunate enough to not have to make the tough decision to close his doors — he has been able to keep all of his employees on the payroll throughout the pandemic. Open doors notwithstanding, business is down.

“When you don’t have anybody coming in, there’s not that impulse sale. You don’t buy nothing else that’s on the counter. You don’t buy no pop in the cooler,” he said. “I don’t like this way to do business. I like to talk to people, I like to look at people ... but you’ve got to roll with the times. Whatever we need to do, we do.

“At least 75% of our customers thank us for being open.”

Hakim was ill the first week of the shutdown, not due to COVID-19. To be safe, he stayed away for several weeks while his son, Sam Hakim Jr., ran the business and made decisions. Sam Hakim Jr. had the idea to have curbside delivery as an added safety precaution from the get go, Hakim said.

“It’s working out fine, and all our customers are happy that we’re there,” Hakim said.

They’re taking precautions to make sure that everyone, and all of the food, is as safe as possible. He and his employees are sanitizing the doors, counters, “anything that the food or bags sit on,” often, and washing their hands multiple times per hour. The cooks all have gloves.

“They have to. They’ve got no choice,” Hakim said.

Hakim said that he understands that Whitmer has had to make hard decisions in a tough situation, but his “heart goes out” to all small business owners.

“How are you going to restart these businesses?” he said. “If you close for six weeks, eight weeks, it’s very hard to recuperate.”

Gina Carriveau, owner of The Loop Hair and Nail Salon, is one of those business owners.

Salons were shut down by executive order March 21.

“For myself, I’m OK in the shutdown. I’ve been in business 18 years,” Carriveau said.

She’s confident that she and her stylists’ clientele will still be there when they are allowed to reopen their doors at 25837 Jefferson Ave.

Instead, the people she worries about are her clients, especially some of the more elderly women who look forward to getting their hair done each week.

“One of the biggest highlights of their life is just coming to the salon to get their hair done,” she said. “I know they look forward to the socialization of it. A lot of them can’t wash their hair by themselves — they just physically can’t do it.”

Carriveau said that she’s been calling them to keep in touch, but their isolation personally weighs on her.

When salons are allowed to re-open, Carriveau said that she feels they’re some of the cleanest businesses around.

“When we go to get our license, part of being able to pass our test, so much of it is sanitation,” she said. “I am going to take all the necessary precautions that the CDC (recommends in its) guidelines.”

She said that she is disappointed that her business has been shuttered for so long while others are allowed to remain open.

“I understand there is a virus, and what makes me feel (disappointed) is when I drive by (big box stores) and I see 50, 60 cars there in the parking lot and I think to myself, ‘I can’t have a couple hairdressers and I can’t have a couple clients in my salon,’” she said. “I don’t understand her logic, the governor.

“I see the world moving forward, and here we are. It doesn’t seem fair.”

To place an order with Emily’s Deli, call (586) 777-2256.