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Businesses in downtown Albany are struggling as more people work from home

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It’s been 871 days since New York sent all non-essential workers home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Every day was a struggle for survival for businesses in downtown Albany.

COVID-19 is no longer keeping people at home. A new wave of telecommuting is also threatening the future of state and private office merchants who rely on their workers.

Stella Porter of 13 Investigates spoke with some businesses downtown about the new normal.

13 The team began asking questions after a Facebook message from a business owner of One Commerce Plaza expressing dissatisfaction. He told 13 Investigates that his business in downtown Albany and business districts across America faces a mountain of uncertainty.

Gone is the familiar hustle and bustle of Emil’s Newsroom Convenience Store: the smell of freshly baked newspapers, hurried footsteps, and hurried voices.

“We see the same customers every day and they become our personal friends,” said Anthony Farina.

Farina’s family store is one stop for busy morning commuters. His family has been eating the uniquely American morning rush for his 50 years.

“In 1972, they had an opportunity at this wonderful State Capitol, which started as a newspaper and magazine store,” explained Farina.

His grandfather Emil was the first to run the business, which is still located in the One Commerce Plaza. A few steps from the Capitol and home to several state offices.

A few years ago, Anthony’s father took over. And now it’s Anthony’s turn.

“I always thought I was running a successful family business, which always kept our family afloat. rice field.

In 2020, COVID has brought the morning rush to a halt, and so has business.

People who wake up at Emil’s make their own breakfast, skip lottery tickets and work virtually.

“When I haven’t seen them in years, they become strangers and it saddens me,” Farina said.

New York is no longer in lockdown. However, not all employees have returned to the office. Not a long shot. Farina deduces that he and his father are losing about half of their customers.

“The problem is that our overhead is at 100%, so with a customer base of 50%, we can’t cut it,” he said.

It’s unclear if or when the morning rush will return. Farina fears she will be the last generation to own her family business.

“I don’t know, if this is the future where 50% of us work from home, we’re going to lose our lives. I’m nervous. I’m nervous about my future. I have two kids.” I may be looking for a job soon,” he said.

The absence of office workers can be felt throughout the district.

Other downtown businesses are asking the same question. Are your customers coming back?

“If you can get an answer from someone, someone, in the know, is there an end date?” asked Mary Ellen DiBiase. She, along with her husband and their son, owns her Café One Eleven next door to Emil’s.

For the past 22 years, she has been serving people on the job.

“We may egg you, but we’re still chatting about your life. It’s not just a hello or goodbye.

DiBiase says that without the generosity of the landlord, Café One Eleven would probably have had to close.

Another location of Cafe One Eleven near a private business park has the same problem. The place opened during the pandemic. De Beers says it was scary at first because it was so deserted.

It’s clear that she and Farina don’t want to identify government employees, who make up the bulk of their customer base.

Both say they see the benefits of working from home. But Farina says the current situation goes beyond face-to-face interactions and the loss of his future.

“I don’t think America was made for everyone to work from home,” he said.

What’s next for Anthony and MaryEllen? 13 Investigates spoke with the City of Albany and experts that the days of 100% in-person work may be over. However, there are some suggestions for how companies can cope with the future of work. 13 That portion of the Investigates report will air Thursday on NewsChannel 13.