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Having To Make A Tough Call During The Ongoing Pandemic
By Tina Traster
Michael’s Tuxedos by Dante Zeller soldiered through autumn, but COVID-19 proved to be a formidable enemy. By October, the men’s sartorial staple closed shop on South Middletown Road in Nanuet.
Now owner Michael D’Amato is facing a Catch-22 conundrum: To capture 2021’s graduation and wedding season, he needs to reopen in a new space. But if he reopens – and the pandemic continues to thwart our ability to gather in spaces safely – a new venture could dig him deeper into a hole.
“I don’t want to commit until things are normal, but at the same time I need to be ready when they are,” said D’Amato.
An optimist at heart, D’Amato is hunting for commercial space, ideally in the Route 59 corridor, where his business has been for four decades. To be ready for the formal wear season, he’d need to re-open by the beginning of March.
On the upside, D’Amato’s landlord worked with him when business was dire. And in the pandemic world, there’s more flexibility than ever before.
Also, the company’s Verona, New Jersey location continues to operate, though also impacted by the pandemic. However, the family owns the building, which eliminates the burden of paying rent to a landlord.
“There are lots of available options,” said D’Amato. “We’re even seeing landlords offering short-term leases, which is something that could work in our favor.”
Last week, Gov. Cuomo asked New Yorkers to be patient.
“We’re dealing with high numbers of COVID cases across the state as we move through the dark days of winter, and although I understand COVID fatigue has set in, we need New Yorkers to remember that we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Governor Cuomo said. “The vaccine is the weapon that ends the war, but we’re locked in a footrace between its quick distribution and the spread of new cases.”
The multi-generational Michael’s Tuxedos in Nanuet has been dressing grooms and graduates for more than 40 years. Even steep downturns in the economy, like the 2008 recession that suppressed spending and changed the tone of corporate festivities, only temporarily impacted Michael’s.
In 2019, however the company suffered a significant but not fatal blow when it was forced to relocate from its “glass box” on Route 59 to a more obscure location at 78 South Middletown Road after Brixmor Property Group, owners of Rockland Plaza, announced plans to tear down the free-standing building to make way for two fast-food restaurants, Shake Shack and Chipolte.
Michael D’Amato, who runs the store, says COVID-19 was an especially ill-timed blow because the store had just begun recovering from the negative impact of its relocation.
After closing in mid-March during New York State’s-enforced lockdown, Michael’s lost graduation and prom season, which typically accounts for 70 percent of its annual revenues. Spring and early summer weddings were cancelled.
The store reopened in June and found “a little bit of buzz throughout the summer” but people were cancelling fall events. However, D’Amato says he’s got scores of weddings booked for spring 2021 and beyond.
“We need to keep our fingers crossed,” he said. “We have a few weeks to make a decision. We have everything in storage but we can be up and running within a week.”