Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of small businesses in Poughkeepsie are breathing sighs of relief as patrons return, especially Arlington businesses. Many rely on business from Vassar students, and College regulations prohibiting students from leaving campus deprived them of it for most of the 2020-2021 academic year (The Miscellany News, 2021). With campus reopened and vaccinated Vassar students returning to shop and dine, most Arlington businesses have found themselves recovering, while others have had to close their doors for good.
“As a small business owner on Raymond Ave., I am happy to report that since this school year there is a new hope of survival,” rejoiced Dollar Yard owner Rajesh Sehgal. He explained that 85 percent of his business comes from Vassar students: “Our business is coming back on track with more and more students visiting us with masks. I am thankful to the Vassar College administration for allowing students to patronize businesses on Raymond Ave.” Masks are just one element of caution in a post-COVID world that has allowed business to stay open. Owner of Twisted Soul Brenda Black described: “We still don’t have indoor seating, only outdoor seating and takeout.”
Owner of The Crafted Kup Tanner Townsend shared Sehgal’s excitement. The Crafted Kup was a popular spot for Vassar students to study and socialize off campus prior to the pandemic. With the College’s loosened travel restrictions, the cafe has resumed its status as a social hub. “Energy, excitement and buzz are all words I would happily use to describe the feel of the Arlington area since the return of the semester and the re-opening of campus,” shared Townsend. “Compared to last year at this time, The Crafted Kup is doing very well, and thanks to the support of Vassar and its community, I have been able to hire and create more jobs in the last few months.”
Townsend expressed optimism about the trajectory of the pandemic and the future of his business. “We are optimistic that we will see the continual decline of COVID-19’s impact on small business as we move forward through the remainder of the year.”
“It’s really nice to see students out and about in Arlington and be able to support local businesses again,” expressed Carolyn Patterson ’22. “It’s great to be able to get off campus again and do school work in Crafted Kup,” she added.
This was echoed by Sehar Dey-Kohli’22, who also expressed some concern about the coming winter months, when the cold weather will force everyone to eat inside, making social distancing more challenging: “I believe that our freedom to venture out into Arlington is a net positive. It is so much better for our mental health and the risks are significantly lower given that the majority of us are vaccinated.” She continued, “However, exposure to residents of the greater Poughkeepsie area can pose as a higher risk than it may seem initially because we don’t know what their vaccination status or safety practices are. This is what scares me the most.”
Despite the positive outlook, not all Arlington businesses survived the pandemic-driven loss of patronage. Both BurgerFi and Tomato Cafe closed their Poughkeepsie locations. Neither restaurant owner could be reached for comment.
Overall, local shops and restaurants around campus are experiencing more business than a year or six months ago, a sign of better times to come for Arlington’s businesses, principally due to Vassar’s reopening. “It has been incredibly healing, not only financially, but to everyone’s morale to once again see students filtering through the restaurants and shops of Arlington District,” Townsend said.