By Emily Drooby
Claudia and Richard Berroa have always dreamed of having a restaurant.
“It’s been so many years, we’ve been dreaming of this place and finally it’s open,” said Claudia.
Not part of that dream? A pandemic. The Catholic husband and wife team opened Claudy’s Kitchen in June. They had to open in the middle of the pandemic because they leased the space in September and made renovations, then COVID struck.
“It was horrifying, scary,” Richard said.
The Peruvian restaurant is about to get a new surge of customers: students. Manhattan College is just around the corner.
“All the other business owners that have been here for a long time told me, ‘Wait until you see a change. You’ll see a pickup.’ So we are hopeful, very hopeful,” Richard added.
The Catholic school is reopening on August 31, with both in-person and remote classes. Students are already moving into the dorms, and local businesses can’t wait for the nearly 4,000 students to return.
New Riverdale Gourmet Deli is a hot spot for students, located right near both a dorm and off-campus housing.
“We are totally excited for seeing the students back. The neighborhood was so quiet and the businesses, everyone was closed because we depend on the college and the high school, Fieldston High School,” their manager, Mohamed Saleh, said. “But now we start noticing a lot of kids coming back, and the businesses is doing much better.”
Riverdale’s restaurants, delis, hair salons and more are all glad to see the students return to the Catholic college and their business roll back into the neighborhood.
“We’re excited, excited, but we also know they’re not going to be here full-time,” explained Najial Humaidi, the manager of another local hot-spot, Jasper’s Deli.
Some students are commuters and won’t be living on campus. For those who are there, if the COVID crisis gets worse, everything could change. For many businesses in Riverdale, losing the students again could be a major hit.
“Well of course, every business around the college is going to be worried,” Nahial said. “They’re telling you they’re not, they’re lying.”
Richard at Claudy’s Kitchen says not having the students for the past few months has actually prepared them, in case they need to do without them again
“Having the students is great, but not having them here allowed us to do that beforehand, to cater exclusively to our neighbors,” he explained.
Manhattan College has strict plans in place to keep everyone safe, including reduced capacity in dorms, staggered move ins and COVID-19 testing.