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COVID 1 Year: Unemployment Forced Many In Our Area To Reinvent Themselves, And Gain Perspective Along The Way

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The coronavirus pandemic has created a dire economic crisis in the United States.

Jobless numbers reached a peak high the fourth week of March, with 6.87 million claims. The statistics remain disheartening, with 10 million people still unemployed.

The economic crisis has forced many people to face tough new realities. Some industries have barely survived, but others have found a way to thrive.

CBS2's Dave Carlin has a look at how the pandemic has forced people to rethink their businesses, and their dreams.


"Little did I know, COVID was going to be still going on a year later," said Jeremy Wladis, CEO and president of The Restaurant Group.

Wladis recently showed Carlin a restaurant kitchen on the Upper West Side very crowded with cooks, even with the dining area mostly empty.

His group oversees about a dozen eateries.

COVID-19 saw him shift to the more lucrative virtual or "ghost" model, where one restaurant serves up American farm to table fare like it always did, but the kitchen also turns out barbeque under a different name, mostly for delivery.

"Pivot and make it so we can make some magic and get some other people working. That's the biggest goal," Wladis said.

READ MORECOVID Reality: Data Shows Women Bear Disproportionate Impact Of Pandemic Unemployment

This past year, some people decided to start up new businesses in unfamiliar industries and that took guts.

"It's a dream come true at the craziest possible time," Kate Tkachenko said.

Tkachenko left the art world and a stable job at Sotheby's Auction House to open a wine store this past September in Yonkers.

While art sales slowed at the start of the pandemic, wine was fine.

"Because this industry was deemed essential, it helped me make the decision that, OK, let me try," Tkachenko said.


The new high-end clothing store Branche was added to the business district in Westwood, New Jersey. Open since January, it's off to a very slow start.

Manager Patrick Yu calls it a marathon, not a sprint. Find a great location, then be patient, and be ready for better days.

"We have hopes, I guess, this year," Yu said. "I think there will be more traffic, for sure, in the summer."

READ MOREThird Stimulus Check: How Could The Economic Relief Package Put More Money In Your Pocket?

Previously, the same space was occupied by White Oak Home. The now shuttered store was owned by Tegan Ashman.

"We were able to shut our business down, pay off all our vendors," Ashman said. "There's definitely been a lot of heartache. The overarching thing is Mike and I have had more time together than we've ever had... I've had more time with Ryan than I think I would've ever had. COVID has forced me to completely hit the brakes on every plan I ever have."

"It's been introspective. That's the word I would use," Ashman added.

That same introspection led Bryan Atienza from his 14 years in real estate to a new career in medicine.

"I didn't like I was a nonessential worker," Atienza said.

While the pandemic denied Lourds Lane the opening of the musical she created called "SuperYou" in a traditional New York City theater, she moved the show upstate and premiered it at Amenia's Four Brothers Drive-In.

These stories show us neighbors rolling the dice on new jobs in different industries, or figuring out a different work/life balance. While others found out they didn't have to completely change their tune, just give it a new arrangement.

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