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Harlem Businesses Add Flair To COVID-Compliant Outdoor Dining Spaces

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Parts of Harlem are reimagining outdoor dining.

As CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported Monday, they're keeping safety in mind and adding some flair.

What makes this outdoor dining different is the emphasis on being different. Each one of the outdoor spaces has its own artwork, its own flavor, while maintaining that emphasis on safety.

Jessica Spaulding and her business partner Asha Dixon know what it's like to struggle.

"I remember going to the bank and trying to get loans to open-up up here, and everyone was just stating how impossible a feat it would be to survive," said Spaulding.

The two own the Harlem Chocolate Factory. They make artisan chocolate with a local twist.

When the pandemic hit, they went from a brick-and-mortar shop to a mainly online business.

"It just required a lot of pivoting, a lot of adapting to what's changing, what's working, and pushing forward," said Dixon.

MORE: Restaurant Owners Hoping New Yorkers Brave Bitter Blast To Dine Outdoors

With the help of Uber Eats and others, they now have their own outdoor dining space along Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard.

"Although this is a small structure architecturally, it's actually been very impactful," said architect Brandt Knapp. "For it to be in Harlem is absolutely important."

It has a space for people to sit and overhead heaters to deal with the cold winter days ahead.

It also has art.

LeRone Wilson created one of the paintings that's now adorning the outside of the chocolate shop. Wilson is one of several local artists who were commissioned to help make these outdoor spaces different.

"It's really important to highlight those stories in the midst of all this change," said artist Misha McGlown.


McGlown helped design the pavilion for Aliyyah Baylor, whose family moved here more than two decades ago.

"What you see in this parklet represents my great-grandparents, my great-aunts and uncles from my farm in Mississippi," said Baylor, who owns Ma Smith's Dessert Cafe.

Not only does her space feature many family photos, she added her own personal flair with some chandeliers.

"This is a contribution to the community. This is a reflection of the community, because we're a community, a neighborhood business. So, when you see this you're a part of our family," said Baylor.

These outdoor spaces all comply with the city's safety protocols. They have 50% airflow, they're socially distanced and another lifeline for these minority-owned businesses.

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