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Small Business Owners Expect Slow Economic Recovery As Work-From-Home Trend Continues

RAMSEY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Working from home was an unlikely reality for many before stay-at-home orders last spring.

The trend has caught on, but some small businesses are still suffering as a result, CBS2's Nick Caloway reported.

One year into the pandemic, many Manhattan office buildings are mostly empty. Fewer people commuting to Wall Street is having a big impact on Main Street. Some businesses in the suburbs are getting taken to the cleaners.

Mark Shnorhokian owns V & S Cleaners in Ramsey, New Jersey. He said business is down by about half. Many clients are still working from home.

"People may be going into the office more often. But they may not be meeting with clients. So, I think that poses a big long-term problem for our industry," Shnorhokian said.

It's the same story at Ray's Barber Pole in Ramsey. Since reopening last summer, owner Remon Haddad says business has been cut nearly in half.

"Because people, they don't come to work. People work from home and people don't have to leave their houses," Haddad said.

Some have gone back to work, but it's only a fraction of pre-pandemic times.

Commuter trains from the suburbs into the city run nearly empty sometimes. That means fewer people walking from the train to the office.

In turn, fewer people are walking into Quality Shoe Repair in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The shop has been in Vince Barbuto's family for more than 60 years. Now, revenue is down more than 60%.

"Used to see people running with a cup of coffee. Those people that were running were wearing shoes. You don't see any of that anymore," Barbuto said.

The way we do business and the way we shop have been altered by the virus. But it's not all bad.

Westwood Gallery in downtown Westwood, New Jersey had to close for a few months last spring. But since then, owner Mike Fitzsimmons says business is good.

"If you're on Zoom all day long and you've got nothing on your wall, people have come in, they're looking for a piece of art. They want to have a pretty good set, in a way, for their Zoom meeting," Fitzsimmons said.

Some small business owners told Caloway they are hopeful the COVID vaccine will eventually send people back into work. But the working from home trend will linger for years to come.

Some industries will take longer to fully recover. Shnorhokian said he doesn't expect V & S Cleaners to get back to full steam for another two years.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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