Like so many places across the country, the past several months have been challenging and unpredictable for our community. That’s why we wanted to do something special to spotlight the amazing people that make up our unique district.
Faces Of East Midtown is photo and interview series aimed at celebrating the humanity of our neighborhood and providing a real, raw and honest look at the faces behind the locally-owned businesses that have gone through unimaginable changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
September 15, 2020
Photography by Ron Jautz, Jautz Photography
East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision?
Geralynn Madonna: We are a fashion Boutique & Beauty Bar. We opened our East 60th location in 2015!
EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown?
GM: Our physical location was completely closed during the shutdown. Like many other retailers, the website was up but we could not ship out orders the entire time. We all love what e-commerce has done for our lives in so many ways, but it took a pandemic to realize that without a physical store, it’s difficult to continue getting to know your customers and fostering that face-face interaction. Receiving e-mails and calls during the lockdown from so many of our customers was a true gift and will always be remembered.
EMP: When did you reopen, and how did/does it feel to reopen your doors to the district?
GM: We re-opened in phase 3 (end of June) after complying with all the NYC standards. Re-merchandising and re-stocking was a big part of the re-opening on the boutique side. Seeing the first wave of familiar faces coming through the door was a great feeling, but not being able to show affection was hard! Many women coming in have said “I haven’t shopped in months, this feels good, almost like normal.” Others have said " Love so much, but I have nowhere to go to wear anything.” That’s the hardest for us social New Yorkers who always had plans!
As for the hair salon, we have always had a VIP service with only one or two at most stations. We are now operating with one station only and our clients are very grateful. Our stylist does all hair types but specializes in curls. After a 3-month lockdown the curly gals could not wait to see her!
EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you?
GM: We are located between a couple of great restaurants on East 60th. With the “outside dining” rule still in place in NYC, we gave up our storefront to the restaurant next door. It is very surreal to see tables outside and 60th street becoming restaurant row! The customers seem to like it and even stay under our awning in the rain!
We hope to get our storefront back at some point, maybe as the weather chills!
EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
GM: The one thing that never changes is we will always have problems and it’s how you deal with them that matters most. No, we haven’t been through anything like this before but we have certainly overcome other problems. So, we need to adjust all aspects of our business and try to move forward. With foot traffic down we have increased our website traffic, with no trade shows we now sell our wholesale collection in virtual showrooms, our salon has adjusted scheduling to allow for extra sanitizing between clients. We have also increased our virtual shopping service, especially for our out of town clients who aren’t traveling. No... there isn’t anything easy or “normal” about this and it will take some time, but NYC will come back!
EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months?
GM: The most important thing…. We hope that everyone begins to feel safe again. When that happens everything else will continue to get better! Until then working together with our neighboring businesses and asking our customers what they need and want to make them feel more comfortable is critically important.
EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood?
Our beloved NYC and our favorite Midtown East neighborhood has certainly been through a lot over the past 6 months. It has always been an example of an area with great confidence. Hopefully together we can build back the confidence and get that fabulous “energy” & “buzz” back to our streets, shops and in our restaurants.