Alexandra’s Bistro: A South Side Staple by Max Fern

 

When the pandemic began, most people dismissed it. But when the stock market crashed, schools closed, and loved ones got sick, masking-up became a way of life.

Unfortunately, Lehigh Valley restaurants have had to more than cover their mouths: limited hours, social distancing, meatpacking shortages, disposable cutlery, and a whole host of new protocols have caused thousands of local establishments to shutter their doors for good.

Alexandra’s Bistro, which serves Greek and American diner food, is still hanging on.

“It’s really sad to see what’s happening, but we’re doing our best,” longtime server Colleen Burns said. “I’m just trying to stay positive and make sure that all our customers enjoy their time here at Alexandra’s.”

The coronavirus pandemic has upended not just restaurant owners, but the lives of patrons, servers, chefs, and their families. In this economy, people are forced to choose which of their favorite small businesses they are going to support. And many won’t make it to the other side.

“There’s only so much money around. We’re grateful for all the support that we get from the students and this community,” Colleen said.

The bistro has been working to streamline their procedures and have transformed their dining room to maximize physical distancing, especially during peak hours. The tricky part is figuring out how to comply with the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and still turn a profit.

While many small businesses have adapted to more creative ways of raising funds, the south side staple is still doing ok. Local legends, such as New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, have been spotted at the bistro and Lehigh students are often lined up early on Sunday morning to grab a quick bite before the one o’clock football games.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I don’t think this place is either,” Colleen said. “If everyone does what they’re supposed to, we’ll get through this thing–together.”

With no comprehensive plan for a local outbreak and President Simon’s resignation on the horizon, the Lehigh community is starving for leadership. A large population of off-campus students makes it effectively impossible for the university to test enough individuals, and a severe flu season could be just the thing to turn this health crisis from bad to worse.

Alexandra’s Bistro is located at 9 E 4th Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, across from Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Bar.

CTown: The Current Dilemma by Mercy Mirembe

It’s not hard to recall the public’s mad dash to the grocery store when the government sanctioned a nation-wide quarantine. 

People rushed to brace themselves for the brutal impact that the virus was sure to have. For the South Bethlehem community, this feat would prove more difficult because of their majority low-income status. Unfortunately, there are only two major supermarkets in the area. 

CTown Supermarkets is a supermarket chain that sells groceries and a variety of other merchandise. The CTwon on 230 E 3rd St is one of the two that provides the community with easy access to their bare necessities. 

Bethlehem’s CTown was no exception to the mad dash. 

“We were getting less produce and a lot of customers,” said a CTown employee who wished to remain unidentified. She stood next to the spice rack, shaking her head. 

That was in April. Essential workers were being exhausted, customers were forming lines outside doors, and tragedy was striking. And now?

“Now it’s better,” said the CTown employee. “The merchandise is received every week.” 

The shelves are fully restocked and the produce is fresh and in abundance.

“Everything is coming to the store and we’re trying to get on our feet again with the prices and everything,” said the CTown employee. But now CTown faces a different set of challenges. They had an influx of product but a shortage of customers. 

“At first it was so bad, we didn’t have many customers, we had to call them back in, let them know we have everything again and we’re set up like before,” said the CTown employee. 

The rise in customer attendance can logically be linked to the return of students to the Lehigh University campus and surrounding residences. South Bethlehem is a sort of university town and the students fuel many of the local businesses.  Even so, CTown was still trying to draw out their regular customer base. However, with the rising cases on the university’s campus could spell more trouble for the surrounding Southside community. 

The rising spread can be linked to the persistence of off-campus parties. Students, despite warning from the university, continue to hold parties well over the ten person maximum restriction. If the university doesn’t get a handle on what looks like a looming outbreak, it could spread to the surrounding community. CTown might find itself in the same situation as they were in April, or even worse. 

COVID turns College Athlete into Dog Dad by Julia D’Apolito

The COVID-19 pandemic stole numerous opportunities and experiences from seniors graduating in 2020. Nick D’Apolito, a first-year student at Arcadia University and a Council Rock High School North 2020 graduate, is just one of them. 

D’Apolito said he has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember. With the pandemic starting at the same time as his high school’s spring sport season, D’Apolito lost his final year playing as a Council Rock North Indian. 

“The only thing I was upset about losing was my baseball season,” said D’Apolito. “I didn’t care much about our Disney trip or in-person graduation. I’d give them both up for my senior season, anyways.”

D’Apolito committed to play for Arcadia’s baseball team in early November 2019, along with two of his high school teammates and oldest friends. Although his senior season was taken from him, D’Apolito remained positive while looking forward to Arcadia’s fall season.

However, on August 3, 2020, in a message from Arcadia’s President, the university announced they would be going fully remote for the Fall 2020 semester. 

D’Apolito was devastated by the update for his first semester of college, and adapting to this sudden change and loss of more baseball was difficult for him. 

However, D’Apolito said the bittersweetness of staying home is spending more time with his English labs, Maggie Mae and Beatrice. He was upset to leave them for college and worried that they would have a hard time adjusting to the sudden change, as well.  

D’Apolito grew closer with his dogs than he ever thought he would due to quarantining with them, and he feels as though their relationship has only grown stronger since the start of his remote semester. 

“With mom and dad working, I’m sometimes the only one who gives them attention during the day,” said D’Apolito. 

Maggie and Beatrice will lay at his feet while he sits at his desk during Zoom lectures, and D’Apolito will spend breaks between classes outside playing with the girls. The dogs spend almost every second of every day following him around, said D’Apolito. 

D’Apolito’s parents recently left him alone in the house to take a long weekend trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. During this time, his whole day was planned around his two canine best friends. 

“I’d feel bad when I was at the gym or doing work and lost track of time, because as soon as I noticed it was past dinner time, I knew Maggie and Bea were just waiting for me, getting really hungry,” said D’Apolito. 

D’Apolito said he’s learned to be more responsible through taking care of his dogs, while also keeping up with his online classes. 

D’Apolito is majoring in biology and has been struggling to keep up with all his courses while learning remotely. D’Apolito said he feels that he is teaching a lot of the material to himself, especially in biology and chemistry. 

Although D’Apolito has been thrown several curveballs since the pandemic began in March, he remains hopeful for Arcadia University to return to in-person learning this spring.

The Real Food Academy changes to survive the era of COVID-19 by Leidy Iglesias

At an establishment where group gatherings are at the center, The Real Food Academy has had to reinvent itself in order to survive and adapt to the restrictions of COVID-19.

Formerly known as Cooking With Kids Miami, The Real Food Academy is a small business in Miami that offers cooking classes to adults and kids alike. It all started in 2008 when owner Maria Cummins offered to teach a cooking class for an after-school program at Montessori School. She said it was “an overnight success” and opened her first establishment in 2010. She moved to her current location in 2017, and business has been growing ever since. 

Cummins said, “We had huge birthday parties and team building events every single day. Then, from one day to the next, everything went down to completely zero.” This was the effect of COVID-19 for many small businesses throughout Miami, and Cummins realized she could no longer rely on in-person cooking classes to support her establishment, she said. 

Turning to seek the aid of technology, Cummins began filming her employees and posting lesson videos on YouTube for customers to watch at home. She is now venturing into Zoom and recently held the academy’s first lesson in which her chefs can see the students on the other screen. The academy has been getting many requests for virtual lessons from places like Wells Fargo and Miami Dade College, said Cummins.

Moreover, Cummins had started working on adding a small cafe to her business early this year. The cafe was barely operational however, said Cummins, and with physical cooking classes out of the picture, the cafe became the center of attention.

“It was the only thing we could do. We put all our energy there and did everything we could with the limitations,” said Cummins. Though COVID-19 impacted the academy negatively, Cummins said the focus on the cafe was a major positive.

Due to the restrictions on indoor dining in Miami, she contacted as many delivery companies as she could, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, and made the meals that she taught to classes available for anyone to order.

Cummins then decided to open dining outdoors, and The Real Food Academy Cafe’s patio was born. In front of the beautiful ocean-themed art surrounding her building, she bought tables and flowery plants and transformed the area into a place for people to stop by and enjoy a meal. 

“More people know us now through the cafe,” said Cummins.

Though this summer was nothing compared to the 60-70 kids that would normally come to the academy weekly, things have been starting to pick up again, she said. 

Along with the growth of the cafe, in-person classes are resuming with the proper precautions. Students are placed six feet apart and are given temperature checks. Everyone who enters is required to wear a mask and surfaces are sanitized before, during, and after each class.

Cummins said she is happy to be able to teach kids about healthy eating again. 

She started her business back in 2010 only with the goal to teach kids to cook, but after researching what was really in many foods people eat, Cummins said she wanted to take a healthier approach, which was when she changed her business name.

“We wanted to show people what is processed food and what is real food, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Lehigh football players find ways to improve, while battling the pandemic By Stuart Cundiff

Due to the current state of the world, various aspects of our lives have been altered in order to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. As the halfway point of the semester draws near, it is still a mystery as to whether it is truly safe or not for students to even be on campus. Which becomes a crucial issue for student athletes, as it has been a rollercoaster of semester for them, especially. 

The prospects of whether they are able to compete or even practice this year has been a lingering question, senior captain of the football team, Divine Buckrham ‘21 said. 

Considering sports like football rely on physical contact, it is important that these athletes get some sort of in person training yet the pandemic makes that an extremely challenging proposition. With the exception of weight training and small drills, football training relies on physical practice, running through plays as a team, scrimmaging, and drills that require a group of people. 

However, after various rounds of COVID-19 testing and weeks of quarantine, a small group from the Lehigh football team met in order to get some valuable work in.

“It’s been tough trying to get in the amount of work that we need given the circumstances. We do what we can at home and on this field but it can’t compare to the quality and intensity of the training we get with the full team.” Buckrham said. “We’re just doing whatever we can to get better.”

The group consisted of mostly housemates, with a few other teammates tagging along. Buckrham, as well as fellow captain and housemate Jaylen Floyd ‘21, led the way, accompanied by their housemate, Tre Neal ‘21. The three practiced with one another almost exclusively, in order to respect social distancing guidelines enforced by the CDC and Lehigh University. They run through a full on field workout, comprising various drills that incorporate footwork, speed, agility, and one v.s. one drills. 

It was a refreshing atmosphere for the group, as it has been months since the three were able to get outside and work together, Neal said. The much stricter guidelines enforced in the summer prevented them from having an opportunity like this, with most of them being at their respective homes away from Lehigh’s campus. However, now that they are back living together on campus they are able to have their own training sessions with one another. 

“It felt great just to be back on the field with some of the guys, more specifically Vine (Divine) and Sticks (Tre). We didn’t get the opportunity to practice in the spring like we usually would so it’s been a long time since we’ve been out there together.” Floyd said.

This pandemic has forced them to remain creative to find ways to better themselves and their teammates.

“In person, it is significantly easier to monitor teammates and make sure everyone is remaining focused and motivated. ” Buckrham said. “ …If just a handful of people are not on point, then the entire team is held back.” 

By being physically responsible, they are able to increase the amount of time they can have in person practice with a group of others. They must depend on one another and keep peers accountable in order to stay safe and continue training so that they can perform to their true potential if a season is allowed in the spring.

 

High School Junior Bo Brady adjusts to “hybrid model” education

When Calhoun High School of Merrick, NY announced they would be reopening with a hybrid model amid the COVID-19 pandemic, junior Bo Brady was skeptical.

 

The public school’s plan was to have half of their students come into school, with the other half doing online classes from home and switching the groups every other day.

 

Brady wondered how much he would get out of this experience academically and socially, but after getting through the first month he is optimistic.

 

“I went into the year thinking i was going to learn absolutely nothing, but it’s definitely exceeded my expectations a little bit. I don’t think I’m learning to my full potential but I’m getting more done than probably other people would think.”

 

Although Brady feels he still learning and building friendships in this new setting, he says the new guidelines can be difficult to follow at times. 

 

Face masks are required at all times, plastic dividers are present between each desk, and social distancing is strictly enforced. Only freshmen can eat in the cafeteria, with sophomores through seniors going elsewhere to eat during their off period. 

 

Brady was shocked to pass the now socially distanced lunch room, where he would once sit with all his friends. All the big tables are gone, with students sitting in desks separated by plastic dividers as they eat.

 

“It honestly looks like jail in there” he said.

 

With sports cancelled as well, Brady is missing a huge piece of his high school experience. However, he has been getting involved in outside leagues to stay involved.

 

Hybrid has been a very different experience, but Brady is thankful that he is able to go in-person at all.

 

“I’m content with it personally,” he shared, “I’m definitely happy we were able to do this, full online i dont think I’d be able to do.”

 

Swapping indoor activities for outside ones amidst the Coronavirus pandemic by Clare Fonstein

In light of the Coronavirus, almost every aspect of life has been affected in some way, one of them being the inability to be indoors in groups. Being outside in open spaces is much safer than being enclosed indoors in terms of spreading the virus. Due to this people have been altering their lifestyles, moving from inside to outside. 

On Lehigh University’s campus there are strict rules for people living on campus about indoor gatherings. People cannot have others over in their dorm rooms and common indoor spaces have a low maximum capacity, so as far as hanging out and meeting people, the majority of that has to happen outside. The gym has been recently closed for example, forcing students to adapt to running or exercising outside. 

The weather has been nice and students as well as others in the community have been taking advantage. 

“I’ve never really been a fan of the outdoors but I have found myself going outside a lot more, even just like going for walks during the day to get out because all of my classes are online and it’s a good break in the day” said Kelly Heaphy ‘22. 

Since she is a fully remote student, Heaphy does not have access to any of the academic buildings and does not have in person class. While during a different time Heaphy may have opted for doing her work in the library or having friends over to her apartment, she now often utilizes Lehigh’s lawns to meet up with people or have picnics together and does work on the outdoor tables that are scattered around campus. 

“It has really forced me to get creative and branch out from what I have done in the past. I definitely spend a lot more time on planned activities. I’ve gone kayaking, which I had never done before and have been going on walks, or even just do work outside now,” Heaphy said. 

There are many different opportunities for students to take advantage of the outdoors during this time. People can bike, hike, garden, run, kayak, or even get away for the weekend and take a trip camping. Many possibilities are open on campus and in the surrounding area. The Greenway bike and walking path is frequently used for running and has a garden community space along it. Campus has ample green spaces to enjoy before the weather gets too cold, and a short ways off campus there are many hiking spots as well as some camping. 

While people may not be able to congregate in indoor groups anymore, there are still ways for them to get similar social interaction outside. People have been finding what works best for them and adapting to the new normal. 

 

Playa Bowls adapts to COVID-19 by Jessica Post

 

Like all businesses, many South Bethlehem restaurants took a hit as a result of COVID-19. Playa Bowls, however, was able to work its way back into business and is slowly reopening.

With increased precautions, the restaurant was able to follow Pennsylvania state laws through each phase of reopening and now keeps a steady flow of customers.

“At first it was a really big difference because basically no one was allowed in the store and we were only doing takeout orders so it was really slow and not as many people were working.” said Viviana Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is one of a handful of store managers and usually works five times a week to keep an eye on employees

All employees are required to wear face masks and gloves in the store and on the job. Additionally, staff members must have their temperatures taken before they begin their shift. If their temperature reads 100.4 degrees or above they must give away their shifts for the week and immediately be tested for the virus.

To keep the location sanitary, Playa Bowls refused cash payments for the first few months following its reopening. They also put a stop to customer-engaging games such as ping pong and a variety of board games.

Gonzalez explained how the store as a whole is “a lot cleaner because we have to clean constantly and wipe down all the surfaces.”

Business has picked up a lot since phase 3 of reopening began in early June which means more employees can work and the store can begin to function better with the right precautions.

The store was only closed for about three weeks at the start of the pandemic and quickly reopened for takeout orders before opening its outdoor seating in May. The store is currently operating at 25% capacity for indoor seating and regular outdoor seating.

“I feel like us being busy always depended on the seasons because usually people come here more when it’s hot out so it usually slows down around this time anyway. I feel like I can’t say it was because of corona or because of it being colder out now that things have start to slow down” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said business usually picks up in the summer specifically because their outdoor seating is so colorful and inviting. The store has a playful beachy feel and brings in customers with a refurbished vintage looking van that provides additional seating.

Radnor High School Senior, Chris Begier, Adapting to COVID-19 by Grayson Begier

 

 

Chris Begier reluctantly adapts to COVID-19 as it tries to disrupt his last year of high school. As a senior at Radnor High School, Begier tries to find the silver lining of virtual learning and partial in-person learning, but it’s not all sunshine and roses every day. Like most teenagers, Begier just wants to hang out with his friends and enjoy the things he used to prior to COVID-19. However, he is learning to adapt to his new and different school year while trying to make it as normal as possible.

“It’s so easy to feel bad about yourself and mope around all day, but I try to keep a positive attitude and stay hopeful for a normal senior year,” says Begier.

At the start of his senior year, Begier’s classes were completely online which was definitely a rough start to his senior year. Begier spent most of his time sitting at his desk on Zoom or playing Madden with his friends. Begier’s mom, Nancy Begier, wasn’t quite happy with her son’s routine at the start of the school year.

“It’s not great for his mental health and well-being to stay cooped up in his room all day, so I make sure he disconnects and plays outside,” says N. Begier. “He’s not a stranger to online class because of last spring, so we’re just getting back into the swing of things.”

However, Begier started going back to in-person learning at Radnor High School on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Begier and his classmates switch weekly from attending in-person class three times a week to two times a week. The Radnor School Board and the other Central League school boards voted in favor of the return of fall sports, which was music to Begier’s ears. Begier and his teammates have been patiently waiting to return to the soccer field this fall. He hasn’t been able to play organized sports since before the pandemic when his lacrosse season just started. Begier doesn’t want to risk ruining his last soccer season, so on the weekends he strictly social distances or doesn’t go out at all.

“As much as I would love to go to parties and hang out with all my friends on the weekends it’s just not that worth it to me,” says Begier. “All it takes is one person to mess it all up for everyone, and I’m going to make sure that it’s not me.”

Besides academics and athletics, Begier is spending more time with family and his two dogs, Georgia and Rocky. Begier’s family brought home Rocky in the spring, so he’s been able to stick around to watch Rocky grow up. Usually as a high school senior, Begier wouldn’t be spending that much time at home. Although he was reluctant to admit it Begier said he appreciates the time he’s spent with his family, and memories he’s made throughout quarantine and this school year.

“Like most teenagers, I obviously miss the normal parts of high school like parties and football games, but I do enjoy being able to hang out with my family even when they annoy me,” says Begier. “Before I know it it’ll be my freshman year of college, and I won’t have my family with me, so I’m trying to make the most of this time.”

As academics and athletics start to return to normal, Begier is hopeful that his senior year will start to feel normal again. In the meantime, he’s focusing on applying to colleges and keeping his grades up to keep his mother happy.

Adaption to COVID-19: Affordable Party Rentals Returns to Business With Modifications by Samantha Gentile

The spitting up of pebbles and dirt on the back road of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, N.Y. were seen under the tire of the 6’x14′ enclosed trailer as they rolled unbothered by the “Do Not Enter” sign. Two young men jumped out of the car laughing about something they were discussing on the ride over. An “Affordable Party Rental” could be seen on the right upper hand corner of their shirts. The laughing dies down as the driver says, “Ok, let’s get to work.”

 

Affordable Party Rental is a party rental company located in Northport, N.Y. They provide many services, most popular being their tent rentals. They have pitched tents in many towns on Long Island and have been to the Vanderbilt Museum on numerous occasions to set up for weddings big and small. 

 

Rob Staudigel, 25, is the Operations Manager and son of the owner, Glenn Staudigel. Rob was Affordable Party Rental’s first employee and has been pitching tents since he was 13.

 

2019 was the busiest and most profitable year for Affordable Party Rental since its founding in June 2008. They were preparing for an even busier year in 2020, purchasing new tents and supplies for the busy season ranging from April to October. When New York went into lockdown in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were forced to cancel three months’ worth of bookings. 

 

“COVID has been incredibly hard on not only us but everyone in the party rental industry,” commented Straudigel. “Three months of canceled parties and empty schedules is never good for a company.”

 

“It used to take us four hours to set up one tent,” explained Straudigel. “Now, it only takes us around 25 minutes to assemble or disassemble a basic tent with two men.” He described that this fast set up makes it easier during the pandemic so they do not have to be in the vicinity of the event for longer than necessary. 

 

“We had to make sure that we are in and out of a venue so as not to come in contact with anyone. The longer we are there the more possibility is that we would get exposed to the virus.” 

 

When they are not interacting with their guests, they are taking that extra time to sanitize their equipment to conform with the recent Center for Disease Control requirements. “We always sanitize and clean all the equipment before every use,” said Straudigel. “We take extra precautions during this time so that we can continue to rent our tents for parties.”