NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They were first hit by the coronavirus pandemic and now some small businesses in Queens have been struck by crime.
But they are banding together to try and keep each other open and thriving, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported Sunday.
“All the chocolate is made in-house, using antique equipment and recipes that have been passed down through the generations,” owner Rachel Kellner said.
Kellner and her husband took over the sweet shop in 2015, selling and shipping chocolate. It’s a labor of love, which has its hurdles.
“We’ve only been here five years and the challenges that we’ve faced, despite how hard we’ve worked, they break you down,” Kellner said.
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From taking a major hit with the pandemic to a burglary last Sunday morning. Surveillance cameras captured someone breaking into a front window, walking through the store to the register, and taking more than $600.
The thief grabbed chocolate on the way out, too.
“I know another business had gotten hit just hours before,” Kellner said. “It’s really unfortunate that when there are businesses that are struggling as hard as I know we are that there’s someone out there just taking from them.”
“We noticed there’s been an uptick in crime in the neighborhood,” said Dee Arabian, owner of Dee’s Wood Fired Pizza & Kitchen.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 9, burglaries were at 61 compared to 29 in the same time period last year, the NYPD said.
On the same day, also on Metropolitan Avenue, a man was caught on camera damaging outdoor dining tents at Dee’s, another hard hit business. Only in this case, the police were nearby.
“He didn’t make it farther than the corner where he was arrested. That was great to know they were there,” Arabian said. “When those things happen they kind of take you down a little mentally, but you try to bounce back and know your community supports you no matter what.”
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Those sentiments were echoed by Kellner, who said she was so overwhelmed by the support her business has received, she and her husband decided to start an initiative. If you shop at another business on the street, show your receipt at Aigner Chocolates and within 48 hours get a discount. It’s a pretty sweet deal for all.
“It’s about community. It’s about gratitude and it’s about strength in numbers,” Kellner said.
With that, the business owners say the next step is creating an alliance to help promote each other, and focus on finding ways to keep shops like the ones in Forest Hills for many years to come.
The chocolate shop said it has donated about $10,000 worth of sweets to front-line workers during the pandemic.
Police said the 26-year-old man caught vandalizing the outdoor dining tents was charged with criminal mischief and given a desk appearance ticket.
No arrests have been made in the chocolate shop burglary.