Family business fears coronavirus shutdown before Christmas

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Deirdre Kurzweil couldn't wait for the day she could open her family-run souvenir shop in Ithaca, New York. Then, the pandemic hit.

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Kurzweil, like droves of shop owners around the country, is holding her breath for the day she will have to close Sunny Day's of Ithaca, especially during what's supposed to be her most profitable time of year.

Now, she only allows two groups in at a time.

"What's supposed to happen in December is that you do the big bulk of sales and that's what carries you through January, February, March when no one's shopping," Kurzweil told FOX Business.

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With cases rising sharply, and the subsequent restrictions imposed on businesses to keep people safe, Kurzweil says there isn't a day she doesn't worry about the future of Sunny Day's of Ithaca, which she likes to call a "celebration of Ithaca."

Sunny Day’s of Ithaca (Deirdre Kurzweil)

She says her store is "about joy, happiness, and comfort and it's what people need right now."

For Kurzweil, it was her "crazy dream" to open up the shop filled with classic souvenirs, about six years ago.

However, running her business during the long, cold winter months — even without a pandemic limiting operations — had proven to be difficult enough.

"You just hold your breath and hope you get enough to pay the bills," she said.

In Tompkins County, where Ithaca is located, there are 1,451 active cases of the virus as of Dec. 10. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spoken about his concern over the rising cases throughout the state and has threatened to tighten certain restrictions if hospitalization rates don't stabilize. He has repeatedly noted that hospital capacity has become a top concern for the state. On Dec. 9, the average number of new cases in Tompkins County was 31, but on Nov. 9, the average was 9.

Nonessential businesses could be shut down within regions of New York State if the average number of cases reaches certain thresholds for a sustained period. In New York's Southern Tier, which includes Tomkins County, the average number of new cases was 2.4 over a seven-day period.

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Although she says she is "doing OK" right now, she worries that this can easily change, especially as cases are "spiking" in the area.

"It could change tomorrow, it could change next week, it could change at the most important weekend of the entire year before Christmas," she said.

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Roughly, a year ago, she moved into a new space and had to rebuild her customer base, which made it even more difficult when the virus hit and she had to close down for months at a time.

She was forced to rely solely on her website until the business was allowed to reopen in May. However, her online store isn't enough.

Sunny Day’s of Ithaca (Deirdre Kurzweil)

"I can't get the whole store online, so that's limiting," she said, adding that the website only represents 20% to 25% of the whole store.

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