As we’ve witnessed this year, New York City restaurants have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. One fashion crowd favorite, The Village Den, on West 12th Street in the West Village kept their doors open and used their kitchen to help frontline workers at the height of the crisis in the city. The owners Lisle Richards and Eric Marx tell The Daily how they kept mouths fed this year—and how they stayed ‘New York Tough.’
Obviously this has been a difficult time for restaurants in New York. How has The Village Den been coping since March?
Lisle Richards: As with all restaurants, we have been trying to understand how to remain open to serve our community. We made the decision to stay open and not close throughout the pandemic because we knew that it was important to be able to deliver to New Yorkers throughout it all.
What did you do to feed frontline workers?
Lisle Richards: It all started with a regular calling me and asking to deliver meals to the hospital next door. We gave it to her for cost and it inspired us to put it up on Instagram. Within 24 hours we had enough donations for 2,000 meals. It was incredible. Within three months we did over 10,000 meals to frontline workers in every borough. It all started with one person wanting to do the right thing.
What was that experience like for the you personally?
Lisle Richards: The hospital deliveries helped us rehire our employees that we had furloughed and gave us a purpose through such a hard time. I was constantly amazed at the thoughtfulness and generosity of everyday New Yorkers and reminded us of the reality that one person can make a difference. We are really grateful that we were able to be of service in that way through the pandemic.
What’s the concept of The Village Den?
Eric Marx: We are a neighborhood cafe that serves familiar favorites, thoughtfully done in a healthy way. We serve salads, bowls, TV Dinners (a protein and two sides), as well as smoothies, coffees, and treats.
What are your favorite things on the menu?
Eric Marx: I personally love the Sicilian C-Bomb with a piece of salmon on top. It’s three types of citrus, as well as shaved fennel and avocado. With the hot summer we have had it’s been really refreshing.
Where do you deliver to in Manhattan?
Eric Marx: We deliver to most all of downtown through our website www.thevillageden.com as well as DoorDash, Grubhub and the likes.
What will eating indoors look like?
Eric Marx: The Governor and Mayor announced that we are able to start serving indoors at a 25% capacity on September 30th. As restaurateurs, we are not yet sure what that means for the industry because it’s already a tough business, but we have faith we will figure it all out together. New Yorkers are tough. We hope that New Yorkers take the guidelines seriously so that we will be able to increase our capacity soon.
What do you predict will happen if we don’t open restaurants indoors again soon?
Lisle Richards: We have already seen a string of closures across the city and the longer this lasts, more restaurants will close or not be able to re-open. I have a hope that because of the market correction in real estate, when times return to normal we will see a growth in new creative endeavors because of the hopefully eventual reduction in rents.
How are you staying positive through all of this?
Lisle Richards: I have personally focused on reducing the chatter. I consciously spend less time on social media and news apps and am spending more time with friends and loved ones. I am viewing this pandemic as an opportunity to assess what and who is important in my life, and focusing on those things. Wayne Dyer has a great quote—”If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”