ITHACA, N.Y. –– As of Monday, GreenStar has announced the temporary closure of their location in the DeWitt Mall.

“It is unfortunate that we must take this action, but not unlike many other businesses at this time, unexpected challenges and consequences relative to the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing us to make extremely difficult decisions. The competing pressures of cash loss and the immediate need to direct labor expense to our profitable business locations required a swift decision,” General Manager Brandon Kane said in a statement.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, sales at the DeWitt location have dramatically decreased. According to Kane, DeWitt sales have dropped to 40% below last year’s sales. In his statement, Kane said that if GreenStar continued to operate the DeWitt store the Co-op would lose between $5,000 and $10,000 per week.

All GreenStar hourly employees have been offered the option to choose a voluntary layoff by April 17 in order to be able to apply for unemployment benefits. About half of the DeWitt employees have chosen to be laid off, and the remaining DeWitt employees are being employed at the Collegetown and West End store locations, which continue to operate.

Employees who choose a voluntary layoff will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. Currently, in addition to the weekly amount New York State pays, the Federal government is providing each person receiving unemployment with an additional $600 per week, Kane said in a message to Co-op shoppers and Member-Owners on the company’s website.

Kane went on to say that employees would be eligible to continue their current health insurance coverage through the company for up to 18 months by paying the full monthly premium each month. Another option pointed out by Kane comes in the form of state insurance plans. Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that New Yorkers without health insurance can apply for insurance via the NY State of Health, New York’s health care exchange,  through May 15, 2020.

GreenStar will pay out up to two weeks, or a maximum of 80 hours of unused vacation time and any unused standalone personal time accrued between March 20 and April 4 to employees who choose a voluntary layoff.

In his statement, Kane said he does not know when the store will reopen.

“We understand the temporary closing of DeWitt is a regrettable hardship for some people,” he said. “We cannot say at this time when the DeWitt store will reopen, this will be in large part based on the continuing effects of the pandemic.”

In addition to the downtown store closure, GreenStar is adapting to the crisis by partnering with Instacart for grocery delivery and are working to develop a curbside pickup service to be available at their new location at 770 Cascadilla Street.

“I cannot pinpoint a date at this time, but we expect to be able to open next month, although the public health crisis requires that we must open without some features, such as the eating area, children’s play area, and self-serve food stations,” Kane said.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com