The massive rush-hour delays at Penn Station are having a mixed impact on the small businesses that cater to Long Island Rail Road commuters, with some reporting a falloff in sales and others getting a boost from customers who spend more time waiting for trains.
In Ronkonkoma, business has plummeted 75 percent this week at the Dunkin’ Donuts across from the LIRR station, said manager Muhammad Ahmad, 50, who lives in Ronkonkoma. Ahmad blamed the train derailment Monday at Penn Station, which has caused long delays and numerous train cancellations.
“If there’re no trains, or they’re late, we don’t have a customer,” Ahmad said. “Basically our business is people grabbing coffee and a doughnut for breakfast.”
In Babylon Village, train riders are still showing up because “they have to pay the bills,” said Mike Calarco, owner of Railroad Bagel Express.
Delays to morning trains could be good for business, he said. “We’ve had people come in and have breakfast.”
A significant share of Long Island workers are employed in New York City — 30 percent in Nassau County and 11 percent in Suffolk — and Long Islanders working in the city earn $26 billion a year, said Christopher Jones, chief planner at the Regional Plan Association, an urban research group based in Manhattan.
When transit systems go haywire, he said, “the big impacts are on the workers themselves, particularly the ones who are not salaried and are on hourly wages, who will lose out on wages.”
But for employees who can log onto the internet from home, Jones said, “increasingly, employers are telling people to just work at home.”
When employees work at home or avoid the trains, some of the businesses around LIRR stations suffer.
Bill Durcan, 62, has owned Trax Cleaners near the Ronkonkoma train station for 22 years.
The Patchogue resident offers same-day dry cleaning and laundering. This week, his business has dropped 30 percent, he said.
“When people aren’t commuting and coming through the station, I lose business,” Durcan said.
At the Starbucks near the Farmingdale LIRR station, shift leader Chris Ortiz said sales have slowed as a result of the Penn Station delays. “People are trying to find alternate routes,” said Ortiz.
In Syosset, a few of the finance industry workers who ordinarily stop in at Bagel Master around 5 a.m. have been no-shows, manager Vadim Nayman said.
But the delays have increased sales to other customers.
“When there’s a delay, sometimes they come back to the store as opposed to waiting at the train station,” he said. “So it’s sometimes actually beneficial.”
With Alison Fox