Mother's Day is a day on, not off, for these women business owners

Fay Arolithianakis, chef and owner of Me & You restaurant in Bethpage, on April 28. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Mother’s Day is a traditional day for moms to relax.  They’re meant to forgo daily chores, like cooking, and instead feast on sumptuous meals in restaurants or prepared by adoring family. There are cards to open and gifts to unwrap.

But not every Long Island mom gets to sit back and enjoy the pampering. For some, Mother’s Day means working harder and longer than usual. They might labor in retail businesses that market traditional Mother's Day items — such as chocolates, candy and flowers — or earn their living in restaurants catering to the holiday crowd.

Maria Jimenez balances being a mother and a manager at El Malecón de Cuba in Long Beach. She owns the restaurant with her husband and this Sunday, Maria says she is happy to work Mother’s Day and welcome in each mother. Credit: Newsday/Reece T. Williams

As a result, Mother’s Day provides these women with little, if any, time to be their family’s veritable Queen for the Day. Plus, by the end of the holiday workday, some say they are just too exhausted to do anything more than go home and watch a movie.

This year, the holiday’s workers stand to be busier than ever. Mother’s Day spending is expected to increase by $3.6 billion from 2021’s record outlay of $28.1 billion to $31.7 billion, which encompasses greeting cards, flowers, clothing, jewelry, gift cards and special outings, as in restaurant meals, according to the National Retail Federation.

For their part, consumers anticipate spending $25 more this year on Mother’s Day purchases for a record average of $245.77, including gifts and meals, the group’s survey found. 

And so the holiday isn’t only a workday but a payday.

Five entrepreneurial mothers, whose Long Island businesses are in sectors that get extra busy with Mother’s Day, shared their working holiday experience with Newsday.

Fay Arolithianakis, chef and owner of Me & You in Bethpage

Her daughter Eva is 11 years old

For Fay Arolithianakis, it has taken a village — her parents, sister, grandmother and a longtime babysitter — to help her raise her daughter Eva, 11.

“I’m thankful I have people who know how much I love my job and my daughter,” said Arolithianakis, who works as many as 15 hours a day as the chef and owner of Me & You, a 10-employee Bethpage restaurant that opened in August 2020. She previously served for 13 years as executive chef at the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay.

Throughout the years, with her livelihood demanding much of her waking hours, Arolithianakis has ruminated about balancing her roles as a mother and a restaurateur. But, as she tells it, she experienced a most memorable — and uplifting — Mother’s Day last year when friends came to Me & You with chocolates and flowers and “put my mind at ease.”

Fay Arolithianakis, chef and owner of Me & You restaurant in...

Fay Arolithianakis, chef and owner of Me & You restaurant in Bethpage, on April 28. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

She isn’t fazed that her vocation prevents her from personally observing Mother’s Day or any other red-letter day, she said.

On the days before the holiday, Arolithianakis focused her efforts on preparing for her eatery’s upcoming events, including its Cinco de Mayo celebration on Thursday, two private parties on Saturday and the restaurant’s Mother’s Day brunch.

“As long as I can make other people’s holiday special, the day itself isn’t so important to me,” Arolithianakis said.  “To me, every day is Mother’s Day because I have a really special little girl, and March 20th — Eva’s birthday — is the best day in my life.”

Maria Jimenez, co-owner of El Malecón de Cuba in Long Beach

Her son Bryan is 2 years old

With the birth of her son, Bryan, in January 2020, Maria Anai Jimenez fulfilled her desire to become a mother.

But, this Mother’s Day, from morning to late at night, Jimenez, 38, will work at El Malecón de Cuba, the Long Beach restaurant she has owned since December with her husband Maximo Morales, 32.

Jimenez plans to kick off her Mother’s Day labors at 9 a.m. — about two hours earlier than her usual start time. Reservations started pouring in two weeks ago, and she foresees staying open at least to 11 p.m. — maybe until 1 a.m.

“I’m not turning anyone away,” Jimenez said. “As long as we’re open, they can come in.”

She is also bringing in a mariachi band, balloons and flowers to make Mother’s Day a memorable holiday for every mom patronizing the 150-seat eatery, which serves Cuban and Mexican fare.

“Before having the baby, Mother’s Day didn’t mean a lot to me; I didn’t know about being a mom,” said Jimenez, who lives in Corona, Queens. “But when I became a mommy, I now understood all that my mom has done.”

María Jimenez with her two year-old son, Bryan Morales, at...

María Jimenez with her two year-old son, Bryan Morales, at El Malecón de Cuba, a restaurant she and her husband own in Long Beach, on Monday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

On the restaurant’s second floor, where Bryan’s toys, blankets and stroller imbue the space with a home-away-from-home ambiance, Jimenez’s mother, Alejandra Anzurez, 61, a retired housekeeper, will babysit, as she does seven days a week.

“I’m not missing my son growing up,” Jimenez said of always having him nearby.

Although her restaurant responsibilities preclude her from personally celebrating her own motherhood this Sunday, Jimenez said that she anticipates getting a facial and manicure on Tuesday, which is Mother’s Day in her native Mexico.

That evening, Jimenez, Morales and Bryan will go out to dinner at a Manhattan restaurant to celebrate, she said. 

Danna Abrams, owner of Hometown Bake Shop in Centerport

Her daughters are Charlie, age 15, Ilan, 11, Rylie, 9 and Luna, who turns 2 on May 16

According to Danna Abrams, owner of Hometown Bake Shop in Centerport, her mom half-kiddingly says that she “has never been much of a sleeper.”

And this Mother’s Day, that trait will serve her in good stead at the Hometown Bake Shop in Centerport, which she has owned for six years.

Abrams, 43, who is married and the mother of four daughters, ages nearly 2 to 15, will arrive at her dine-in, take-out bakery by 1 a.m. — “if not earlier” — for a marathon baking effort that will culminate in the shop opening six hours later.

Danna Abrams, owner of Hometown Bake Shop in Centerport, on April...

Danna Abrams, owner of Hometown Bake Shop in Centerport, on April 28. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

“I’m so insistent that everything is done fresh,” said Abrams, who expects to “at least double” her baking output, including “making 200 scones, if not more.”

Although she employs 15 workers, “I’m still the overnight baker — which is the essential part of the business,” she said.

Beyond Abrams’s breads, biscuits, muffins and pies, the shop will feature Mother’s Day breakfast and dinner packages, including dishes based on recipes from and named after her Sicilian-born grandmother Theaphelia and her Lithuanian-born Jewish grandmother Beatrice.

“Mother’s Day is a crazy yet amazing day,” said the Northport resident. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m very fortunate, and throughout the day, I’ll be Facetiming and talking to the kids.”

Abrams in her bake shop on April 28.

Abrams in her bake shop on April 28. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

And just like any other Sunday, the shop will close its doors at 3 p.m.

“I’m a believer in Sunday dinner and spending time with family,” Abrams said. “And any time that I can relax with my girls at home is a perfect Mother’s Day.”

The next day, she'll be able to take it easy. The shop is closed on Mondays.  

Marjorie Bien-Aimé, owner of MB Florals LLC in Baldwin

Her daughter Maisha is 10 years old

Located in her one-car garage in Baldwin, Marjorie Bien-Aimé’s business, MB Florals LLC will keep her on the go this Mother’s Day, as well as the days leading up to it.

A single mom who earns a living as a florist and event planner, Bien-Aimé, 49, is grateful to work from home and be present for her daughter, Maisha, 10.  Occasionally, her daughter accompanies her on deliveries, and when the need arises, as it will this weekend, Maisha is by her side, copying Bien-Aimé’s creations to help fulfill orders.

In anticipation of the holiday, Bien-Aimé  launched a social media campaign last weekend to promote pre-orders of Mother’s Day bouquets to the general public. And she devoted the week leading up to the special day to create those arrangements, as well as centerpieces for three private parties, including a Mother’s Day event.

On Thursday, the Haitian-born entrepreneur headed out at 5:30 a.m. to pick up more than 4,000 blooms, including roses and carnations, at wholesalers in the Bronx and Long Island City. The rest of the day’s tasks included snipping stems and placing them in buckets of treated water to open their petals.

Marjorie Bien-Aime, of Baldwin, makes a floral arrangement alongside her...

Marjorie Bien-Aime, of Baldwin, makes a floral arrangement alongside her daughter Maisha, 10, at the studio in her backyard. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

On Friday, two hires helped produce arrangements. Saturday’s to-do list called for getting up at 6:30 a.m. to deliver balloons and two centerpieces to a first communion celebration at a Wantagh restaurant, and later returning home to pick up 12 centerpieces for a communion party at a Westbury eatery.

Mother’s Day is about waking up at 4 a.m. for a day that involves bringing flowers to a New Jersey cemetery for a customer to place on his mother’s grave. She will also transport 20 floral arrangements to a private Mother’s Day event at a church.

With her friend catering the affair, Bien-Aimé will invoice the cost of the flowers and supplies but not charge for her design services. In turn, her friend has invited Bien-Aimé and Maisha to attend the luncheon as her guests.

“At the end of the day, I get to celebrate Mother’s Day with my daughter,” Bien-Aimé said.

Upon returning home, she looks forward to seeing the one floral arrangement that she has kept for herself — a reminder, Bien-Aimé said, “of how I helped make someone’s day beautiful.”

Joan Cohen, majority owner of Hope’s Land of Candy in Island Park

Her daughter Hope is 37 years old and her son Adam is 41

For about 30 years, Hope Cohen incessantly expressed her wish: to own a candy store.

But believing that all her daughter really wanted was a shop to satisfy her own sweet tooth, Joan Cohen was not swayed.

That changed after Joan’s husband, Alan, became ill in 2011. He died in 2012.

"I thought life is too short,” said Joan. “I love my dear daughter, and if she wants to do this, we're going to do it.”

Joan Cohen, right, COO of Hope’s Land of Candy, working...

Joan Cohen, right, COO of Hope’s Land of Candy, working with her daughter Hope Cohen on Monday in Island Park. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

In 2014, mother and daughter launched Hope’s Land of Candy in Island Park.

For Hope, the sugary treats just weren't enough. “After five days, I said, 'I’m done working 16 hours,' and I went back to my other full-time job as a teacher," Hope said.

Undaunted, Joan, 71, has stayed the course, and she has no plans to call it quits — “as long as the store has customers,” she said. “I need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”  Joan owns 81% of the business, while Hope’s share is 19%.  

This Mother’s Day, with Joan anticipating a busier day than usual, Hope, 37, a New York City special education teacher, and her brother Adam, 41, will lend a helping hand — as they are apt to do on an as-needed basis.

Joan Cohen, center, working with her daughter Hope Cohen and son...

Joan Cohen, center, working with her daughter Hope Cohen and son Adam Cohen, on Monday at Hope’s Land of Candy in Island Park. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

While Cohen is in the back of the store creating homemade truffles and hand-dipped strawberries, Hope and Adam will serve customers in the front.  After the store’s 8 p.m. closing, the trio will probably go out to dinner together, Joan said.

“Any time I spend with my kids is wonderful — whether on Mother’s Day or the day after,” she said. “We have a lot of good times and laughs.”

Still, the family matriarch remembers when her husband used to ask what she wanted for Mother’s Day and, as a mother with young children, Joan had but one response: “a day to myself.”



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