Add this NJ pizza shop to the body count of the pandemic
Now you could say this is just the story of one pizza shop in Montclair, New Jersey. But when the pandemic began and businesses were forced to close by executive order many people talked about the different kind of body count that would come from the shut down. They didn’t mean physical death. They met death of business, hard work, and the very human spirit on which America was built.
So this is not just the story of Villa Victoria Pizzeria. This is the story of thousands of people.
I could have just as easily written thousands of businesses. But businesses, small businesses especially, are people.
The person in this story is Eida Arito. She has been running Villa Victoria for 23 years. She has worked incredibly hard and put everything she had into it. She’s a single mother. I’ve been a single parent myself. I know the struggle. This is how she took care of the most important people in her life.
And Villa Victoria Pizzeria is about to close.
When the mandatory shut downs came she survived how she could. There was heartbreak. Anxiety. Deepening debt. And no doubt the hope that just one more month and things would get back to normal. By the time things were finally getting back to what passes for normal, she had to deal with what in my opinion was the failures of the Murphy administration which caused this epic pandemic labor shortage.
And even when businesses were re-opened and they were plenty of jobs to be filled, the governor kept on with $300 supplements to unemployment. They kept extending unemployment benefits. All this made it financially more feasible to stay at home and do nothing rather than to take what’s there and be a productive member of society. Perhaps one of the most inexplicable things he did was to maintain the policy that you no longer have to prove you were even looking for work.
He was the Great Enabler. But instead of enabling businesses that have been through so much, he was enabling the people who suddenly were demanding $25 an hour for entry level unskilled jobs. He was enabling them to sit at home and do nothing if they didn’t get their way. When we needed a grown-up in the room instead we had a child running the preschool.
And the result of those policies for thousands of business owners like Eida Arito is that she couldn’t maintain a proper business because she couldn’t find people to take the jobs. Like so many other restaurants she had to close down several days at a time simply because she couldn’t find anyone to work for her.
Who could have seen this coming? Who could have believed the governor would botch this so badly?
Eida is now destitute. She put everything she had back into the business hoping this nightmare would soon be over. She’s in debt, doors are about to close, and she has no way to take care of her family. This business was all she did since the 1990’s.
There are many thousands like her. This is their story too. You don’t hear much about them because they are not the types to make demands and demonstrate in front of the state house. They’re too busy working and finding a way. And now they’re at the end of the road.
Murphy will tell you this was a road paved with good intentions. Too bad his intentions can’t feed Eida Arito’s kids.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.