SHIMON NISSEL runs the food service at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston and caters events like b’nei mitzvah and engagement parties through his company, Parties by Shimon/Shimtal Caterers, which is under supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest. But with news in March of school closings and large celebrations canceled, Nissel spent three days scrubbing the kitchens at the day school to eradicate any traces of the virus, then used the facility to cook dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays and deliver the food to customers in the Livingston, West Orange, and Springfield areas.
Although the deliveries help keep his business going, he is struggling, he said, in part because many other restaurants are providing similar services.
“We were busy in the beginning, but now it is slowing down,” he told NJJN.
The downturn in orders is only one of Nissel’s challenges. With Camp Deeny Riback, affiliated with JCC MetroWest, undecided on whether to cancel its summer sessions, his summer gig is up in the air, and with the school closed for the remainder of the year, Nissel must either refund the $40,000 that parents prepaid for lunches or apply the payments to next year’s meals with the parents’ permission.
On the positive side, Nissel was the go-to caterer for at least two community efforts during the pandemic. He prepared more than 400 meals for health-care workers and staff at the Daughters of Israel nursing facility and the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, both in West Orange, and Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. This was a project of the newly formed West Orange/Livingston Chesed Group.
He was also hired by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ to prepare Shabbat meals for homebound seniors and Holocaust survivors. He did this at cost, or close to it.
Nissel also secured a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan through the Paycheck Protection Program to enable him to pay his employees for eight weeks, but the funds only apply going forward, leaving him on the hook for $35,000 in salaries he paid his employees during the first six weeks of school closure.
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