After Pandemic Struggles, Schuyler’s Kitchen Works on Returning to Normal

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Ernie & Debra Schuyler, Owners of Schuylers Kitchen.
Ernie & Debra Schuyler, Owners of Schuylers Kitchen.

Nestled in the midst of the ever-busy West Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood, New York, sits Schuyler’s Kitchen. From the outside the small restaurant looks like a log cabin, making it stand out amongst the other businesses surrounding it. Upon entering one is greeted by counters, stocked with candy and other goodies, along with comfortably and reasonably spaced tables, spanning the length of the main room, and greeted by a friendly face at the front desk. Especially for someone who had never had the pleasure of being able to stop in before, the restaurant sends an overall comfortable and homely feeling.

When stopping by to eat at Schuyler’s Kitchen these days, one would have a hard time guessing that the restaurant was shut down for a time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Debra Schuyler, who owns Schuyler’s Kitchen with her husband Ernie, the kitchen was shut down about a year ago when the pandemic first began. They were not able to open again until May 2020, and only with a to-go option at that time. Similar to other small business restaurants, the to-go option continued along with other options that they found throughout the summer until the weather began to change and get colder once again.

One such option that the Schuylers tried was to add groceries to their list of items available in their restaurant, but, Schuyler reports, this did not go well. In August 2020, Schuyler’s Kitchen closed down again, and as of February 9, the tenth anniversary of when the kitchen itself opened. They began to work to reopen with the option of eating inside once again.

“People have been beginning to come out more as things get better and vaccines become available,” Schuyler said. “We really are working towards getting back to being a normal restaurant.”

The outside of Schuyler's Kitchen LLC.
The outside of Schuyler’s Kitchen LLC.

The Schuylers opened Schuyler’s Kitchen in 2011 when they moved to Busti, New York, from Florida to be closer to family. Schuyler worked in a hospital while living in Florida and retired around the time that she and Ernie moved. According to Schuyler, the restaurant was a retirement plan for her and Ernie, as the family had previous experience in the restaurant business such as Ernie catering with his father.

After the financial and mental struggles that being closed during the pandemic caused, Schuyler said that the support from the local community has helped to keep them going, and that every week as more people learn that the restaurant is open again it gets a little bit better.

“When a small business is a part of a community, closing feels almost like giving up,” Schuyler said. “I don’t like to give up. We are moving forward in a way that is as safe as possible, with disinfecting and keeping everything as clean as we can. It is really important for us to keep going, for the owners and the workers who need to make a living. We aren’t going to give up, because we worked hard for this. I put ten years of my heart and soul into this business, and I can’t let go.”

Schuyler added that keeping the restaurant going is not just for her and Ernie, but for their workers as well. The Schuylers do a little bit more work than they used to, like doing the dishes, and continue to do all that they can to help their staff continue to be able to work.

Altogether, Schuyler said that the community support is what helps them to continue to work to reopen fully, and they are doing everything they can to keep people safe and to get them to be able to come back to see them.

“Our customers are like family,” Schuyler said. “We miss them. We worry about some of our old customers who we haven’t seen in a while, and we hope they’re safe and doing well. We’re continuing to do everything we can to keep people who come to our restaurant safe and able to come in with the promise of a good meal.”

Schuyler’s Kitchen, located at 4477 West Fairmount Avenue, Lakewood, New York, is open with indoor dining available, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday to Friday. They are open from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends and are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It is definitely a place that this writer looks forward to coming back to visit sometime in the future. For those looking for the promised good meal, and for a place that feels like home the minute one steps in the door, stop by for breakfast or lunch and check it out!