Merchants Seek Niche: From Videos To Takeout


Merchants Seek Niche:

From Videos To Takeout

Nate Roberts, Serenity Hobbies, Oneonta, is taking tabletop gaming online during the quarantine, but if you need a board game that isn’t virtual, he’ll deliver it to your house personally. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Mike Joubert of WiseGuys Sammy’s, is offering a meal deal to help cooped-up families enjoy a meal out while

ONEONTA – For Serenity Hobbies’ proprietor Nate Roberts, the game must go on.

“We have weekly games that people still want to play,” he said. “But we have an account with Roll20, which is software that creates a virtual tabletop and has a voice chat.”

It’s free for players, who will be invited by their Dungeon Masters to join as each game is set up. “We’re taking our weekly “Magic: The Gathering” tournament online too,” said Roberts. “People can play from home. We didn’t want to cancel it.”

As Coronavirus cases begin to mount in Upstate New York – although one has yet to surface in Otsego County – Oneonta’s downtown is preparing as best they can to weather the storm.

“Everyone was in on Friday, stocking up on books,” said Martha Bremer, Green Toad Books. “Kids are out of school, but they still want to read.”

“We had a lot of parents in here buying board games!” said Roberts. “Everyone’s preparing to be hunkered in.”

Many stores, including the Green Toad and Serenity Hobbies, are updating their offerings on their website.

Elizabeth Raphaelson, Underground Attic, has always maintained a store Instagram page, where she posted photos of new merchandise and took online orders. “I’m closing for a bit and doing online only,” she said. “I want my business to succeed, of course, but I also want to protect public health.”

Though she had a “busy” weekend, she made active efforts to keep the store clean, including wiping down door handles, her iPad and the counter after every customer, as well as frequent use of hand sanitizer.

“One of my concerns was with shipping,” she said. “The virus can last up to three days on surfaces.”
But she came up with a solution – a one-day delay on packing, with two day shipping so orders arrive safely. “I’m only going to the post office twice a week,” she said. Roberts has said he will personally deliver board games to anyone who calls in an order.

Though Governor Cuomo ordered all bars and restaurants closed to dine-in after 8 p.m. on Monday, March 16, businesses like Wise Guys Sammy’s were already preparing for the majority of their business to be take-out and delivery.

“The locals have been supportive,” said Mike Joubert, owner. “We usually see a decline when the students leave, but we’re not hitting quite as low as we usually would. In times of crisis, it’s important to support local businesses.”

With kids home from school and budgets tight, he’s offering a series of family meal deals, such as a pizza, a dozen wings and a salad for $30. “Normally that’s $40,” he said. “But we want to make it affordable for people to eat. It’s always nice to get a pizza, even when money is tight.”

And he kept his trademark sense of humor about it, offering a $2 Corona special throughout the weekend. “We want to keep people in good spirits,” he said.

At Nina’s Pizzeria, Freddy and Aleathea want to make sure that the kids who are home from school are able to eat too.

“A lot of kids only get lunch at school, and it would be nice if we could do something about it,” said Freddy. “Kids and seniors can come in and get a slice and a soda, free of charge.”

“I didn’t come from means, so I know what it’s like to go hungry,” said Aleathea. “No kid should have to go through that.”

Looking forward, Raphaelson is working with other downtown businesses to coordinate a recovery effort. “One of the things we’ve talked about doing is a ‘Downtown Recovery Week,’” she said. “Like Small Business Saturday, with events and sales. It could be a great boost, even with the college students gone.”

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