The commuter trains continued to run. Will all these runners come back one day?

Mr Forman, 40, said he was surprised when he visited Grand Central in early July and saw how many people were passing by. “We thought Grand Central would continue to be vacant, with minimal foot traffic, for longer than that,” he said. However, he added, “That’s not what it was at all.”

At Oceanside LIRR station, an increase in train ridership was going to be critical for Urvish Singh. Mr Singh, 25, took over a closed cafe there and reopened it in April as Wired Coffee House.

“Commuters have always been the backbone of this business,” Singh said. There were days when the store received “next to nothing” during the pandemic, he said.

Former store owner Ubaid Bandukra, 32, said that before the pandemic, the store served coffee, bagels and pastries to a constant customer base of around 125 customers every weekday morning.

Then, when the pandemic triggered a lockdown, Mr. Bandukra shut down Caffeine and laid off its employees. He reopened Caffeine last summer and kept it going until the end of the year, sometimes working alone at the counter. “But at the end of the day, I wasn’t making any money,” he said.

He endorsed Mr. Singh’s plan to rely less on commuters and try to attract more local traffic, given that there is so much parking available. “In order to create a sustainable business, a profitable business,” he said, “you can’t focus on the commuters with so many fewer people taking the train. “

Kevin Armstrong, Sean Piccoli and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.


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