From an emptier campus and smaller community to shorter business hours, the town of New Paltz has had to adjust to life during the pandemic in many different ways. Among those navigating the wave of curveballs this past year has thrown at us is Clare Hussain, owner of Runa Restaurant and Bistro, the Plattekill Ave business that is self-described as offering “french(ish) fare.”
Less than a year after its initial opening in September 2019, Hussain had to close down the bistro as a fully-functioning eatery in August. The weight of owning a business that had only existed a few months prior to the start of the pandemic was felt heavily by Hussain. “If only we had another year under our belt, I am confident that we could have battled on,” reads Runa’s website.
Like most businesses, the restaurant had to initially shut down in March, but was allowed to reopen in April for takeout, followed by the option of outdoor dining in the summer. Unfortunately, however, Hussain’s business was still not in the clear.
“It was a really tough summer. It was a summer where the tourism wasn’t as bustling as it normally is,” Hussain said, explaining the tough decision to close down the business in August. “Also, I ran out of money.”
Small business owners have been among those hit hardest economically by the pandemic. “You know the restaurant closes down, but the bills keep coming,” Hussain explained.
Despite the many obstacles facing Runa during its first year in New Paltz, Hussain has remained resilient and determined to push through. Hussain has been running her restaurant as a one-woman show following its summer closure. She’s been finding different ways to create revenue in spite of and — in some cases — by utilizing the effects of the pandemic. Visitors to Runa’s website will find a slew of Covid-era offerings such as the option for a single group to take over the space for one evening as a “pod dining” deal, as well as the option to buy take-home “dinner kits.”
Hussain’s efforts to keep the restaurant alive these past few months have culminated in her announcement to the restaurant’s Facebook page in late January that she plans a gradual, full reopening of her bistro this year. She has already begun a slow, phased reopening with take-out currently offered Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The plans for Runa’s reopening have been long in the making, “I decided that I would enjoy Christmas with my family, [but] my brain was constantly going, trying to figure out the best way to come back because we are still thick in the pandemic.”
Hussain has been juggling the running of her entire restaurant and website by herself, while also tending to her two young children in hybrid school. She joked that she’s “no spring chicken, so I’m definitely feeling the creeks in my knee joints.”
“The key for me is to maintain a balance,” Hussain explained. “I’ve got to make it work for me, I’ve got to make it work for business and I’ve got to make it work for my family.”
Though Hussain is faced with the difficult task of keeping Runa up and running by herself, it is not without an outpouring of support and admiration from the New Paltz community. Commenters on her Facebook announcement sang their praises.
“Best of luck Clare, if anyone can do this you can!,” posted one individual.
“Great stuff Clare, wishing you the very best, we need you back!” wrote another.
Hussain is well aware, and largely appreciative of her customers’ support.
“The main positive thing I’ve seen is that your customers are your community,” she noted. “I’ve really seen a lot of my customers come through as meaningful patrons, really trying to do their part to help [me] stay in business.”
Hussain’s main goal right now is for the business to pick up enough momentum that she can extend hours to include dinner, that she can afford to hire a staff and eventually fully reopen the restaurant — keeping in line with Covid-safe practices of course. Ultimately, though Runa is not running the same way it was a year ago, it is still very much up, running and serving the same French(ish) cuisine community members have come to love.
“Though it’s limited, [Runa] is open and it’s going to put up a fight,” Hussain affirmed.
Visit www.runanewpaltz.com for more information, menus and pricing. Runa Bistro is located at 10 Plattekill Ave and is currently open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more about the history of Runa Bistro, check out The Oracle’s article on the grand opening from September 2019.